SA slammed over red tape, visa rules
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Johannesburg - Christo Wiese, one of South Africa’s richest men, accused the government of implementing ill-considered policies that are curbing economic growth and undermining efforts to reduce poverty.
Examples included the introduction of new visa rules that deterred tourism and bureaucratic procedures that made it costly and time-consuming for people to access title deeds to properties where they had lived for decades, according to Wiese, who is worth about $7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“The one industry where South Africa consistently outperformed the world since 1994 was tourism,” Wiese, 74, said in an interview in his Cape Town office last week. “Then we impose new visa regulations that no one can explain, and the effect is immediate. We shoot ourselves through both feet and then claim unintended consequence.”
The visa rules introduced earlier this year require tourists to apply in person at a visitor centre for travel documents and for all children to carry a birth certificate with full details of both parents. The government is reviewing the requirements after the number of visitors to the country slumped 5.9 percent to 2.29 million in the first quarter from the same period last year.
Most South African business leaders have been reluctant to take the government to task over policy shortfalls that have contributed to a 25-percent unemployment rate and an economic contraction in the second quarter, preferring to raise their concerns behind closed doors. Besides Wiese, others to have spoken out include Johann Rupert, the billionaire chairman of Cie Financiere Richemont SA and Remgro, and Simon Susman, the chairman of retailer Woolworths Holdings.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa defended the government’s economic policies on Wednesday, telling lawmakers in Cape Town that it had a clear plan to boost the growth rate to 5 percent by 2020.
While South Africa’s political leadership was lacking at times, the problem was temporary and the country could resolve its challenges, said Wiese, who concluded South Africa’s biggest deal in a decade in March when he sold his discount retailer Pepkor Holdings to Steinhoff International Holdings for R62.8 billion ($4.5 billion).
* With assistance from Mike Cohen in Cape TownBloomberg