South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba will appear before the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom on Tuesday AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File
JOHANNESBURG -  South Africa will ease some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries, in an effort to boost investment and tourism, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.

The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week as his team seeks to drag Africa’s most developed economy out of recession.

Gigaba said negotiations were being finalized to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.

He added that much-criticized rules on traveling minors would be simplified. In June 2015 new rules required parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not traveling.

The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba’s previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.

“We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually, which includes tourists, business travelers, investors and neighbours,” Gigaba told reporters

“Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travelers.” 

Gigaba said by allowing inward migration of skilled workers such as investors, doctors, researchers and others through our visa and permit regime would boost our national development.

“Our task is to make entry into South Africa for these visitors as easy as possible, while guarding against the risks posed by the minority of travellers who do not abide by our laws, those who overstay, and persons associated with transnational threats such as organised crime, human trafficking and terrorism.

‘It is a challenge inherent in immigration management to detect, prevent and act against these risks without unduly inconveniencing law-abiding travellers,” Gigaba said.

He, however, warned that his department was committed to finding and implementing innovative immigration management solutions to positively impact on tourism and economic development.

REUTERS