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South Africa is in need of better policy coherence

Pali Lehohla

Pali Lehohla

Published Nov 13, 2019


JOHANNESBURG - South Africa is great for scoring own goals. We suffer the inability of policy coherence towards a single goal thus our unfettered proclivity towards own goal.

Quite a different experience from the Boks, who had one goal and one plan.

Nelson Mandela advised us as follows: significant progress is always possible if we ourselves plan every detail and allow intervention of fate only on our own terms. Clearly, because of our own goals, fate did not come on our own terms. It dictated its own.

By hosting the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, we invited people to visit our country. After 2010 tourist numbers soared. But in 2014 we got unnerved by the dangers of child trafficking and and introduced restrictions for accompanying minors.

In a single financial quarter, the numbers from China were slashed by half, and so were reductions from the usual suspects, such as the UK, US and Germany. Only the Netherlands grew, but from a very low base.

So, for the next six years there was an engagement around the issue of visas and red tape that yielded nothing as tourists continued to remain flat.

Accompanying this was South Africa’s ill governance, which affected power generation and led to blackouts. The gods decided to connive against us and our jewel, the Western Cape, ran out of water.

This month Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motswaledi has finally restored dignity to foreign women and children, but only as a collateral benefit.

In terms of section 31(2)(c) of the Immigration Act, Act 13 of 2002, he granted a waiver to a requirement of birth certificate and parental consent letter for accompanying minors entering or leaving South Africa.

This requirement was imposed in 2014. It has, however, not been lifted for South African minors, leaving them and their mothers reeling at the callous treatment from their absent fathers. The question that the introduction of regulation 6(12B)(c) raises is how it affects South African mothers and their children in particular.

Where 60percent of fathers claim to be married against 30percent of mothers this requirement is abusive and demeaning to mothers and their children.

For this to have been enacted by our legislators and allowed by the general public suggests that we are oblivious of the gender-based violence that our sisters and mothers go through and the criminal actions on children.

Women experience continued abuse when they have to travel outside South Africa with their children.

The law argues that they should secure a court order if the would-be father refuses permission.

Here lies the stupidity and irrationality of the law. A court order is R25000 a shot, which is an unrealistic recourse to justice.

Who has that type of money?

Herein is the market for rent seeking and punishing the mothers, sisters and their children through law fare. Here is how Statistics SA ventilates the facts and policy if sensitive to citizens better listen.

Stats SA, based on Home Affairs birth notification documents and birth certificates, shows the details of the father are absent on more than 60 percent of birth notifications.

In a survey that Stats SA conducted among blacks shows that in upwards of 70percent of households the father is not present. This data is too telling around legitimacy or otherwise of conjugal responsibilities.

Importantly this suggests there is a vast distinction between fathering and parenting among South African families and households.

The law imposes such strictures on our women. They are supposed to face their tormentors each time they wish to travel abroad with their children.

In most cases the law knows it has to chase after AWOL men for maintenance. In full knowledge of this social disorder, legislators imposed this regulation. This was meant to address the possibility of child trafficking.

While the scourge of child trafficking surely has to be addressed, trafficking of South African children across the border is not a major problem, the trafficking is more internal and is associated with prostitution.

Why has this regulation been relaxed for foreign nationals and not for South Africans? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We need better policy coherence.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at and



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