Minister of Home Affairs Malusi remains dismissive about claims the new visa regulations negatively affected tourism. File photo: Siyasanga Mbambani

Johannesburg - Home Affairs has suspended 26 officials in a crackdown on document fraud and corruption, but Minister Malusi Gigaba remained dismissive about claims the new visa regulations negatively affected tourism.

Speaking at Sunday’s governance and administration media briefing, Gigaba said opposition to the new visa regimen, including unabridged birth certificates for travelling minors, was based on “lies” and “cooked up figures” - and criticised the domestic tourism industry for “not selling South Africa as well as it should”.

The minister said a drop in tourism arrivals was anticipated when the new visa regimen came into force, but numbers would pick up again as people learnt to comply.

There were factors other than the visa rules in play in tourism, including misconceptions South Africa was also affected by the ebola outbreak in three countries in West Africa.

However, Gigaba acknowledged the inter-ministerial committee established to look into and redress “potential unintended consequences” had made many proposals.

He declined to outline his own ministry’s proposals, as the committee chairman, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, would “at the right time make the announcement”.

Gigaba’s visa comments follow a parliamentary reply that Home Affairs had established just three visa processing centres in Europe and 13 in Asia.

No visa processing centres are established in South America, the reply also said in response to the DA’s parliamentary question, which did not include the US, any other countries or the African continent.

“The department is in the process of developing an e-permit system with an intention to roll it out in all South African missions abroad and also extend the visa facilitation services centres in countries where we receive mostly skilled persons for our economy,” said the minister’s parliamentary reply published last week.

However, definitely under way was the Home Affairs clampdown on officials under Operation Bvisa Masina - Tshivenda for “throw out the rot”.

Gigaba on Sunday confirmed 26 officials had been suspended, mostly over fake documentation and liaising with syndicates who then approached permit applicants for bribes to facilitate these documents.

“Our counter-corruption unit is quite busy… (and) is setting up sting operations with the members involved,” he said.

The Home Affairs anti-corruption measures come as the directive on municipal managers and chief financial officers minimum qualifications appears to be bearing fruit as compliance is enforced.

As of June, 238 municipal managers and 231 municipal chief financial officers in the country’s 278 councils are suitably qualified in line with the minimum competencies set out by the co-operative governance back-to-basics programme. Announced a year ago by Co-operative Governance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the programme aims to get councils to deliver services from water to pothole repairs effectively and efficiently, while also issuing accurate bills.

Twenty-two municipal appointments have been reversed as candidates as they had not met minimum qualification standards.

Gigaba said government would look into taking steps against those interview panels which allowed patently unqualified people to be short-listed in the first place.

Political Bureau