People waiting in long lines to be helped at the Home Affairs office in Cape Town. Picture:Angus Scholtz.

Johannesburg - There was nothing irregular about a home affairs official joining the international company awarded a tender to receive and manage South Africa's visa applications, an official said on Sunday.

“This matter is being sensationalised. I know it sells newspapers but we have done nothing wrong,” said Rishen Mahabeer, VFS general manager of operations in Southern Africa.

“We took the employee through our normal human resources processes after we had advertised for the post internally and externally. We hired her because we could not find a suitable candidate internally.”

The Sunday Times reported that Ziphora Sinekoane, who had worked on a R1 billion visa tender, had jumped ship - taking up a job at VFS Visa Processing SA.

She had been personal assistant of home affairs chief director Jack Monedi.

According to the report, Monedi managed the tender for the controversial outsourcing of the visa services.

Mahabeer said Sinekoane was appointed in a supervisory role at VFS's call centres.

He said she had no influence at home affairs to sway the home affairs tender process.

“We have hired her simply on merit. If she had been one of the senior people at home affairs who adjudicated in the process which resulted in us having the tender, then we would not have hired her. We do not entertain any form of bribery or corruption.”

Asked about the perception of corruption surrounding the matter, Mahabeer insisted his company's hands were clean.

“W are a big international company and obviously we care about the image of our brand. Perception and integrity is very esential in our operations,” said Mahabeer.

He said his company had created employment for around 100 people working in its 11 visa facilitation services across South Africa.

The Sunday Times report also said VFS's South African subsidiary had no black empowerment partners.

It allegedly earned empowerment points by hiring two black-owned companies to manage its offices and staffing.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced earlier this month that VFS Global, a worldwide outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments, had been appointed to receive and manage visa and permit applications in South Africa.

On Sunday, the Democratic Alliance said it would request Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to probe the visa facilitation deal.

“It is ironic that this tender was awarded to an international company whilst the new visa regulations were intended to protect the South African economy and job market,” DA MP Haniff Hoosen said.

“Contrary to the intention to protect the South African job market, the awarding of this tender to VFS will have the opposite effect and thousands of employees of private visa facilitation companies - who assist foreigners to obtain business, student, tourist and other permits to enter the country - are likely to lose their jobs.”

Immigration practitioners marched to home affairs offices in Johannesburg last week protesting against the raft of newly gazetted immigration regulations.

The amendment to the Immigration Act had removed section 46 which acknowledged the practitioners, they said.

Practitioners assist foreign nationals to apply for work, visiting, study, or business permits in South Africa by doing the administration, standing in the queue, and collecting the documents at a fee.

They say they wrote exams at the home affairs department at a cost of R3000 to qualify as practitioners.

The group said they were thinking of suing the department for loss of income. - Sapa