Xolani Koyana, Siyavuya Mzantsi and Sibonakaliso Msane
Cape Town - Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs say they are struggling to register newly signed foreign players because of new Home Affairs regulations.
Clubs are unable to register the players with the league if they don’t have work permits, but Home Affairs says clubs that applied well in advance have not run into problems.
Ajax Cape Town, who play their season opener in four days, is infuriated that they have yet to receive work permits for three of their new players. Maritzburg United faces the prospect of four of their signings being out of contention for the same reason.
Some of the clubs that took part in the PSL’s lucrative MTN8 knockout competition at the weekend had to take to the field without their new foreign players.
Home Affairs’ national chief director for immigration, Jack Monedi, said the applications from Ajax and Maritzburg United had been received last week.
The regulations came into effect on May 26. Clubs wanting general work permits for players need to provide proof that their recruits possess skills that South African players do not have.
They also need to apply for a waiver from the legal requirement that they advertise places, which takes about a week to receive, says Monedi. The player then visits a Home Affairs centre for fingerprints to be taken. Backgrounds checks take a further week or two.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has said the new regulations had been introduced to protect the country’s economic interests and regulate the influx of “economic migrants” who pose as asylum seekers.
Ajax play their first league game against AmaZulu in Durban on Sunday, but have yet to receive work permits for three of their new foreign players.
Moroccan-born American winger Noah Sadaoui, Zimbabwean midfielder Milton Ncube and Malawian international Robin Ngalande are in danger of missing out.
Ajax chief executive Ari Efstathiou said the trio were in the country on visitors’ visas. He said the new laws made it cumbersome and expensive to secure work permits.
“I do not think that this was the intention, but obviously it has not been carefully thought through, especially when it comes to sporting codes like soccer. We cannot wait two or three months to acquire a work permit for a player who needs to get on the field as soon as he is transferred to the club.
For Friday’s game against Mamelodi Sundowns, United will be without Ghanaians John Paintsil and Mike Mohammed and Zimbabweans Khumbulani Banda and Terrance Mandaza.
The club’s spokesman, Brian Zuma, said: “We have three players whose applications have not been processed. We are entirely dependent on Home Affairs to expedite the process. With the new system the application processes are taking longer.”
AmaZulu FC spokesman Philani Mabaso said the fate of a game could not hinge solely on whether Home Affairs had issued permits.
“It does not affect the clubs that much. Clubs have a responsibility to renew permits for foreign players, and in that sense this will affect us. This should last a couple of weeks – before you know it, clubs will be used to it.
PSL spokesman Lux September said the league and the clubs were working around the clock to come up with a solution.