Durban - South Africans will still be required to get visas before visiting the UK for now, but progress is being made in negotiations between the two governments to lift the visa requirement, says the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
The visa requirement, as well as Britain's recent announcement that it would end direct development aid to South Africa by 2015, were two key issues on the agenda of the 10th Bilateral Forum between the two nations in Cape Town on Tuesday.
South Africans used to be able to travel to the UK without visas. But the UK introduced a visa requirement for South African passport holders in March 2009 because it said that it had become easy for non-South Africans to acquire South African passports fraudulently.
Hague told a briefing that “border and migration” talks formed part of the discussions between the two countries at the forum, and he acknowledged the progress the South African government had made in tightening up on the issuing of passports.
“We are pleased at the recent visit from senior officials from the Home Office, and we look forward to deepening co-operation in this area. We have been discussing that in the forum. Progress has now been made in this area,” he said.
Hague also commented on the announcement in May by his colleague, International Co-operation Minister Justine Greening, that Britain would end its direct development aid to South Africa in 2015 because South Africa no longer needed it. The South African government sharply criticised Greening’s announcement, calling it unilateral and saying that ending aid would fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between the two countries.
Hague said on Tuesday that officials from both countries had met separately to discuss the issue.
“Of course we want to move on to a different period, an exciting period,” he said, suggesting, like Greening, that the two countries had graduated beyond the usual donor-recipient relationship.
“A lot has been achieved in the last 10 years where trade is up 40 percent. We are an important trading partner, and South Africa is the biggest market in Africa for the UK,” said Hague.
- The Mercury