President Jacob Zuma and his Kenyan counterpart, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta observing the signing of agreements during his State Visit ito Kenya.

Nairobi - President Jacob Zuma got the full state visit reception in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday, including a 21-gun-salute and a guard of honour mounted by the country's military.

Speaking about visa exemptions, cuts in visa fees and multiple-entry visas for business people to visit South Africa, Zuma said: “The matter is receiving attention.” Despite his host, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, calling him “dear brother and friend” and pleading Kenya's case for visa relief, Zuma said at a joint press conference with him that issues of immigration had to be handled carefully.

Kenya wanted visa reciprocity to enable a much freer movement of people between Nairobi and Johannesburg. Kenyans grant visas to South Africans on arrival in Nairobi and Nairobi has been pushing South Africa to do the same.

“Because this is a privilege that Kenya already extends to South African nationals coming into Kenya, in our view there is no reason why both our governments cannot agree on exemption for visas for each other's citizens. I believe such an action will allow both our people, to get to know one another and to be able to work together for mutual benefit,” Kenyatta said reminding Zuma.

Kenyatta said Zuma had made a “commitment to urgently look at resolving these outstanding matters.” In a reply to a question, Zuma said that visas were discussed, but the discussions were inconclusive.

The South African government had heard the pleas from Nairobi and would work on a compromise. “... that issue has featured in our discussion of how do we move forward to allow the movement of goods and people to happen. Of course we have to deal with a lot of things that the President (Kenyatta) calls “obstacles” that we need to remove,” Zuma said.

“There are already steps that have been taken to allow people of specific categories who must not have problems to come into South Africa et cetera and we discussed some of the issues that need to be considered very thoroughly to allow that process to come in.

“That is a matter in progress which is being worked on by the two countries taking into account the issues I raised so that when we reach the final understanding there are no loopholes that will be used by wrong people who might use that kind of opening for their own reasons,” said Zuma.

But he added that even within the African Union, it had been agreed that the “issue of hard borders and the problem of visas” had to be worked out carefully, and mentioned that both the five-member East Africa Community and the 15-member South Africa Development Community were working to integrate their individual blocs. “There is the broader agenda of the African Union, to soften the borders of the continent,” he said.

African News Agency (ANA)