Home Affairs' new powers akin to past repression (Business Report, 31/05) - It appears to have gone unnoticed, but the Immigration Bill recently adopted in the national assembly restructures the government in a fundamental manner. In particular, the bill contains provisions that allow for the creation of a specialised unit within the department of home affairs that will be responsible for the enforcement of immigration law. This, despite the fact that the clauses in the original bill that determined how the department of home affairs would be restructured, was deleted on the insistence of the ANC. The department of home affairs is currently responsible for various services provided by the government. The two main components of these are civic services (births, marriages, deaths and so on) and migration services (travel documents and permits to foreigners). In line with the government's integrated development planning services and co-operative governance strategies, civic services will be devolved to the municipal level, though under the control of home affairs. This means home affairs will primarily have the responsibility of providing migration services. In terms of the bill's provisions regarding the administration and issuing of permits, much of this is delegated to other government departments (the departments of labour, and trade and industry in particular) and non-governmental institutions such as those of higher learning, health service providers and private companies. Those institutions responsible for issuing permits are also required to monitor and report on compliance with the conditions attached, thus effectively creating a reporting line from various government departments and private institutions to the department of home affairs. Even more intriguing is the fact that several clauses in the bill relate to the power and authority of home affairs to request other government departments to "take certain actions or adopt certain procedures" and to "make use of the facilities and resources belonging to or controlled by any department". By implication, this potentially puts home affairs in control of some of the functions of various other departments. Having delegated the administration, logistics and costs associated with the processing and issuing of permits, the bill creates a situation in which the almost exclusive function of home affairs is that of enforcement. This enforcement strategy has several components under the rubric of "detecting, apprehending and deporting illegal foreigners". Firstly, the bill empowers the inspectorate to conduct inspections - a euphemism for raids - in communities, workplaces and other institutions. Home affairs officials are authorised to enter any premises to conduct search-and-seizure operations, including the arrest of persons. Under certain circumstances, warrants will not be necessary. Secondly, officials have the right to request any individual at any time to submit proof of their identity or legal status in South Africa. Failure to produce such proof or to satisfy officials of the validity of such documentation could result in arrest and detention for up to 48 hours before review. Thirdly, home affairs is empowered to liaise with other government departments, service providers and communities to discourage the presence of illegal foreigners. Fourthly, the bill contemplates that home affairs will conduct programmes in foreign countries with the aim of deterring people from becoming illegal foreigners. The potential outcome of such an enforcement strategy is frightening and it is difficult not to compare the proposed strategy with the implementation of the Influx Control Act during the days of apartheid. Of course it is important and necessary for immigration law to be enforced. The problem, however, occurs when two-thirds of the immigration law targets enforcement on the assumption that South Africa is being overrun by illegal foreigners who are taking jobs, pose a health risk and are engaged in criminal activities. Immigration law then becomes a national security matter rather than a means to regulate and manage the flow of people across our borders. Following our first democratic election in 1994, all government departments, including home affairs, have been involved in a process of transformation. While transformation in home affairs has been markedly slow, it has at least been attempted. The drafters of the new Immigration Bill have done us a great disservice by apparently reimposing the "skiet, skop en donner" mentality that was so prevalent during the apartheid police state.
SA keeps its door shut to its neighbours (Business Report, 30/05) - The vision of the African Renaissance is a reawakening that will lead to a future described by President Thabo Mbeki as "the reality of a new African who, having refused to be conditioned by circumstances imposed by a past of slavery, colonialism and racism, has succeeded to create a new world of peace, democracy, development and prosperity". Fundamental to the achievement of this future vision is the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), which is being developed as a process of sustained co-operation and integration between African leaders and states. A variety of protocols and agreements that have been signed among Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states, including South Africa, bear testimony to the progress made towards social, economic and political co-operation. Internationally it is acknowledged that where the goods, services and capital go, people will follow. As indicated recently by Essop Pahad, the minister for the president's office, it is inevitable that economic integration and co-operation will involve the movement of persons, even if governments are reluctant to encourage such movements explicitly. By implication, this means immigration policies and legislation regulating the movement of persons across borders must be consistent with the principles and objectives of economic co-operation and integration. When the government in 1996 initiated the process to reform South Africa's immigration policy and legislation, it was presented with a unique opportunity to develop immigration law as an instrument to achieve this regional and continental co-operation and integration. However, the Immigration Bill adopted in the national assembly is not only inconsistent with these objectives, but fundamentally contradicts them. A case in point is the regional cross-border trading that is undertaken by small entrepreneurs (mainly women) in the formal and informal sector. Nowhere in the bill is there any provision to ensure that this activity can legally take place. Though provision is made for the issuance of a business permit, the financial and other requirements are too stringent; most small entrepreneurs would not qualify. So cross-border trading will continue to be a semi-underground activity, despite its obvious advantages of stimulating economic co-operation and growth, and alleviating poverty. But it gets worse. In the clause dealing with the objectives and functions of immigration control, provision is made to "promote programmes in foreign countries with the aim of deterring people from becoming illegal foreigners; and [to] table the need for co-operation in preventing migration towards the republic on the agenda of relations with foreign states". This is most extraordinary. While the first of these provisions may be understandable - though not necessarily desirable, in that it refers specifically to illegal migration - the second one boggles the mind. It is a blanket and unqualified provision that lawfully requires the department of home affairs to engage in discussion with other governments about preventing migration to South Africa. Combined, these provisions send a clear message to other countries: we do not want your citizens to come to South Africa, illegally or legally. Whether this is just bad drafting or whether this is intentional, when the bill becomes law it will impose a legal obligation on the department to carry out these provisions. The fact that it contradicts and undermines everything that the African Renaissance, Nepad and SADC policies represent seems to have been lost. More broadly, the bill is decidedly out of step with developments across the continent. In both the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Economic Community of West African States, member states have already adopted protocols that allow for the free movement of persons. In the SADC itself, such a protocol has been under discussion since 1993. One of the principles of the SADC treaty is the "eventual free movement of persons". Nowhere in the Immigration Bill is there any reference to this context for immigration law. In essence, the Immigration Bill represents no real advance on the Aliens Control Act. It continues to set South Africa apart from the rest of the continent and, in fact, favours people from the developed world. Africa's time may have come, but South Africa's immigration law, even if unintentionally, continues to be conditioned by circumstances imposed by a past of slavery, colonialism and racism.
Immigrants squat outside Cape Town's customs office (SABC News, 30/05) - Immigrants, who are illegally squatting on the door step of the local customs office on Cape Town's Foreshore, say they will not move until they are given temporary accommodation elsewhere. More than 100 immigrants from Tanzania, Angola and Nigeria have been living in the area, a stone's throw away from the city's new International Convention Centre, which is still under construction, for the last few months. Tanzanian Maderec Kindole has been in South Africa since 1998, and said he still has no job or proper accommodation. "I got no job, I can't afford to pay for a house. They just give me a working permit but I'm not getting a job. For three years now I've been sleeping on the street," said Kindole. A big problem is that there are no structured refugee camps in South Africa. Many immigrants have applied for refugee status and are still awaiting an answer. During the SABC's visit, only a few squatters were outside the custom's offices, but authorities said that at night more than 100 people come to find a place to sleep. The City of Cape Town conducts regular clean-ups in the area, removing cardboard and other material used for building houses.
Mbeki signs Immigration Bill into law (Cape Town, Sapa, 30/05) - With three days to spare for a constitutional deadline, President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday night signed the Immigration Bill into law. The bill was signed by Mbeki at 6pm, presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said. Speaking in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Mbeki admitted that the controversial bill approved last week by Parliament might not be sufficient to help attract the skilled foreigners South Africa needed. It is estimated that South Africa has a shortage of between 200,000 and 500,000 skilled workers. Replying to questions in the National Assembly, Mbeki said the government was open to suggestions regarding changes to the legislation. "We have clearly to focus on the matter of what kind of immigrant we want in South Africa so that we are better able to address the challenges that we face. "The Immigration Bill may not address all these matters that we wanted." The National Council of Provinces last week passed the controversial bill, which all political parties agreed was severely flawed. The National Assembly approved it one week earlier. Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi piloted the bill through Parliament and to his chagrin saw it radically redrafted by the African National Congress during the parliamentary committee stage. Critics have argued that the quota system, which was part of eleventh-hour amendments introduced by the ANC could hinder the import of skilled persons. This view was shared by Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin who after the bill was adopted by the Assembly called for quota system to be amended by the NCOP. However, this was not possible because of the June 2 constitutional deadline for a new immigration law on the statute books, or for an amendment of the current Aliens Control Act. The ANC then agreed it would ask Buthelezi to introduce amendments as soon as possible once the law was promulgated. In reply to another question in the Assembly on Wednesday, Mbeki repeated comments made in his Opening-of-Parliament address in February, that lack of skills in the country was one of the economy's primary weaknesses. "There are obviously some very clear weaknesses in the economy, one of them is of course the skills problem. "We have to focus on that particular matter of addressing the skills problem, which lies at the base of the levels of unemployment in the country," he said. Khumalo told Sapa the new law would come into operation through proclamation which was being drafted by the department of home affairs.
9/11 speeds South African anti-terror bill (Mail &Guardian, 30/05) - A draft terrorism bill, which has been more than two years in the making but was speeded up after the September 11 attacks in the United States, will probably be before Cabinet in July, according to government representative Joel Netshitenzhe. The legislation was being prepared by the South African Law Commission, (SALC) he told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday. The United Nations and Organisation of African Unity Conventions on the suppression, combating and prevention of terrorism had been at during Cabinet's fortnightly meeting on Wednesday. These would be forwarded to Parliament for ratification. "This will soon be followed by our own legislation on the matter," Netshitenzhe said. The drafting of a new terrorism law to replace the draconian terrorism legislation of the apartheid era has been in the pipeline for two years. The new bill has been mired in controversy after human rights activists complained about some provisions, including a clause allowing detention without trial for 14 days for interrogation purposes. The drafting of the legislation was speeded up after last year's September 11 attacks. According to media reports, the proposed anti-terrorism bill is based on the OAU convention, which distinguishes liberation movements from terrorist groups. Pierre van Wyk of the SALC is on record as saying that the proposed bill condemns all terrorist acts as unjustifiable, makes material support for such acts an offence and extends the jurisdiction of South African courts to cover crimes committed on aircraft and ships outside the country. It is not year clear how it bodes for two militant Muslim organisations in South Africa -- Qibla and People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) -- which were branded "terrorist" groups by the US State Department in 1998, reports said at the time.
Government open to changes to Immigration Bill: Mbeki (Parliament, Sapa, 29/05) - President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday admitted that the Immigration Bill approved last week by Parliament may not be sufficient to help the country attract the skilled foreigners it needed. Replying to questions in the National Assembly, he said the government was open to suggestions regarding changes to the legislation. "We have clearly to focus on the matter of what kind of immigrant we want in South Africa so that we are better able to address the challenges that we face. "The Immigration Bill may not address all these matters that we wanted," Mbeki said. The National Council of Provinces last week passed the controversial bill, which most observers see as severely flawed. Critics have argued that the quota system, which was part of eleventh-hour amendments introduced by the African National Congress, could hinder the import of skilled persons. The president is due to sign the measure into law before a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline for a new immigration bill to replace the Aliens Control Act. Mbeki said on Wednesday that Parliament had made amendments it thought were necessary, but added that these may not be sufficient to bring in urgently needed skills. "It may very well be that those are not sufficient, and I'm quite certain that the government would be open to any suggestions to bring about such amendments to that, as would be necessary to achieve the objectives that we sought. "We have to look carefully at what has been agreed... and if there are elements there which are contrary to what we said... then we would correct it," he said. In reply to an earlier question, Mbeki reiterated comments made in his opening-of-Parliament address in February, saying lack of skills in the country was one of the economy's primary weaknesses. "There are obviously some very clear weaknesses in the economy, one of them is of course the skills problem. "We have to focus on that particular matter of addressing the skills problem, which lies at the base of the levels of unemployment in the country," he said.
Employers will find more perils than pearls (Business Report, 28/05) - The Immigration Bill represents a curious mix of typographical errors and theories of migration. This bill was always in danger of being a series of short-term to medium-term, ad hoc interventions rather than a coherent and holistic engagement with the migration debates. The same fate likely awaits any new major amendments, unless a proper basis for this is laid in advance. One of the more significant inputs to the portfolio committee on the bill came from Billy Masetlha, the director-general of the home affairs department. His theme was that the courts had not said the Aliens Control Act was unconstitutional in its entirety but only in two particular areas: the rights of South Africans who had non-resident partners and the right to get reasons for administrative decisions. On whether the act met the need for foreign skills, he said it was "wide enough to encompass this challenge as well". He was at pains to convey the sense of pressure on the department to protect "our people" from having their jobs stolen by "illegals". Another strand of the debate emerges from the speech by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the home affairs minister, on the second reading of the Immigration Bill. He remarked that the US had "identified our antiquated and obsolete immigration laws" as one of the three major impairments to doing business in South Africa. His theme was that the bill was a bold break with the past. The plan may have gone wrong when two distinct processes - correcting the Aliens Control Act and reforming our migration systems - were collapsed into one. Clearly, parliament and the executive branch do not yet share a vision on the proper role of migration within the wider national transformation processes. So where does this leave the business community? Buthelezi observed in his presentations that the broader strategy underlying his bill was to widen immigration's front door but to close the back door. Not only is it all but impossible to close the back door but the front door appears to have a rather rickety old turnstile stuck firmly in the way. Companies needing to import skills must take a long, hard look at the new bill's requirements and the additional costs involved. Rather than making the promised leap of faith into the 21st century to tackle the challenges of globalisation, the bill appears to want to drive the foreign barbarians from the immigration gates. There is still a lack of consensus on the impact migration strategies can have on our economy, and a depressing amount of heavy-handedness reminiscent of the legal systems of a bygone era. This is not to say there is not the occasional pearl in the bill. One example is the definition of work, which recognises that some companies use South Africa solely as a logistical hub, at no harm or cost to the country. These employees are not "working" here as far as home affairs is concerned. A major focus of interest for the business community will be to see how the principal work permit options will be implemented. Firstly there is the quota work permit. The home affairs minister may decide each year on a list of job types for which quotas will be necessary. The minister will also decide the size of each quota. But the minister has to first consult the departments of trade and industry and labour. And the age and reliability of the data used to establish each year's quotas is anyone's guess. Local industries, particularly in the information technology sector, risk having their growth stunted because of government assessments of how the markets performed a year or two (or more) earlier. Critics have argued, with some merit, that the quota-based approach loses sight of the different functions of the private and public sectors, and may well fail in consequence. The general work permit will apply to positions falling outside of the designated quota areas, and the home affairs department will require proof of a diligent and expensive hunt for local talent. It will also need certification by a chartered accountant that the post and vacancy exist and that the employer will employ the foreign person on much the same terms as those granted to a local resident. The problems experienced in obtaining such permits have been elevated to the level of urban mythology. Then there is the much vaunted corporate permit innovation, which will allow a corporate entity to be "licensed" to employ foreign nationals. But the number of foreigners on the licence will still be capped by the home affairs department, in consultation with trade and industry and labour. The value of the corporate permit will depend on the regulations in the eventual act. The draft regulations will go through a public debate process in which submissions cannot be ignored unreasonably. But, as always, someone's paperwork will slip through the cracks or into the hands of a migration practitioner who will manage, for example, to produce a quota work permit even though the quota has been filled. This exposes a darker side of the bill. The strategic focus of the bill is meant to be employer-driven sanctions. It provides for considerable fines and sentences for the illegal employment of foreigners - particularly for repeat offenders. Parliament excised the creation of specialised immigration courts. But the bill - moving away from an initial recognition of the complexities of immigration, nationality and refugee law - now provides that every magistrate's court will be an immigration court. The magistrate's courts will have jurisdiction on any matter arising from the workings of the bill, including the review of departmental decisions. Given the limited confidence sectors of the business community have in the high courts, this development is going to have a mixed reception and is unlikely to save costs. The bill also still provides for arrests, detentions and searches without warrants. And it uses language lifted straight out of the current act. For example, the bill includes the current provision that ignorance of an employee's residence status is no defence should that employee prove to be illegal. Companies are also deemed to be employing an illegal alien who is merely found on their business premises. A new twist to the enforcement saga is that "any illegal foreigner will be deported", irrespective of the circumstances of the case. It is a pity that the opportunity was not taken to address with a little more creativity the reported tens of thousands of persons working in the country who form part of the faceless mass of "illegal aliens". The department concedes it cannot remove these people from the country because of their sheer numbers. The proposed strategy - that, as far as possible, public services will be withheld from these people - might seem like an invitation for them to seek out their local document forging centre to get the services they really need. But even though some of the enforcement provisions of the bill must be constitutionally dubious, the bottom line message to companies is clear: ensure your employees are legal and keep them legal. And don't look for any mention of the principles or commitments of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. This bill threatens to be an expensive lesson which the economy can ill afford.
South African officials process aid to Maputo (Pretoria, BuaNews, 28/05) - Senior South African government officials are locked in a daylong meeting in Pretoria today, to find ways to assist the Mozambican government cope with the devastating impact of the recent train disaster that killed more than 200 and injured 167 civilians at the weekend. Government has since pledged medical supplies to the Portuguese-speaking neighbours following a relief request by the Mozambican authorities to SA to aid the Maputo Central Hospital in the wake of the horrific train derailment at Moamba north of Maputo. The hospital that faces blood shortage is treating most of the injured in what is said to be the worst rail accident. Officials from the departments of provincial and local government and foreign affairs are facilitating consignments of gloves, surgical knives, surgical clothes, anesthetics, syringes, bandages and drugs to President Joaquin Chissano led country. Among those throwing their weight behind the relief effort is the private health sector company Nedcare, an unnamed donor and the South African Airlink, which agreed to transport the goods free of cost. This is the third catastrophe to hit Mozambique in recent years. Two years ago, destructive floods struck the nation killing scores of civilians while injuring hundreds and displacing thousands in the worst downpour to hit the country in years. At the time of the floods that gripped the world's attention, the southern African nation was just emerging from bloody prolonged civil wars that saw many Mozambicans falling victim to landmines planted across the country. Severe drought and economic slump also had a destructive hand in depraving the country rich in natural gas, of decent humane living over the years. Meanwhile transport minister Dullah Omar is expected to visit the country, with a population of more than 16 million, tomorrow. The minister, who also had to deal with the recent local train crash in KwaZulu and torching of trains in Pretoria, joined President Thabo Mbeki in sending the country's condolences to the Mozambican victims' families immediately after the crash. The Mozambican authorities have since launched an inquiry into the accident believed to have been caused by human error.
Commentary on Immigration Act: A bit of a joke (Business Day, 27/05) - It seems as if the political conflict around the Immigration Bill has been going on forever. It has in fact taken four years for the legislation to reach the home affairs committee in Parliament and for it to begin work on it in earnest. The fact that the African National Congress chairman of the committee, Aubrey Mokoena, had to be instructed by National Assembly speaker, Frene Ginwala, to get on with it earlier this year speaks volumes for those political tensions. He stood accused of filibustering in an attempt to delay the passage of the legislation still further. Now the committee has held public hearings for a full week on the bill. But this has, if anything, worsened the confusion, posing more questions than supplying answers. What is clear is that if all the clauses which the different submissions identify as being unconstitutional are expunged from the bill there will be precious little left. At the very least, the main areas of the bill are going to have to be redrafted to pass constitutional muster. Take, for example, the so-called reverse onus which has the Human Rights Commission (HRC) up in arms. It does seem that the clauses which provide for that employers, providers of accommodation and administrators of places of learning face a reverse onus of proof. In other words, they will be required to prove that they did not provide employment, accommodation and learning to "illegal foreigners" rather than the state proving that they have committed an offence. Home affairs insists that the clauses are legal and have been certified by senior counsel Jeremy Gauntlett. Even if this is the case, it is unfair and wrong. The provisions for "identification on demand", the HRC said, was reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid when black South Africans had constantly to prove that they had a right to be in the country of their birth. Justice committee chairman Johnny de Lange has insisted that the creation of special immigration courts is unconstitutional because it creates a court of original jurisdiction parallel to the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. Again, home affairs insist that he is wrong and that the clauses will pass the test. What really has to be asked is: how does a piece of legislation that is so hotly contested between a number of ministries pass through cabinet without these points of difference being ironed out? It seems astonishing that cabinet can approve a draft law where the ministers of justice and home affairs do not agree. Was the battle transferred to the parliamentary committee because they were unable to agree in cabinet? If so, it is a recipe for the creation of bad law, and for a whole host of costly legal challenges. The other alarming aspect is that the National Economic, Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has, in the past two years, been unable to complete its legal mandate to examine legislation which affects the labour market. Nedlac was created precisely to avoid the sort of confrontations between government, labour and business which surround the Immigration Bill. Nedlac has pointed out that four things have to happen to bills of this nature. They have to be tabled, discussed, negotiated and then a final report prepared, even if consensus is not achieved. Home affairs insists that it did everything possible to achieve consensus while the other social partners believe that the Nedlac process was willfully misunderstood. One common denominator seems to be Inkatha leader and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his adviser Mario Ambrosini and the sort of response they provoke in the ruling ANC. On an issue as crucial as migration control, it renders the concept of a national unity government a bit of a joke.
Immigration Bill faces new deadline (The Mercury, 27/05) - In an attempt to avert an immigration crisis, the department of home affairs has indicated that it may call on the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline for implementation of the new immigration law passed by parliament last week. Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi would only be able to promulgate the law once arrangements were in place to provide for a smooth transition from the apartheid-era Aliens Control Act (ACA) to the new law, according to Buthelezi's advisor, Mario Ambrosini. The Constitutional Court set a June 2 deadline for the new law to be in place, but the department was unlikely to meet the deadline because the old Act would have to remain in place until interim regulations were ready, transitional procedures had been finalised, and staff had been properly trained. "Until that day, the Aliens Control Act continues to be in force," said Ambrosini. "If needs be we will approach the Constitutional Court to show compliance," he said, adding that such a move was premature because the immigration Bill passed by parliament on Thursday had not yet been signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki had received the Bill from parliament and was now considering it, said presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo. Immigration lawyers across the country went into a panic on Monday and warned of a looming crisis due to uncertainty about the transitional arrangements with regard to applications from foreigners for an extension of temporary residence permits or changing such permits to permanent residence permits. A Cape Town-based immigration lawyer, Gary Eisenberg, said there was widespread confusion over how the transition from the old to the new would work, and what foreigners would have to do to have their applications considered. The department of home affairs appeared to be "completely unprepared" for the challenges of implementing the new law, said Eisenberg. "It means disaster for us because we can't advise people on what to do, and neither can the department because they don't know what to do." But Ambrosini played down fears of a looming crisis, saying there was "absolutely no need to panic". "We cannot switch over to the new system until the necessary structures are in place," he said. Ambrosini conceded that implementation of the new law would take longer than envisaged, but this was because the Bill had been tabled in parliament in April 2001 and it had only emerged from the legislative process last week. Adding to the department's woes was the fact that the Bill had undergone several changes in parliament. "We will do things as fast as possible, but we cannot skip a flight of stairs," said Ambrosini.
Immigration Bill is dead on arrival (Sunday Times, 26/05) - The Immigration Bill has been eight years in the making - from the Green Paper (the first policy draft) to the White Paper (a more final draft) to the Bill itself, which was published in August last year. Mounds of public submissions have been made at various stages and MPs have sat through hundreds of hours of meetings in the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, laboriously reading through clauses and hearing evidence. But it took only one week to mess it up, to throw the entire process out the window and rush the Bill through Parliament, leaving South Africa with an immigration policy that everyone now knows is a costly mistake. What went wrong? The first problem was that although the policy - drawn up by Minister of Home Affairs and Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi - had been around for years, it has only been in the past three weeks that the ANC began seriously debating it. Until then, the party merely toyed with the Bill. The ANC chairman of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Aubrey Mokoena, a teacher who became a well-known activist in the 1980s, is generally considered to be somewhere between wildly eccentric and totally mad. With a penchant for highfalutin ideas and bombastic language, Mokoena held the committee ransom for endless days while forcing members to read aloud the White Paper and then the Bill, clause by clause, according to his instructions. Mokoena single-handedly held up the process for the best part of a year. An indication of the absurdity of the proceedings in his committee, his remark after being told by the Speaker, Frene Ginwala, to speed things up after seven months of delay, was this: "I do not understand why people are panicking as though the world has come to an end [with the delay of the Bill]". He said he saw no reason to "rush things". Says Annelize van Wyk, a United Democratic Movement member who saw the Bill through its processes: "It was a lesson in how not to draft legislation. If we had started this process when we were meant to have done we would have had enough time. " But it was not only Mokoena's incompetence that prevented the process in Parliament from getting off the ground. Even though President Thabo Mbeki had, at the opening of Parliament, identified a new immigration law as a priority in order to attract skilled people to South Africa, there were thorny political questions that worried the ANC. These arose from the fact that the Bill was the work of Buthelezi, the leader of a minority party in government and one which had spent more than a decade in a bloody war with the ANC. With an over-preponderance of ANC intelligence operatives in key positions of Home Affairs who had a tendency to constantly assess situations in terms of possible rather than probable threats to national security, Buthelezi's motives were constantly viewed with suspicion. The key official in this regard was Billy Masetlha, Buthelezi's director-general, a former head of the SA Secret Services, who since being deployed to Home Affairs early last year, has been literally at war with his political principal. One of the main areas of suspicion was the suggestion in the Bill that the Department of Home Affairs should have the autonomy (and resources) to enforce and investigate immigration policy. Another was the suggestion that border control be supervised by immigration officers. A third was the way that the Bill had described immigration courts - as courts that could be interpreted to be independent from magistrate's courts. With the ANC's attention focused on these issues of implementation, the really important part of the Bill - what our policy should be in order to attract skilled foreigners - seems to have been ignored. But Parliament faced a particular problem with the Immigration Bill. In 2000, the Constitutional Court had ruled that the Aliens Control Act was unconstitutional and needed to be replaced by June 2 2002. As the deadline drew closer, the ANC could no longer filibuster. Its fondness for the stalwarts in the party finally ran out at the end of last month and Mokoena was removed. In his place came Mpho Scott, a charming, business-like and a rising member of the ANC's intelligence and security circles. Scott had never even been a member of Mokoena's committee. But with Scott at the helm, the ANC finally became serious and found that it could no longer avoid applying itself to the vexing question of immigration policy. Buthelezi had put forward a free-market approach which proposed that companies wanting to hire foreigners pay a levy; essentially a penalty which would test their need to hire a foreigner above a local person. In this way, the system would be regulated by the market and bureaucratic procedures - where government departments decided who can and can't be hired and for what - would be circumvented. Cosatu, on the other hand, lobbied hard in the opposite direction, arguing for a regulated approach through Nedlac and its social partners. It was a view that would have appealed more directly to the ANC's orthodox thinking, which tends to favour state regulation over a free-market approach. The predominance of this approach plus the paranoia that Buthelezi should not be given any autonomy and the looming deadline resulted in a sudden knee-jerk response from the ANC. Four days after becoming chairman, Scott came up with a new Bill, causing an uproar from the IFP contingent of the committee and outrage from Buthelezi. Although Scott insisted that the Bill he put forward contained only three changes, it was a substantial reversal of the entire policy thrust. In addition, the new version was not presented as piecemeal amendments but rather in the format of a completely new Bill. Gone was the free-market regulation, replaced by a system of quotas which required government to determine what kind of imported skills were needed and in what numbers. Not only was it a radically different approach, it was, as the ANC later found out, a process almost impossible to implement. Where the Bill came from and who inspired it remains a missing piece of the puzzle. What is clear, though, is that the ANC in Parliament - through its all-powerful Political Committee and through the Chief Whip's office - did little, if anything, to anticipate this problem. The Political Committee established last year to avoid problems precisely like these (after a string of embarrassments over the lack of strategic thinking by the ANC in Parliament) failed to rise to the occasion. Inside ANC ranks the opinion is that "there was absolutely no management of the process". Had there been such "management" - which would have included consultation with key figures in the ANC and government - it would have been obvious to Scott and his colleagues that the top-down approach they were imposing was both unworkable and out of touch with government's economic policy, for years now the product of market-driven thinking. As they entered negotiations with the IFP over the Bill, it was ironic that the Director-General of Trade and Industry, Alistair Ruiters, addressed a parliamentary committee, bemoaning the lack of skilled professionals and arguing for the need to aggressively import skills if the economy was to break out of its low-growth cycle. Barely a week after Scott had introduced his new Bill it became law. Buthelezi, mindful of the deadline, unhappily endorsed it. It was only a few days later, when the Bill reached the National Council of Provinces for its final journey to become law, that Alec Erwin, Minister of Trade and Industry, suddenly appeared on the scene. Erwin, who had been out of the country in the final stages of the Bill passing through the National Assembly, frankly described it as "confusing" and "difficult to implement". It was not investor-friendly. The problem, he pointed out, was exactly the one Buthelezi had raised in the National Assembly: how do you tell the difference between an engineer who wants to work as an engineer and one who wants to work as a project manager? In a modern world where skills and categories of skills change so fast, it would be "pointless" to try to identify them, said Erwin. It became clear to the ANC that it had made a mistake. It began back-pedalling. But it was too late. A last-minute attempt to remove the quota clause failed when it became clear that there would not be time to run the Bill through the parliamentary process again in time for the Constitutional Court deadline. And so it ended with a Bill being passed that all major parties voted for but which nobody believes to be appropriate. Or at least it might have been the end, but it isn't. The end, predict those around Buthelezi, could be "years away". Buthelezi has made it clear that he has no intention of introducing a hastily drawn up amendment to satisfy the ANC. "I will not be in the position of merely producing an amendment the day after the enactment of this Bill as one would need to interrogate many questions and do so in consultation with all those who participated in this process in the past six years," he said, implying that the dogged process will and must begin again. In the meantime, the Department of Home Affairs will be obliged to implement the Bill, beginning with the tricky process of drawing up quotas. In all likelihood the Bill will be enacted by June 2. Then, it will have to be implemented, then it is likely to be amended. Then we will wait again for several more seasons of madness to start all over again.
Buthelezi considers leaving cabinet (The Sunday Independent, 25/05) - The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been considering pulling out of the government, but is unlikely to do so because it would have grave consequences for peace in the country. The IFP leader has again been contemplating a withdrawal from the government after the Immigration Bill - for which he is responsible as minister of home affairs - suffered several setbacks during its turbulent passage through parliament. Sources close to Buthelezi say he has been "deeply distressed" by the developments around the bill because this has been the latest setback in a spate of incidents that have made Buthelezi question his role in the cabinet and question the ruling ANC's sincerity in inviting him to join the government. "The nasty encounter the bill had in parliament was similar to the attitude in cabinet," said one source, pointing to the stand-off between the ANC and IFP over the bill in recent weeks. "Its not plain sailing at all at national level." Senior members of the ANC seemed to be "playing games" with Buthelezi, opting to frustrate the IFP leader instead of simply asking him to leave the government. However, Buthelezi is in a precarious position because if he does take the step of walking out on President Thabo Mbeki, he could be seen to be the spoiler, leaving the ANC to claim the moral high ground by claiming they didn't push him out. Jabulani Sithole, a lecturer in history at the University of Natal, said another consideration was that Buthelezi would "simply disappear from national politics and become a regional player" if he were to leave the government. "That is something I doubt Buthelezi would want," said Sithole. Kiru Naidoo, a Durban-based political commentator, was sceptical about whether Buthelezi would want to give up "the trappings of a very powerful portfolio in cabinet". "If he left the national government, the political temperature in KwaZulu-Natal would soar and there could be a tit-for-tat reaction, with the IFP ejecting the ANC from the provincial coalition government." This could pave the way for an alliance with the Democratic Alliance, which has been courting Buthelezi in recent months, especially since it lost the Western Cape to the ANC after the party's split with the New National Party. The minister has also had a torrid time with Home Affairs director-general Billy Masethla, with whom he has not seen eye to eye in the recent past. Buthelezi's frustration boiled over in the national council of provinces on Thursday when he lashed out in anger at the ANC's tampering with the bill, which was finally passed by parliament and sent to Mbeki's office to be signed into law in time to beat a June 2 constitutional court deadline. He also reminded MPs that the peace in KwaZulu-Natal was still very fragile. "There has been peace in KwaZulu-Natal, which was the theatre of war between the ANC and IFP, in the last eight years, but in fact political killings are taking place now," Buthelezi said. "We have not managed to destroy all the fires that destroyed so many of our people." Sithole said the remarks were irresponsible and could be seen as political thuggery aimed at holding the ANC to ransom. The ANC and IFP met near Durban on Thursday to thrash out the "state of the relationship" between the two parties. Dumisani Makhaye, an ANC spokesperson, said talks would continue in a bid to resolve outstanding issues between the two parties.
Buthelezi vows to leave no stone unturned on new Immigration Bill (Cape Town, Business Day, 24/05) - Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the minister of home affairs, yesterday pledged to do his best to implement the controversial new quota system for work permits, but warned it would be an "uphill" task that was the "worst possible option" for the country. He was steering the new Immigration Bill, which will replace the outdated Aliens Control Act on June 2, through its last stages in parliament as it was debated by the national council of provinces and somewhat reluctantly passed by all parties after an extraordinary chain of events. This involved endless political wrangling, the complete redrafting of the bill without any input from Buthelezi's department, the removal and subsequent reinstatement of the quota provision, and an appeal from MPs to the home affairs department to start amending it immediately. Buthelezi said he had no clear idea why parliament had opted for the quota system instead of the market-based licensing system, "which was consonant with the age of globalisation", approved by cabinet. He would therefore not be able to simply amend the "seriously flawed" new law overnight and would have to spend time consulting "all of those who participated in this process in the past six years". In the meantime, he and his staff would have to try and make the new law work and he assured delegates that although it would be "difficult, we will leave no stone unturned to try and make it work to the best of our capacity". He hoped that Alec Erwin, the trade and industry minister, would be able to live up to his promises, made in some media reports but since denied, that he had the necessary information to make the quota system work, and that the extra money needed to implement the new system would be provided by the treasury. But his department would also have to revamp its work processes. Apart from the quotas, the new law would be on par with those in many other countries, especially in respect of investors' and intracompany transfer permits, Buthelezi said.
Buthelezi warns on amendments to Bill (Cape Town, Business Day, 24/05) - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi bluntly warned yesterday that the Immigration Bill could not simply be changed overnight once it had been enacted, unless it was to reinstate provisions that were in the bill when he introduced it. The bill passed its penultimate test before becoming law yesterday when it was approved by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It includes a controversial last-minute provision for work-permit quotas, after attempts by the African National Congress (ANC) to have them removed ran into time constraints. Buthelezi's department will now have to begin implementing quotas regardless of the fact that he, the ANC and Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin wanted them removed. Introducing debate on the bill in the NCOP, Buthelezi said: "It must be made abundantly clear that no amendment, with the exception of technical amendments, can be made overnight in respect of developing something which may replace the quota system, unless I am asked to reintroduce to Parliament the scheme originally adopted by cabinet and based on a licensing fee. We negotiated this scheme extensively, studied all its implications and prepared for its implementation." He explained that he did not have a clear idea why his original licensing model had been scrapped by the ANC in Parliament and replaced with a command economy quota system which the ANC then tried to remove in favour of a labour certification system. "Therefore, I will not be in the position of merely producing an amendment the day after the enactment of this bill as one would need to interrogate many questions and do so in consultation with all those who participated in this process in the past six years," he said. Buthelezi described the events of the past week as "unusual", with one committee substantially transforming a bill without reference to the line function department, and the ruling party trying to change it in the select committee, before running out of time. He said the legislation approved by both houses of Parliament had errors because clauses were mistakenly deleted and could not be corrected because it was only made available minutes before deliberations began.
ANC, IFP ties seem to be mending (Business Day, 24/05) - The ailing relationship between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in KwaZulu-Natal which had been teetering on the brink of collapse, appears to be back on the mend. This came amid a warning by IFP leader and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi of a tenuous peace in KwaZulu-Natal. During debate on the Immigration Bill in the National Council of Provinces, he reminded MPs of the bitter war between the parties ahead of the country's democratic elections which ended largely with the IFP's inclusion in a government of national unity. "I'm talking about a very serious thing for our country, there has been peace in KwaZulu-Natal, which was the theatre of war between the ANC and IFP, in the last eight years. "But some critical period is taking place in KwaZulu-Natal even now, even today at an unnamed place, leaders of the ANC and the IFP are engaged (in talks)," he said. Buthelezi warned it might not be wise for ANC members to "slap down" a leader of a minority party. He was referring to criticism levelled at him from ANC MPs during passage of the bill. The meeting between the top brass of the ANC and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday came ahead of the ANC's national executive committee gathering this weekend. ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said the delegations decided to reaffirm the continuation of the coalition agreement between the two parties which was agreed to in 1999. There are still outstanding issues which will be attended to at another meeting to be held soon. Observers speculate that the question of amnesty for both parties' supporters is likely to feature when the two former adversaries meet again, because the IFP is known to be keen to discuss this issue. Ngonyama said the meeting had been conducive. Issues believed to have come under the spotlight include the completion of the provincial constitution which would allow for the ANC and IFP to have equal representation in cabinet. The IFP has six portfolios while the ANC has four. This, together with differences over the capital city and the status of the Zulu monarchy, have at times strained already acrimonious relations between the two parties.
Immigration Bill clears last hurdle (Cape Town, Dispatch Online, 24/05) - The controversial Immigration Bill has completed its last hurdle in Parliament after being passed unanimously by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) yesterday. The measure, which has suffered the roughest passage ever of any draft legislation, will now be sent to President Thabo Mbeki for promulgation ahead of a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline. The Bill -- which has been the subject of tension between the African National Congress and Inkatha Freedom Party -- aims, among other things, to attract skilled foreigners to South Africa. Speaking during debate in the NCOP, Home Affairs Minister and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi criticised the final version of the Bill and complained it would be difficult and expensive to implement. The National Assembly last week approved a much-changed version of his original, following months of political wrangling and eleventh-hour amendments introduced by the majority ANC. The minister warned that the quota system, proposed in the Bill passed by the Assembly, was the worst possible option for processing work permits. "In my opinion, it is by far the worst possible option in terms of difficulty of implementation and because of the procedures it requires... "It is going to be difficult, but we will try to make it work to the best of our capacity." He also quashed suggestions that his department could produce an amendment Bill any time soon. The NCOP social services committee on Wednesday withdrew a last-minute amendment that would effectively have done away with the much-criticised quota system due to time constraints. The amendment had been introduced after Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin's intervention. Erwin felt that the work permit provision as adopted by the National Assembly was confusing. Select committee chair Loretta Jacobus said she would request the minister to draft new amendments as soon as possible. Buthelezi said the department had not considered the quota system as an option after it was ruled out almost completely at the outset of the Green Paper process. He could not make quick changes to the Bill regarding the manner of processing work permits, unless the original provision providing for a licensing fee was re-introduced. However, he said the Bill was excellent in many respects, and had brought South Africa on par with many others countries in terms of most of its provisions.
Buthelezi warns of growing rift between IFP-ANC (Cape Town, Dispatch Online, 24/05) - Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi yesterday warned of a tenuous peace in KwaZulu-Natal. Speaking in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) during debate on the Immigration Bill, he confirmed that leaders of the IFP and the ANC were meeting in the province to address growing tension. He reminded MPs of the bitter war between the parties ahead of the country's democratic elections which ended largely with the IFP's inclusion in a government of national unity. "I'm talking about a very serious thing for our country, there has been peace in KwaZulu-Natal, which was the theatre of war between the ANC and IFP, in the last eight years. "But some critical period is taking place in KwaZulu-Natal even now, even today at an unnamed place leaders of the ANC and the IFP are engaged (in talks)." Buthelezi -- who is also the Minister of Home Affairs -- warned it might not be wise for ANC members to "slap down" a leader of a minority party. He was referring to criticism levelled at him from ANC MPs during passage of the Immigration Bill. "Now people must realise that simmering underneath... we have not managed, in fact, to destroy all these fires that destroyed so many of our people. "It may therefore not be good to slap down a leader of a minority party... In fact all the beautiful things that we are having we may not have for long." The ANC's reaction to the so-called "Buthelezi Bill" had been like "a red rag before the bull", Buthelezi said. The relationship between the ANC and IFP has deteriorated, among other things, over the Immigration Bill, the powers of traditional leaders in local government and the future capital of KwaZulu-Natal. The IFP serves as a minority partner in the national Cabinet and has a power-sharing deal with the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. IFP members were quoted over the weekend as saying they were prepared to go to war should Ulundi not become the sole capital of the province. A multi-party committee has recommended that Pietermaritzburg be the capital. The matter is due to voted on in the Provincial Legislature on May 31. Buthelezi said yesterday his party had been invited by Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki to be part of a government of national unity. "People must not forget that here at home we have managed to do the wonderful things that our President is doing, because I agreed, and my party agreed, and the ANC felt strongly that we should work together," he said.
Commentary on Immigration Act: Bad law, bad blood (Mail & Guardian, 24/05) - The "processing" of the Immigration Bill has been an unmitigated disaster, both for Parliament and for efforts to redress South Africa's crippling skilled labour shortage. It beggars belief that eight years of policy-making should culminate in a frenzy of law-making in which the Bill was subject to almost daily changes of a fundamental kind. The sorry sequence of events is as follows. After months of inertia, the African National Congress in Parliament wakes up to the danger that it will miss a Constitutional Court deadline for the enactment of sections of the Bill. Panic. The incompetent head of the home affairs committee is fired, and the committee finally gets down to scrutinising the legislation drafted by Minister of Home Affairs Mangosuthu Buthelezi's department. With three weeks to deadline, it alters the Bill beyond recognition, replacing the proposed market-driven recruitment of skilled foreigners with a quota system. Enter the National Council of Provinces, which hears evidence from the Department of Trade and Industry (which must set the quotas) that the Bill is unworkable. The quota proposal is hastily pulled. But then the Bill will have to go back to the National Assembly and we won't meet the deadline. Oh dear. Quotas are hastily restored -- with a plea that home affairs quickly draft amendments. In other words, legislation is being solemnly enacted in the knowledge that it is hopelessly flawed and must be changed. As argued by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa's Richard Calland in this edition, the incapacity of the home affairs committee has been a large factor in this gemors. Although Buthelezi's broad approach was on record for years, the ANC did not formulate a position. When it did, it predictably favoured the central state bureaucracy over the market. The belief in the shining virtues of state power, when the South African state is in reality so weak, is a persistent delusion of the ruling party. It took the Department of Trade and Industry to point out that government simply does not have the ability to decide industry's skilled labour needs. But it is equally clear that suspicion of Inkatha Freedom Party leader Buthelezi and his adviser, Mario Ambrosini, has been influential. The ANC was determined they would get no credit for the Bill, and was hell-bent on hijacking it. Whatever one's view of Buthelezi, there is no point in having him in the Cabinet if he is to be constantly subjected to distrust and obstruction. It leads to bad law, bad administration (witness his ongoing battle with his ANC-linked director general) and bad blood. As it currently operates, the "government of national unity" is less a force for reconciliation than for sectarian strife and division. Every four years a sporting fever grips most of the world -- and when the soccer World Cup kicks off in Korea and Japan next Friday South Africa will be an enthusiastic part of this madness again. Bafana Bafana will join 31 other nations in competing for the most sought-after trophy in world sport. For a nation that rejoined the international footballing family just 10 years ago, reaching a second successive tournament is an enormous achievement. To put it in context, China, a country of more than a billion people, is going to its first World Cup this year. The Dutch -- who reached the semifinals at France 98 -- will be spectators this time around. But although South Africa's participation is rightly a source of national pride, our chances of glory should be put in perspective. Firstly, Africa has five berths in the finals but no African nation has yet gone beyond the quarterfinals. South American countries -- which fight for four automatic places -- have won eight of the 16 past tournaments. Cruelly put, qualifying from a group that included Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe does not inspire optimism about beating the Argentinas of this world. Secondly, since qualification the South African Football Association has again indulged in its favourite pastime: shooting itself in the foot just before a big tournament. Carlos Queiroz, the coach who was charged with and achieved qualification, has been unceremoniously dumped and replaced by Jomo Sono. Results since he took over have not been spectacular, though there are signs that the team is gelling at the correct time. Bafana Bafana prepare to step on to the world stage with the whole nation behind them. But the South African public is a fickle mistress, as the Proteas found out to their cost this season, and unrealistic expectations could threaten the national goodwill engendered by Bafana Bafana's Korean odyssey. South Africa is not going to win the World Cup this year. This is a realistic assessment, not an unpatriotic one. In fact, progress to the second round is probably more than we can hope for. The danger is that having been led to believe Bafana Bafana are world-beaters, the "fans" will turn on the players and revile them should the adventure end after three matches. Let's just sit back and enjoy the spectacle. By being at the World Cup, we've already proved we're among the best.
Quota clause is back in Immigration Bill (Cape Town, Business Day, 23/05) - The African National Congress (ANC) kept provisions for work-permit quotas in the Immigration Bill yesterday despite having decided the day before to scrap them when it became clear late changes would see government in breach of a Constitutional Court deadline. The ANC introduced substantial changes to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi's bill last week, including quotas to replace the market-driven process favoured by business. On Tuesday, it tabled amendments reversing its decision after the intervention of Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin, who argued that quotas were not investor friendly. In a dramatic development yesterday when the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) social services committee met to vote on the bill and the ANC's proposed amendments, committee chairwoman Loretta Jacobus said that it would not be possible to approve the amendments and still make the June 2 deadline. Stressing that the ANC was not reversing its decision to withdraw quotas, Jacobus said the measures would have to be retained until an amendment bill could be brought to Parliament. The problem, which emerged overnight, was that President Thabo Mbeki is required to consider a bill for five days before signing it into law. Had the NCOP made the amendments, the bill would have had to go back to the National Assembly, and this could only happen next Wednesday. That would mean that Mbeki would then have only two working days to consider the bill before the deadline. Jacobus said a special appeal would be made to Buthelezi to bring to Parliament a "comprehensive" package of amendments "as soon as possible". The developments left home affairs officials in a daze. Constitutionally, they will have to start implementing quotas because that will be the law. At the same time, they will have to develop an amendment bill scrapping them. The ANC withdrew its amendment to the work-permit clause officially, and asked the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) to withdraw the amendments it had suggested. IFP MP Jeanette Vilikazi said she could not simply withdraw party amendments and needed to consult. The committee adjourned to allow her to do this. When she returned there was clear evidence of IFP unhappiness because she refused to withdraw the amendments, which forced the committee to vote them down. "Our amendments are 100% still on the table," Vilikazi said. "We cannot simply say yes for the sake of saying yes. Our dissatisfaction must be known." All other parties in the committee reluctantly agreed to the plan to pass the bill without any changes so that the deadline could be met.
Editorial: What a mess (Business Day, 23/05) - Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin must be tearing out what remains of his hair. After successfully intervening in the passage of the Immigration Bill on the issue of work permit quotas and securing an amendment effectively scrapped them they have now been reinstated. Erwin wanted to remove confusion so that the Immigration Bill would be investor friendly. Now it has been shown that there is not enough time for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to make amendments, for the bill to be returned to the National Assembly, and then for it to go to the president with the mandatory five working days he needs to consider it before the Constitutional Court deadline expires. So the amendments scrapping the quotas have been dropped and the bill approved in exactly the same shape as by the National Assembly a week ago. We are left shaking our collective head in wonder that such a key player as the trade and industry minister was out of the loop and had to make a last-ditch attempt to have changes made. Did no one in government think that it was important for those responsible for attracting investment to be involved in the process? When it was decided that amendments should be made did no-one bother to check them with lawyers? as to whether it was possible? The NCOP committee was poised to make the amendments suggested by the ANC without realising that by doing so it would place the government in conflict with the Constitutional Court ruling that changes to immigration law had to be made by June 2. The earliest it could have reached the president would have been next Thursday leaving him only two days to consider it when he is legally required to have five. Why did no one work backwards from the deadline and work out by when all the legislative formalities had to be completed? What a mess. The solution now is to enact the Immigration Bill in its tattered state and to urge Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, as soon as possible, to bring a comprehensive amendment bill. That is all very well. But it simply is not healthy to pass laws on the understanding that they are bad and must be urgently changed at the first opportunity. What is Buthelezi to do now? Once enacted, his department is constitutionally obliged to implement. It will do this in the full knowledge that at some stage all the work on quotas will have to be scrapped. Let us pray that the amendment bill to come does not take another four years in the making. It will be a disaster for attracting skills and investment. We simply cannot afford it.
UDM calls on government to protect tourists (Waterval Boven, Sapa, 23/05) - The United Democratic Movement has called on the government to urgently look at ensuring the safety of tourists following the robbery of two foreign nationals in Cape Town and Mpumalanga. "Government must urgently look at ensuring the safety of tourists, through increased policing efforts and allocation of resources to them," UDM secretary general Malizole Diko said in a statement. The call follows an attack on a Finnish volunteer worker who was robbed and thrown off a train on the Cape Peninsula at the weekend. Police spokeswoman Superintendent Nina Kirsten said on Wednesday it appeared a man tried to rob the woman on the train from Kalk Bay to Cape Town on Saturday. Kirsten said when the train left the Claremont station a woman's screams were heard. Security guards found the woman lying unconscious next to the railway line. In another incident, a gang of robbers at Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga, robbed a tourist near the historic ZASM Tunnel on Wednesday. Police spokesman Captain Malculm (subs: correct) Mokomene said on Thursday the American was viewing a waterfall when three gunmen approached him. They held him up and stole his video camera, R500 in cash and other personal belongings before running away. Diko said tourism had a huge potential to create jobs and stimulate enterprise development in South Africa. The party called on the tourism industry to come together and suggest solutions to protect South Africa's main tourist routes and venues. It also called on the police to bring the perpetrators to book in order to send a clear message to other potential criminals.
'Flawed' Bill passed with conditions (Sowetan, 25/05) - There was more drama in Parliament yesterday around the controversial Immigration Bill, when MPs decided they did not have enough time before the June 2 Constitutional deadline to fix the 'flawed' legislation. To avoid a Constitutional crisis, the Bill will be passed in Parliament as is. Home Affairs Minister Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi will be asked to submit a comprehensive amendment bill after June 2 that would deal with any offending sections. The majority of the political parties agreed to the compromise, with only the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP's) J Vilakazi objecting and insisting on tabling her party's challenges. MPs from all other political parties agreed that there was not enough time for them to consider the proposed changes. Chairperson of the select committee on social services Loretta Jacobus informed members that if changes were made to the Bill and normal procedure followed, President Mbeki would only have two days to study the law. Under Parliamentary rules, the President has to have at least five working days to look at any piece of legislation. "Given the time constraints we will not make the deadline. We will ask the minister to consult all political parties and to submit a comprehensive amendment bill." Jacobus said. "Rather than nip and tuck we will make the changes in one go." The major problem with the legislation is around clause 19 which specifies that a quota system would be put in place for work permits.
Immigration Bill gets the green light (Parliament, Sapa, 23/05) - The controversial Immigration Bill has completed its last hurdle in Parliament after being passed unanimously by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday. The measure, which has suffered the roughest passage ever of any draft legislation, will now be sent to President Thabo Mbeki for promulgation ahead of a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline. The bill - which has been the subject of tension between the African National Congress and Inkatha Freedom Party - aims, among other things, to attract skilled foreigners to South Africa. Speaking during debate in the NCOP, Home Affairs Minister and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi criticised the final version of the bill and complained it would be difficult and expensive to implement. The National Assembly last week approved a much-changed version of his original, following months of political wrangling and eleventh-hour amendments introduced by the majority ANC. The minister warned that the quota system, proposed in the bill passed by the Assembly, was the worst possible option for processing work permits. "In my opinion, it is by far the worst possible option in terms of difficulty of implementation and because of the procedures it requires... "It is going to be difficult, but we will leave no stone unturned to try to make it work to the best of our capacity." He also quashed suggestions that his department could produce an amendment bill any time soon. The NCOP social services committee on Wednesday withdrew a last-minute amendment that would effectively have done away with the much-criticised quota system due to time constraints. The amendment had been introduced after Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin's intervention. Erwin felt that the work permit provision as adopted by the National Assembly was confusing. Select committee chair Loretta Jacobus said she would request the minister to draft new amendments as soon as possible. Buthelezi said the department had not considered the quota system as an option after it was ruled out almost completely at the outset of the Green Paper process. He could not make quick changes to the bill regarding the manner of processing work permits, unless the original provision providing for a licensing fee was re-introduced. "It must be made abundantly clear that no amendment, with the exception of technical amendments, can be made overnight in respect of developing something which may replace the quota system..." However, he said the bill was excellent in many respects, and had brought South Africa on par with many others countries in terms of most of its provisions. But, its implementation would depend on the resources Parliament assigned to the department. The department would have to make some major changes in the way it worked, which would take time and money. "All this will take time and it is likely that things may get worse before they get better, Buthelezi said. In her speech, Jacobus said it was clear that all political parties would have loved to have seen a better product than the current bill. Jacobus said the state law adviser had told the committee there was no way wholesale amendments could be made to the bill without re-writing it. "Given the time limitation, we chose not to go that route. "It is then perfectly within the mandate for the minister to present these to us and to propose further amendments for consideration by Parliament. "We all agree that no law is cast in stone and is subject to amendment as and when conditions on the ground change," Jacobus said.
ANC wants to make changes to Immigration Bill (The Sowetan, 22/05) - The African National Congress has proposed an amendment to the Immigration Bill after concern was raised by Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin regarding quota work permits. The change, presented to the National Council of Provinces' (NCOP) social services committee yesterday, removes reference to a quota system to be published annually in the Government Gazette. However, Mario Ambrosini, the special advisor to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who piloted the bill through Parliament - said the amendment proposed would not help to speed up the issuing of permits. "It gets rid of the quota system but creates something that is just as problematic," he said after the committee meeting. Ambrosini said applications for permits would be assessed by "labour certification", whereby the department, in consultation with the departments of labour and trade and industry, would assess whether the appointment fitted certain criteria. The NCOP committee is to meet tomorrow to discuss possible amendments and to vote on the Bill ahead of a debate in the NCOP tomorrow.
ANC withdraws late change to Bill (Cape Town, Dispatch Online, 23/05) - The African National Congress yesterday withdrew a last-minute amendment to the Immigration Bill that the party proposed just the day before, because the parliamentary committee dealing with the measure has run out of time. The chairwoman of the National Council of Provinces' social services committee, Loretta Jacobus (ANC), said all proposed new changes to the Bill -- approved by the National Assembly last week -- had been withdrawn "for progress' sake". Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi would be asked to draft a comprehensive Amendment Bill as soon as possible. "I will formally call on the minister in the debate tomorrow to come back to Parliament with an Amendment Bill." The minister should try collate the views and concerns expressed by the department and the various political parties at committee meetings over the past weeks. Jacobus said all the parties agreed that the draft legislation was flawed, but time constraints ruled out a thorough review. If the Bill was changed, it would have to be referred back to the National Assembly, thus placing a Constitutional Court deadline at risk. President Thabo Mbeki also needed at least five days to study the measure before signing it into law, she said. NCOP delegates are to debate the Bill today, after which it will be sent to the president for his assent. Parliament is facing a June 2 deadline to adopt a new immigration law in place of the Aliens Control Act, after some of its provisions were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. The ANC on Tuesday put forward an amendment that would effectively have scrapped the much-criticised quota system for the processing of work permits for foreigners. This followed talks earlier in the day with Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin. The minister told journalists on Tuesday the quota system -- proposed in the Bill approved by the National Assembly -- created confusion as to how it fitted in with the granting of corporate work permits. "Companies must be able to talk to government about the job profile of the company," Erwin said. The Bill as it stands requires the government to determine annual quotas of foreigners allowed to work in the country in each skills category. The Inkatha Freedom Party yesterday endorsed the ANC proposal, despite its withdrawal, and proposed further amendments to the Bill's all-important clause 19. However, members of the committee voted against the IFP amendments, while the Democratic Alliance noted its objection to the quota system. Mario Ambrosini, special adviser to the Home Affairs Minister -- who is piloting the Bill through Parliament -- has said the Bill, as amended by the ANC, is unworkable and has suggested extensive "technical and administrative" amendments. Organised business and the legal profession have also argued that the quota system would perpetuate the bureaucratic and time-consuming processes currently in operation.
Senior ANC, IFP members meet to defuse tensions (SABC News, 23/05) - Senior leaders of the ruling ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) are to hold serious talks in Durban today to defuse tensions between the coalition parties in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC delegation will be led by Jacob Zuma, the Deputy President, and Lionel Mtshali, the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, will lead the IFP delegation. Neither side would divulge the points for discussion. A 15-a-side-consultative committee will oversee the talks. The relationship between the parties is at an all-time low in the province, following the debacle over the treatment of the Zulu royal family by the IFP led-government and the renewed wrangle about the provincial capital. The ANC wants it to be Pietermaritzburg, and the IFP, Ulundi. The ANC recently played down reports that the IFP and the Democratic Alliance (DA) were exploring new relations at national level and have considered a joint parliamentary caucus meeting. Nathi Nhleko, the ANC Chief Whip, said: "It's not a point of discomfort. Parties exist as independent formations, why should we be worried about it?" She said: "It's a normal thing to have party-to-party relations." The IFP serves as a junior party in President Thabo Mbeki's Cabinet and has a power-sharing pact with the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. The DA is the official opposition, and is in the market for new allies after the New National Party withdraw from the alliance last year. Relations between the ANC and IFP have deteriorated, especially over differences on the Immigration Bill, which Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the IFP president, piloted through Parliament, but which met with resistance from the ANC.The IFP and the DA already co-operate at local level in KwaZulu-Natal, and two months ago Buthelezi and Tony Leon, the DA leader, shared a joint platform as their parties considered extending the relationship in the province. The IFP and DA already co-govern eight municipalities in the province.
ANC withdraws Immigration Bill amendment (Parliament, Sapa, 22/05) - The African National Congress on Wednesday withdrew a last-minute amendment to the Immigration Bill that the party proposed just yesterday, because the parliamentary committee dealing with the measure has run out of time. The National Council of Provinces' (NCOP) social services committee chairwoman Loretta Jacobus (ANC) said all proposed new changes to the bill - approved by the National Assembly last week - were withdrawn "for progress sake". Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi would be asked to draft a comprehensive amendment bill as soon as possible. "I will formally call on the minister in the debate tomorrow to come back to Parliament with an amendment bill." The minister should try collate the views and concerns expressed by the department and the various political parties in committee meetings over the past weeks. Jacobus said all the parties agreed that the draft legislation was flawed, but time constraints ruled out a thorough review. If the bill was changed, it would have to be referred back to the National Assembly, thus placing a Constitutional Court deadline at risk. President Thabo Mbeki also needed at least five days to study the measure before signing it into law, she said. NCOP delegates are to debate the bill on Thursday, after which it will be sent to the president for his assent. Parliament is facing a June 2 deadline to adopt a new immigration law in place of the Aliens Control Act, after some of its provisions were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. The ANC on Tuesday put forward an amendment that would effectively have scrapped the much-criticised quota system for the processing of work permits for foreigners. This followed talks earlier in the day with Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin. The minister told journalists on Tuesday the quota system - proposed in the bill approved by the National Assembly - created confusion as to how it fitted in with the granting of corporate work permits. "Companies must be able to talk to government about the job profile of the company," Erwin said. The bill as it stands requires government to determine annual quotas of foreigners allowed to work in the country in each skills category. The Inkatha Freedom Party on Wednesday endorsed the ANC proposal, despite its withdrawal, and proposed further amendments to the bill's all-important clause 19. However, members of the committee voted against the IFP amendments, while the Democratic Alliance noted its objection to the quota system. Mario Ambrosini, special adviser to the Home Affairs Minister - who is piloting the bill through Parliament - has said the bill, as amended by the ANC, is unworkable and has suggested extensive "technical and administrative" amendments. The measure - which has been the subject of tension between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party - was approved by the Assembly on Friday last week after more than four years of drafting, months of wrangling in parliamentary committees, and eleventh-hour changes introduced by the majority ANC. IFP leader Buthelezi has criticised several amendments, saying they would not help to ease the import of skills. Organised business and the legal profession have also argued that the quota system would perpetuate the bureaucratic and time-consuming processes currently in operation.
MPs call for more info on child trafficking (Parliament, Sapa, 22/05) - Parliament's committee on the improvement of quality of life and status of children on Wednesday called for more information about the extent of child trafficking in South Africa days after Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula denied its prevalence. The committee was due to have received a briefing from government on a report from child rights organisation, Molo Songololo, which researched the phenomenon and concluded that South Africa was emerging "as a key role player in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children". However, in written reply to a parliamentary question last week, Nqakula said this claim was devoid of all truth. "This phenomenon is not prevalent in South Africa, neither can South Africa be described as a 'key roleplayer' in respect of this particular crime," he said. Referring to Molo Songololo's briefing to MPs last month, acting committee chair Tsietsi Setona (ANC) on Wednesday noted the presentation had been made by a non-governmental organisation. At this stage MPs were not in a position to justify the extent or magnitude of the child trafficking in South Africa. He said it would be necessary to interact with the departments of Social Development and Safety and Security to have a sense of what was going on. Only then could the committee report on the issue, Setona said. Molo Songololo director Zurayah Abass told Sapa on Wednesday it was tragic that Nqakula believed her organisation's research was not sufficient for him to take immediate action. The report was based on research in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg, had documented 15 cases of child trafficking. It had also appeared on the government's website. On the suggestion that Nqakula was trying to protect South Africa's image, she said: "If his priority is the way the world is seeing us, then he should be seen to be dealing with the problems we're faced with." Addressing MPs last month, Molo Songololo spokeswoman Debora Mobilyn told MPs the trafficking of South African children was "predominantly an in-country phenomenon". However, there was also sufficient evidence of cross-bordering trafficking into South Africa. The main traffickers were the children's own parents and local gangs, who sometimes colluded. The reason for an increase in the phenomenon locally lay primarily with the country's economic situation. The trade in children was linked to the illegal trade in guns and drugs and to prostitution. Last week a parliamentary task group on the sexual abuse of children noted the finding of the South African Law Commission's project committee that South African children were increasingly being trafficked by their own parents into slavery or prostitution in order to generate income or to pay off a debt. The task group's draft report urged the SALC to proceed as speedily as possible with drafting proposals for a new Sexual Offences Act, which should include a general provision that criminalised the trafficking in children.
Thousands deported from South Africa and Botswana (The Daily News, 22/05) - South Africa last Friday deported more than 2 300 Zimbabweans who were living illegally in that country while Botswana is reported to be deporting about 300 hundred people every day. A total of 2 345 Zimbabweans were taken on Friday by train from Johannesburg to Messina and then transported in trucks across the border into Zimbabwe. According to the South African police, 11 181 Zimbabweans have been deported since January, compared with 8 603 last year. About 3 000 illegal immigrants are deported from South Africa every month, but last Friday's exercise was the largest number to be sent back home on a single day. Dennis Chitsaka, the Zimbabwean principal immigration officer at the Beitbridge border post, said there were now deportations every day, as Zimbabweans continued to stream across the border into South Africa illegally. Chitsaka said: "It's particularly worse over the holiday periods when Zimbabweans living in South Africa want to visit their relatives back home. They actually surrender themselves to the SA police and tell them they are border-jumpers, so that they can be given free transport back home." He said the South African immigration authorities were planning to acquire equipment to enable them to fingerprint every deportee so that once they are deported, they will be blacklisted and barred permanently from re-entering the country. The South African army has set up a 24-hour check-point manned by at least a dozen soldiers two kilometres from the Beitbridge border point, as part of special security operations. Last year, South Africa threatened to deport about 15 000 Zimbabwean immigrant farm workers who had been in that country for more than 10 years. But an agreement was struck after some of the farmers appealed against the deportations and applied for work and residence permits for their workers. The immigrants work as farm and domestic workers and factory hands. Zimbabweans normally work at menial jobs generally spurned by South Africans. An official at the Plumtree border post said hundreds of Zimbabweans were being deported from Botswana every day. He said most would have either overstayed or were border-jumpers caught without identity papers or work permits. Although no figures were available, the officer said up to 300 deportees were deported every day. The deportations come amid reports of harassment of the deportees by South African and Botswana immigration officials. "It's difficult to deal with a large number of people resisting arrest, when tempers can flare easily. We have heard reports of harassment, but we cannot confirm them," said Chitsaka. Last year, the Zimbabwean High Commission in South Africa made a formal protest to Pretoria on the treatment of deported Zimbabweans. Every day hundreds of Zimbabweans leave the country in search of political and economic asylum in Britain, Canada, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Protection of tourists on public transport essential (Cape Town, Sapa, 22/05) - The economic contribution of tourism to the country's gross domestic product was substantial and if the creation of sustainable jobs was a priority, the protection of tourists was essential, New National Party transport spokesman Keppies Niemann said on Wednesday. He said the surge in South African tourism could be severely jeopardised if similar incidents such as that which occurred on a train on the Cape Peninsula, happened again. Niemann was reacting to an incident on a suburban train on Saturday when a foreign tourist was attacked and thrown off a train on Saturday. Police spokeswoman Superintendent Nina Kirsten said it appeared a man tried to rob the woman. Kirsten said when the train left the Claremont station a woman's screams were heard. Security guards found the woman lying unconscious next to the railway line. She was reportedly in a critical condition in a Cape Town hospital. Niemann said the need for transport police was evident as many foreign tourists used some sort of public transport. He urged the government to look into finalising and implementing the Safety Regulator Bill as soon as possible. Anyone with information on the incident can contact Inspector Koenraad Botha on 082-515-1980.
Zimbabweans given the boot in crackdown (The Mercury, 22/05) - South Africa deported 2 345 Zimbabweans at the weekend in a sign of an intensifying crackdown on Zimbabwe's illegal aliens. Reports said the latest deportees brought to 11 181 the number of Zimbabweans deported from South Africa since January this year, compared to 8 603 in the same period last year. South African police told Zimbabwe's independent Daily News that the Zimbabweans had been taken by train from Johannesburg to Messina and then transported across the border in trucks. Most of them were rounded up in Hillbrow. Dennis Chitsaka, the Zimbabwean principal immigration officer at the Beit Bridge border post, said South African immigration authorities were planning to acquire equipment to enable them to fingerprint every deportee so that once they were expelled, they would be blacklisted and barred permanently from re-entering the country. The South African army has set up a 24-hour checkpoint two kilometres from the Beit Bridge border point. Up to 600 Zimbabweans are also being deported from Botswana and Malawi every day fleeing from their country's economic ruin.
ANC wants to make changes to Immigration Bill (Sowetan, 22/05) - The African National Congress has proposed an amendment to the Immigration Bill after concern was raised by Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin regarding quota work permits. The change, presented to the National Council of Provinces' (NCOP) social services committee yesterday, removes reference to a quota system to be published annually in the Government Gazette. However, Mario Ambrosini, the special advisor to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who piloted the bill through Parliament - said the amendment proposed would not help to speed up the issuing of permits. "It gets rid of the quota system but creates something that is just as problematic," he said after the committee meeting. Ambrosini said applications for permits would be assessed by "labour certification", whereby the department, in consultation with the departments of labour and trade and industry, would assess whether the appointment fitted certain criteria. The NCOP committee is to meet tomorrow to discuss possible amendments and to vote on the Bill ahead of a debate in the NCOP tomorrow.
ANC backs down on work permit quotas (Cape Town, Business Day, 22/05) - Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin has intervened to secure amendments to the Immigration Bill, scrapping a provision for work permit quotas just four days after it was controversially approved by the National Assembly. Erwin's intervention, because he believed the quota clause would confuse potential investors, saw the African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament back down from its insistence on quotas for the granting of work permits to foreigners. The bill was almost derailed last week when the ANC amended Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi's legislation completely changing the system for granting work permits. The measures, which were approved by the National Assembly on Friday, have been condemned by organised business as a departure from the market-driven approach originally contained in the bill. The social services committee of the National Council of Provinces, which must also approve the bill before it can be signed into law, heard a briefing from the home affairs department yesterday on the problems it had with the ANC's changes. The ANC then tabled an amendment that effectively does away with the requirement that government sets quotas for skilled foreigners each year. This followed a meeting between Erwin and the two committee heads processing the bill. Erwin said: "The quota clause as it stands causes confusion so we are talking to the committees." Investors would be most interested in the corporate permits allowing them to bring in the range of skills needed without being subject to quotas. Erwin stressed the importance of SA acquiring critically needed skills. The trade and industry department supported the philosophy behind the bill: that where skills were required, the departments of trade and industry and labour could make an input. "It is pointless to identify each and every skill as these change so quickly," he said. Home affairs officials said the move away from quotas left the bill in roughly the same position as the present Aliens Control Act, in terms of which the need for a skill had to be established by the employer. They said it would make applications even longer to process because of provisions for review. The department originally sought a levy-based system in which companies would pay to employ foreigners. Trade and industry director general Alistair Ruiters said the bill as passed created uncertainty in the markets because the quota system set limits on the number of skilled people in particular categories who could be imported, while corporate permits would allow investors to apply in bulk for all their needs. There was no clarity on whether these permits fell in or outside the quota system.
SA economy to benefit from reworked Immigration Bill (Business Report, 22/05) - The South African economy as a whole will benefit from the amended immigration bill, Brian Khumalo, a partner in the leading empowerment executive search firm Leaders Unlimited said on Wednesday. Khumalo said Trade and Industry minister Alec Irwin's intervention on the bill would now make it possible to recruit foreigners with specialised skills to help grow the South African economy. Quoting trade and industry director-general Dr Alistair Ruiters, Khumalo said there was a skills shortage in the category of highly-skilled individuals of between 30 000 and 500 000 people. "The fact that we can now conduct searches for people with specialised skills that are not available in South Africa with relative ease will have far-reaching implications for the economy. "Not only will it have an immediate impact in that they can bring their skills to bear on major projects, it will also have a long-term effect because if they are properly managed, their skills can be transferred to South Africans." Khumalo said his company placed great emphasis on recruiting expatriate South Africans who wanted to return home. "Unfortunately there are just not enough of them and we need to recruit foreigners from time to time to bring the needed expertise into the country." Khumalo said the revised bill would also inspire confidence in foreigners who wanted to invest in South Africa. "The fact that there is a skills shortage in South Africa is widely known. Foreign investors can now bring their own skilled people with them to help them establish their business interest in this country. What is very necessary is that a mechanism be put in place to ensure that the skills of these workers are transferred to South Africans so that they can eventually take over," he said. He also welcomed the fact that Irwin rejected the concept of identifying specific skills for which quotas would be implemented. "As the minister rightly pointed out, skills change quickly and it is important to keep the net as wide as possible," Khumalo said.
ANC gives in to pressure over skilled workers quota (Cape Town, Business Report, 22/05) - The "deeply flawed" Immigration Bill came under fire from all sides in parliament yesterday, with the ruling ANC succumbing to pressure to drop the contentious quota system for skilled workers after the intervention of Alec Erwin, the minister of trade and industry. The home affairs department has criticised the quota system as being "unworkable", while Erwin has told the parliamentary press gallery that it is "confusing". Cosatu, meanwhile, is seeking legal advice on several clauses. Erwin said he was discussing the issue with the two committees involved. The last-minute change removed reference to a quota system to be published annually in the Government Gazette and restored the original idea of introducing quotas only when the government needed to fast-track the issuing of permits for specific skills. But Mario Ambrosini, the special adviser to Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the minister of home affairs, said the ANC had not gone far enough and the bill was still unworkable, especially because it expected the departments of home affairs, labour and trade and industry to assess when fast-tracking was needed. They had indicated that they might broadly know where changes were needed, but could not evaluate all applications. Ambrosini said the best and most workable system would be one in which employers decided who they needed and for how long, and then paid a licensing fee to recruit staff accordingly, with the qualifications of those people recruited being certified by chartered accountants. Ambrosini told the committee earlier that there was no way the department could implement the bill in its present form. The department had not been consulted about extensive changes made by the national assembly last week. Not only was the bill littered with technical and administrative flaws, but the issue of a quota system for immigrants, which could be seen as the core of the bill, "cannot work under present conditions and under foreseeable future conditions. We will learn how to do it if you want us to do it, but we will need to transform the entire department into something dramatically different," he said. The quota system has already been attacked by business groups and Ambrosini said that it was considered obsolete in most countries and was being replaced by points systems. Earlier, Erwin and Alistair Ruiters, his director-general, admitted that they were also concerned about the proposed quota system and the effect it could have on companies. Although it was clear that South Africa faced a skills shortage in certain areas, this was difficult to quantify and a quota system could create confusion. The quota system also came under fire from Neil Coleman, Cosatu's parliamentary officer, who said it gave "almost total discretion to an old style department, which still retains many of its apartheid-era characteristics, and is still influenced by xenophobic and racial mind-sets and is a recipe for problems". It was unclear how the quota system would affect the renewal of current work permits and Cosatu was seeking legal advice on the matter. Commenting on the proposal that chartered accountants certify the labour standards of potential immigrants, he said their qualifications were "of no relevance" and they were likely to be biased "towards employers to whom they are contracted". Cosatu was also concerned about the planned introduction of corporate permits to allow employers to issue work permits to foreign workers. This could give employers an opportunity "to force migrant workers to accept exploitative working conditions".
Erwin hints at Immigration Bill changes (Business Day, 22/05) - Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin says that the quota system applying to the importation of foreign skills in the Immigration Bill is "confusing". Addressing a Parliamentary Press Gallery Association breakfast ahead of his Budget vote this afternoon, Erwin was asked if he would be seeking amendments of the Bill - which has already been passed by the National Assembly but which goes to the National Council of Provinces this Thursday. He declined to answer directly, but said his department had been in consultation with the Parliamentary committees which had dealt with the controversial Bill. "We are saying to the chairs (that the quota system) is creating unnecessary uncertainty," Erwin said. Welcoming the proposed corporate quotas - which will see companies lobbying for large-scale importation of skills which can't be provided by South Africans - he said this was seen as an additional category over and above quotas. It is envisaged that three departments - Labour, Home Affairs and Trade and Industry - would determine needed skills quotas in the various economic sectors.
Door still open to skills - Erwin (Johannesburg, Business Report, 21/05) - The reworked Immigration Bill, adopted by parliament on Friday, would not hinder the attraction of skills to South Africa, trade and industry minister Alec Erwin said yesterday. Erwin said the bill, eight years in the making but radically changed at the last minute by the ANC-led home affairs committee, was merely a different way of achieving the same ends as the original proposal, put forward after extensive consultation by home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Erwin said Buthelezi's bill had some weaknesses, which the new bill addressed. Despite the criticism levelled at the bill, it would not make it more difficult to attract much-needed skills to the country. The integrated manufacturing strategy (IMS) drawn up by the department of trade and industry had skills development and attraction as one of its core principles, and "there is no way government will allow the IMS to be derailed" by the legislation, Erwin said. Organised business has rejected the bill, saying its implementation would be bureaucratic and time consuming. Working on a quota system for different skills categories would make it difficult for business to know whether it could import the skills it needed. Business has said that rather than working to quotas, firms should pay a levy for employing foreigners, to make hiring locals more attractive. But Erwin said it was important to determine when "too many" foreigners were being brought in. Standard Bank economist Iraj Abedian has estimated there were as many as 500 000 local jobs going begging and the main problem was not unemployment but the mismatching of skills. He has criticised the skills development programme as being ineffective and has called for the country to be opened up to skilled foreigners. For every skilled person who moved to South Africa, as many as five jobs would be created and "the multiplier effect would be felt immediately", Abedian said. According to Statistics SA there are 7.6 million unemployed people in the country, if the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes discouraged job seekers, is used. Ratings agencies such as Moody's Investors Services and Standard & Poor's cite high unemployment as one of the economy's structural problems as it is a source of future social unrest.
SA's lack of skills needs a measured response (Business Report, 21/05) - Pardon my reservations, but the South African public gets told every year that high economic growth is just around the corner. It is true that we could help the economy to grow by solving the skills shortage, or skills mismatch to use the latest buzzword. Everyone is aware that immigrants can make a valuable contribution to any country, but the suggestion that 300 000 to 500 000 can be imported to fill skilled vacancies in South Africa is hard to take seriously. Here I refer to "Global growth cycle turning in SA's favour, say experts" (Business Report, May 12). Good luck to any country able to attract that many immigrants. Not only is there is a worldwide shortage of skilled people, but developed countries like the UK and Australia are also losing skills to the US. Bringing in skilled immigrants from the Third World would not be much help in the long term either because South Africa is conveniently seen as a temporary springboard to the US and Europe. The greatest anomaly in our employment and immigration legislation is that new immigrants are eligible for affirmative action but South African citizens, designated able-bodied "white" males, are not. Like it or not, these South African males hold many skills and to hold them back is to hold back economic growth. We should first fully resolve how immigrants comply with current employment equity laws before attempting to import skills en masse. Because no new immigrants were disadvantaged by apartheid, it would be unethical to give them wholesale priority for employment while the same job opportunities are denied to skilled South African-born citizens on the basis of skin colour and gender. Immigrants are not to blame but as things stand an employer is legally required to apply affirmative action to a job applicant from Germany or Ghana who has the mere potential to become skilled in favour of some local applicants who are already skilled. It is plain to see that these laws are counterproductive. Rather than attempting to bring in enough expatriates to populate a city, it would be more feasible to open these 500 000 vacant jobs to free competition so anyone with skills could apply, including immigrants and citizens designated as "white" males. All countries that collect statistics are able to identify exact shortages in the labour market and know whether they need 2 000 engineers or 5 000 computer technicians. We could do the same, but it would mean exempting these urgent vacancies from government-imposed controls on the job market. E Coetzee
Comment: Immigration Bill could lead to strife (Sowetan, 21/05) - It is unfortunate that a Constitutional Court deadline rather than consensus eventually appears to have forced the Immigration Bill through Parliament. And at first glance, it does prompt the question - just how enthusiastically will Home Affairs Minister Mangosutho Buthelezi support its implementation? After all, he continues to have serious misgivings about changes made to the Bill by the ANC. He has already warned that if problems are experienced it is Parliament, and not Home Affairs, that will be held accountable. That, however, is only part of the concern, Buthelezi also suggests that the ANC majority was motivated to make the changes largely because it did not want to credit him with "something good and worthwhile". Whether or not the minister's comments are justified, it does reflect poorly on the health of the coalition at national Government level. Tensions at this level will not make the work of the Home Affairs Ministry any easier. And that is in no one's interest. But the bureaucratic inertia that the ANC's changes to Buthelezi's draft could bring about will pale in significance if party political tensions are not urgently addressed. Even if these differences are eliminated, the Bill faces an uncertain future, given the lack of adequate consensus on its contents. It seems more than likely that a Bill supported by such a narrow consensus will be subjected to many more amendments, not only from Buthelezi's party but also from others in Parliament. The danger then will be the emergence of a law so complex and unweildy, because of the many amendments, that its implementation will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. That is an eventuality that must be avoided at all costs.
Comment: Buthelezi's bill (Business Day, 21/05) - It is more than 15 months since President Thabo Mbeki told Parliament that "immigration laws gently enable us to attract skills into our country." It is also seven years since government first recognised a need for the overhaul of the apartheid-era Aliens Control Act which the Constitutional Court has declared unfit for the modern era. After an incredible and confused chronology of events, we now have, at last, a piece of legislation rushed through on Friday to meet the court's June 2 deadline for overhauling the old legislation. But will it meet the imperative identified last year by President Mbedki? And, the other side of the coin, will it address the fears of those who fear large-scale immigration acrsss our northern borders by people whose skills are not those looked upon favourably by immigration officers and the unemployed at home? Should it do so? The new Immgration Act's birth has not been a thing of beauty. As recent European experience confirms, immigration is a touchy issue which heightens all sorts of phobias and insecurities in any population. Regrettably, SA is no different. Government does its best to discourage xenophobia. And its backing for Nepad, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, implies an open approach to cross border movement. Yet it knows it has constantly to look its shoulder at its support base, much of which sees a direct link between immigration and unemployment. That perspective is highly disputable, but no less present, for all that. The act's lengthy gestation period has been additionally troubled by conflict between African National Congress-aligned officials in the home affairs department and the minister and advisers loyal to the Inkatha Freedom Party. It has been well nigh impossible to separate disputes over policy substance from petty politicking. The behaviour of the parliamentary portfolio commitee -- under its current chair and its previous one -- has been inexplicable. Normally, we would welcome a committee's substantial overhaul of a bill received from cabinet as evidence of a healthy independence of mind. That the minister responsible is not an ANC member leaves one wondering if there have been any less healthy motives at work. In spite of these misgivings, it has to be said that the final product is less objectionable than the status quo. It should be less difficult, in many cases, for businesses to recruit abroad the skills unavailable at home. The extent to which that is so, though, will depend on what sort of quotas are decreed. The only certainty is that will be completely a matter of luck -- because the home affairs, labour and trade and industry departments, whose task it will be to set the quotas, lack the capacity to do it in any kind of scientific way. Indeed it is possible to argue that it is impossible for anyone to read so accurately ahead of time the state of local supply and overall demand for any particular skill or occupation. The quota system may be better or worse than Buthelezi's proposal which, though more in turn with market movements, was nevertheless overly bureaucratic. For example, an employer would not have been able to promote an immigrant employee without going through the whole process again, and would have to prove the salary on offer did not undercut local conditions. The emphasis on border controls is another area where intentions -- good or otherwise -- do not match state capacity. As one policy analyst asks -- would there be any more arrivals over the Limpopo if the entire control system was dismantled? Perhaps the best thing about the Immigration Act is that it is not set in concrete. Passed in order to meet the court's demands, it can be amended as soon as its flaws become apparent. By the end of the year, perhaps?
Immigration Bill focus moves to NCOP (Parliament, Sapa, 21/05) - After weeks of political wrangling ahead of voting on the Immigration Bill in the National Assembly last week, the focus now shifts to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The NCOP's social services committee is to vote on the controversial and much-delayed draft legislation on Wednesday and delegates in Parliament's other House will debate it a day later. And, at least one major change will be made to the bill, meaning it will have to be referred back to the National Assembly. The African National Congress tabled an amendment before the committee on Tuesday that will effectively do away with the proposed quota system for the processing of work permits for foreigners. This followed talks earlier in the day with Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin. The minister told journalists the quota system - proposed in the latest version of the bill passed by the Assembly - created confusion. The issuing of corporate permits was the critical issue and it was not clear how this fitted into the quota system. "Companies must be able to talk to government about the job profile of the company," Erwin said. The bill as it stands requires government to determine annual quotas of foreigners allowed to work in the country in each skills category. However, Mario Ambrosini, special adviser to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who is piloting the bill through Parliament -said the amendment proposed would not help to speed up the issuing of permits. "It gets rid of the quota system but creates something that is just as problematic," he said after the committee meeting. Applications for permits would be assessed by "labour certification", whereby the department, in consultation with the departments of labour and trade and industry, would assess whether the appointment fitted certain criteria, Ambrosini said. The department of home affairs had originally proposed that a levy be charged on foreign appointments. Ambrosini also told the committee that the bill, as amended by the ANC, was unworkable and suggested extensive "technical and administrative" amendments. The measure - which has been the subject of tension between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party - was approved by the Assembly on Friday last week after more than four years of drafting, months of wrangling in parliamentary committees, and eleventh-hour changes introduced by the majority ANC. IFP leader Buthelezi has criticised several amendments, saying they would not help to ease the import of skills. Organised business and the legal profession have also argued that the quota system would perpetuate the bureaucratic and time-consuming processes currently in operation. Meanwhile, Home Affairs Director-General Billy Masetlha told Parliament's home affairs portfolio committee the implementation of the new immigration law was likely to cost more than the original R13,7-million budgeted by the department. "The... bill as it was finally approved will have definite financial implications for the department," he said, referring to changes in the bill and likely budget shortfalls. Earlier on Tuesday, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) - in a letter to the chairwoman of the NCOP social services committee Loretta Jacobus - appealed for careful consideration of the bill. The revised version of the measure retained the same "fundamental flaws" of the original, and did not address any of the concerns of organised labour, it said. The amendments were in substance little more than a re-arrangement of the original provisions, and in some cases further complicated existing problems. "Despite the impression created by the department in the media, intensive public hearings on the bill appear to have had minimal impact," Cosatu's parliamentary officer Neil Coleman said. Parliament is facing a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline to adopt a new immigration law in place of the Aliens Control Act, some provisions of which were declared unconstitutional by the court.
Immigration quotas could create confusion, says Erwin (Parliament, Sapa, 21/05) - Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin met two parliamentary committees dealing with the Immigration Bill on Tuesday morning over possible last-minute amendments to the controversial measure. Addressing journalists at a breakfast prior to the meeting, he said the processing of work permits for skilled foreigners should be streamlined. However, the quota system - proposed in the latest version of the bill - created some confusion. "The quota system as it stands now is creating confusion and we are engaging with the committees." Erwin said the issuing of corporate permits was the critical issue and it was not clear how this fitted into the quota system. "Companies must be able to talk to government about the job profile of the company," he said. The bill as it stands requires that government to determine annual quotas of foreigners allowed to work in the country for each skills category. The bill was approved by the National Assembly on Friday last week after four years of drafting, and eleventh-hour changes introduced by the majority African National Congress. Inkatha Freedom Party leader and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who piloted the bill through Parliament - criticised several amendments, saying they would not help to ease the import of skills. Organised business and the legal profession have also argued that the quota system would perpetuate the bureaucratic and time-consuming process currently in operation. The National Council of Provinces select committee on social services is to meet at 11am on Tuesday to discuss the bill ahead of a debate in the NCOP on Thursday. Parliament's second house can introduce changes to the bill which can then be referred back to the National Assembly for approval. Parliament is facing a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline to adopt a new immigration law.
ANC proposes amendment to immigration quota clause (Parliament, Sapa, 21/05) - The African National Congress has proposed an amendment to the Immigration Bill after concern was raised by Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin regarding quota work permits. The change, presented to the National Council of Provinces' social services committee on Tuesday, removes reference to a quota system to be published annually in the Government Gazette. The minister met with the committee and the National Assembly's home affairs committee earlier in the day to discuss his concerns. He told journalists the quota system for the processing of work permits for foreigners - proposed in the latest version of the bill - created confusion. The issuing of corporate permits was the critical issue and it was not clear how this fitted into the quota system. "Companies must be able to talk to government about the job profile of the company," Erwin said. The bill as it stands requires government to determine annual quotas of foreigners allowed to work in the country for each skills category. However, Mario Ambrosini, the special adviser to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who piloted the bill through Parliament - said the amendment proposed would not help to speed up the issuing of permits. "It gets rid of the quota system but creates something that is just as problematic," he said after the committee meeting. Applications for permits would be assessed by "labour certification", whereby the department, in consultation with the departments of labour and trade and industry, would assess whether the appointment fitted certain criteria, Ambrosini said. The Department of Home Affairs had originally put forward that a levy be charged on foreign appointments. The bill - which has been the subject of tension between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party - was approved by the National Assembly on Friday last week after four years of drafting, and eleventh-hour changes introduced by the majority ANC. IFP leader Buthelezi criticised several amendments, saying they would not help to ease the import of skills. Organised business and the legal profession have also argued that the quota system would perpetuate the bureaucratic and time-consuming process currently in operation. Ambrosini on Tuesday told the committee that the bill, as amended by the ANC, was unworkable and suggested extensive "technical and administrative" amendments. To administer the bill would require drastic changes within the department and a significant increase in funding, he said. IFP NCOP delegate Jeanette Vilakazi said she felt embarrassed that Parliament had passed a bill that had been so widely criticised by the public. "We must now think very carefully about this bill," she said. The NCOP committee is to meet on Wednesday to discuss possible amendments and to vote on the bill ahead of a debate in the NCOP on Thursday. Parliament's second house can introduce changes to the bill which can then be referred back to the National Assembly for approval. Parliament is facing a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline to adopt a new immigration law.
Immigration law to cost more (Parliament, Sapa, 21/05) - The implementation of South Africa's new immigration law is likely to cost more than the original R13,7-million budgeted by the Department of Home Affairs for this financial year, MPs heard on Tuesday. Referring to changes in the Immigration Bill approved by the National Assembly, Home Affairs director-general Billy Masetlha told a parliamentary committee: "The... bill as it was finally approved will have definite financial implications for the department." He was referring to likely budget shortfalls. "Detailed calculations in this regard are however not yet possible at this early stage." Masetlha was addressing the National Assembly's home affairs committee on the department's overall budget for the year. The immigration bill is being considered by the National Council of Provinces, where an amendment appears likely after Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin raised concerns about the proposed quota system for permits for skilled foreign workers.
R94-million needed for proper border security (Parliament, Sapa, 21/05) - A total of R94,6-million was needed over the next four financial years to ensure an acceptable level of security and to create a favourable impression when visitors arrived at South Africa's border posts, Home Affairs director-general Billy Masetlha said on Tuesday. The advent of democracy had opened up South Africa to the rest of the world and the country's antiquated land border posts were not designed to cope with this, he told the National Assembly's home affairs committee. His department had over the years attempted in vain to secure an increased budget to reply to the mounting pressure on staff and infrastructure at these ports of entry. The number of persons cleared on entry and departure had grown from 19,8-million a year in 1994 to 28,3-million in 2001, an increase of 42,9 percent. However, staff numbers at the majority of these ports had not been reviewed since 1995 and no significant increase in funding of accommodation requirements had been realised. The cabinet had in 1997 approved R101-million for upgrading ports of entry in terms of the then National Crime Prevention Strategy. However, divided between 53 ports, the improvements, although marked, could still not clearly address the needs satisfactorily, Masetlha said. Initiatives by others departments, such as trade and industry and environmental affairs and tourism, often impacted on his department, he said. The creation of seven Transfrontier Conservation Areas with neighbouring countries was aimed at increasing tourism. This involved the upgrading of facilities and erecting new border posts. "The department simply cannot cope with the increased pressure on its budget by means of re-prioritising of existing funds, which is the expectation raised by the DEAT (Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism) in its memorandum to Cabinet on the matter." The creation of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, aimed at easing the flow of commercial traffic through Botswana and Namibia, was also a problem for the Skilpadshek border post in the North West Province, Masetlha said. "Apart from the fact that the facility is totally inadequate for the volumes of traffic envisaged ...the border post must increase its hours of service to a 24-hour operation." It also involved additional spending on staff including housing, which had not been factored into the department's three year financial planning cycle. A further source of concern was a request from the police during the 1999/2000 financial year, to take over the immigration function at four of the 15 borders posts where they currently did so on the Department of Home Affairs' behalf. Masetlha said the September 11 attacks in the United States had been a wake up call to security authorities worldwide. It underlined the tremendous responsibility which rested on the department to ensure that persons seeking entry into South Africa were subjected to the proper screening procedures before being admitted. "Poor facilities ...create loopholes for persons to be able to enter the country without reporting to an immigration officer at the counter where he or she would have been subjected to the necessary checks and controls."
MPs get to grips with the politics of immigration (Business Report, 20/05) - Politics sometimes leaves one totally gobsmacked. Take last Friday for example. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the minister of home affairs, stood up in the national assembly and made the most extraordinary speech I have ever heard. At issue was the Immigration Bill, which had been tossed hither and thither for the last four years and now had to be rushed through parliament to meet a constitutional court deadline of June 2 to replace the outdated, sexist and racist Aliens Control Act. But, said Buthelezi, the bill before parliament was not the one he had piloted through cabinet. It contained some improvements to make immigration law more human rights-friendly, but it proposed a quota system for skilled immigration which his department would find difficult to implement without completely overhauling the way it operated and it contained so many flaws that it was bound to need amendments sooner rather than later. Most tellingly, he said the way the bill had been amended by the portfolio committee on home affairs without any reference to his department "shows the weakness of our democracy where whims seem to prevail over responsible policy formulation. "This highlights lack of leadership in a fundamental aspect of governance, for the provisions of this bill relating to work permits have a massive impact on our macroeconomic equation." The situation is made even more bizarre by the fact that only a week or so ago Alistair Ruiters, the director-general of trade and industry, admitted to parliament that most South Africans were so unskilled that they were unemployable without massive new training programmes and that there were severe shortages of highly skilled people to run key sections of the economy. This implied the need for a massive drive to recruit experts abroad and one would think that the easier this was made, the better for the economy as a whole. This was also recognised later on Friday when Membathisi Mdladlana, the labour minister, said during the debate on his budget vote that the rationale behind the national skills development strategy and the introduction of a skills development levy had been the increased demand for skilled workers who were in short supply and the fact that most unskilled people faced long-term unemployment without that training. But this would take time. So why did the ANC-led portfolio committee insist on changing the bill, which Buthelezi said would have leap-frogged us into best international practice in recruiting much-needed skills based on market assessments on supply and demand in rapidly changing work environments, into a cumbersome arrangement that will require government to annually determine what skills are needed and set quotas accordingly? The administrative capacity needed to implement a quota system, and ability to divine which skills are needed where, will be enormous and Buthelezi said he could not hope to get anywhere near achieving them without "significant and possibly damaging down time". The original bill had provided for corporate permits and licensing fees for firms to recruit foreign staff, which had been described as innovative by many international experts and had been seen as attractive to potential and existing investors. Quota systems were almost unanimously rejected by business groups as outdated and cumbersome. No one was on Friday able to explain to me why the change was made, apart from facetious comments about the ANC being in principle opposed to anything suggested by Buthelezi, who leads the Inkatha Freedom Party. Mpho Scott, the new ANC chairman of the committee, somewhat lamely told the national assembly that this was not the case, but did not touch on why the changes had been deemed necessary. He too admitted that the bill was imperfect but said it was something South Africa could live with in the meantime and amend as necessary. Just in case anyone thought the ANC's changes to the bill were prompted by xenophobia, Scott told the national assembly that it was "not correct to assume that every job occupied by a non-South African means one job less for a South African. We need managed immigration that can contribute to stimulation of economic growth, development and create jobs for South Africans." But despite the recent conference on racism and xenophobia in Durban, research by AC Nielsen's customised research division late last year showed that the xenophobic tendencies of South Africans were showing little sign of abating with most people still believing that immigration laws were "too soft". One can understand this perception being rife among hawkers, crafters and flea market stallholders, where foreigners threaten to squeeze out locals with their more exotic wares, but on the factory floor, laboratories and some high finance houses, we do need skills which are just not available in enough numbers locally to help us keep pace with a changing world economy. Buthelezi hinted at one stage over the past few weeks of late-night meetings to process the bill that he might withdraw it, but said on Friday he was "a democrat" and would abide by the wishes of the majority. Needless to say, he did not sound at all happy about it.
Conditions at Lindela improve (Pretoria, BuaNews, 20/05) - Amanda, 22, from the Eastern Cape, sits outside the gates of the Lindela Repatriation Centre near Krugersdorp, clutching her six-month-old baby boy. She is waiting to see her Zimbabwean fiancé, who was arrested last Tuesday for being in South Africa illegally. 'I have brought him some fresh clothes from home,' she says. When asked if she was aware that he might have been in the country illegally, she shrugs and says nothing. She says all she hopes for is her boyfriend's release, because 'I am unemployed and will not be able to feed my baby.' Situated outside Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, the centre is used by the Department of Home Affairs to detain illegal immigrants before they are repatriated to their countries of origin. Hospitality company, Bosasa, runs the centre on behalf of the department. Lindela, which means 'place of waiting', is nestled among old gold mines and accommodates about 6 000 illegal immigrants a month. Here the immigrants await their fate in secure surroundings, including a crèche for young children, soccer and netball facilities, a clinic and canteen, which provides for their personal needs. The living quarters accommodate between 15 and 25 people per room. The rooms are all furnished with a shower, toilet and basin and a television set hangs over the door in each room for their entertainment. The women are separated from the men by high colored walls decorated with murals of different jazz musicians. The living conditions here are a far cry from the recent negative reports about incidents of abuse and ill-treatment at the centre. A few months ago, some detainees reportedly attempted to escape from the premises, resulting in two being hurt and another dying. There is speculation that the latter, who was already injured by razor wire on the walls of the compound, could have died, due to injuries sustained when he was attacked by people on their way home from a nearby shebeen, who mistook him for a serial rapist, terrorising the area. Some of the centre's security personnel have since been charged with murder and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, but the investigation continues. After this incident, many inmates alleged that they were being treated badly by security personnel and were being fed poisonous food. This brought the living conditions of the inmates under the spotlight and sparked enquiries from the media and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). But, Deputy chairperson of the commission, Jody Kollapen, says he has assessed the centre and is satisfied with its living conditions, but has called for an improvement on the criterion for arrest. 'I feel that there is a need to clarify the criterion used to arrest people.' Some innocent people have been arrested because they are very dark in complexion or can't speak a local language well and have no form of identification on them at the time of arrest,' Commissioner Kollapen says. He notes that there are people being held at the centre for more than 30 days, which is the limit for detaining someone at such an institution without a court order. 'The department should look closely into the matter.' On the influx of immigrants into the country, home affairs director-general Billy Masetlha says there is no obvious solution to the situation South Africa finds itself in. 'South Africa is seen as an island of prosperity in the region. Immigrants come into the country to find work so that they can feed themselves and their families back home. We must look at the conditions through which they come into the country and ask ourselves why they would risk their lives to come to South Africa illegally,' he says. He further adds that with the promotion of good governance and economic prosperity in the continent right now, people might be persuaded to stay in their own countries. More than 50 percent of the detainees are of African region and are being transported home by trains or trucks.
Immigration Bill passed, 'warts and all' (Mail & Guardian, 20/05) - The much-delayed and controversial Immigration Bill was finally approved in the National Assembly on Friday, albeit with Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi severely criticising certain last-minute amendments brought by the ANC. The bill has been the subject of more than four years of political wrangling and controversial changes. The final draft differs markedly from what Buthelezi and his department originally proposed. Introducing debate on the bill, he nonetheless pledged to carry out the will of government and accepted the measure. "If I withdraw the bill at this stage, as my instinct says, we could not meet the Constitutional Court deadline (June 2). "This has placed me in a situation where I am presenting and piloting a bill of this Parliament as my bill, but it is the bill as amended by the majority party (ANC), with its warts and all. "It is this legislature which will be answerable should there be problems in the areas I have pointed out," Buthelezi said. The original bill Cabinet had placed before Parliament "was what I felt to be the best way to respond to present needs and future challenges". "I cannot help but read the response that Parliament gave to Cabinet proposals as a process gone astray, in which the desire to assert the political primacy of the ruling party overrode reason and careful considerations of issues." Buthelezi said he was acting not in his capacity as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, but as a minister of state, and "as long as I remain a minister of state, I shall faithfully execute any legislation this Parliament may wish to adopt". "I am a democrat and bow to the will of the elected representatives." His problems with the bill included provisions dealing with determining the country's skills needs, creating categories and quotas, work permits, procedures for permits, law enforcement and border control, and corporate permits. Among other things, the department would have to develop large additional administrative capacity for carrying out new functions, and would need much bigger budget allocations. "It is unusual for a minister to do so, but it would be remiss of me not to place this on record that there are technical problems with the bill, which I hope will be corrected before its enactment," he said. On the positive side, the bill was an enormous improvement on the current uncertainty and levels of discretion. It contained innovative solutions which placed South Africa ahead of many other countries that were struggling with issues of migration. The bill also brought immigration control into compliance with the highest standards of human rights protection, including administrative and judicial review, and the establishment of Immigration Courts. In these, and many other respects, it represented a monumental step ahead, and set South Africa on a much stronger footing to cope with the issues of immigration control, which was bound to increase in future, Buthelezi said. National Assembly home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott, of the ANC, said the bill did not necessarily meet all the expectations of all parties, but was a "product we can all live with". Passing the bill was not an end in itself, and it would have to be reviewed from time to time to see if it was doing what it had been intended to do. Scott rejected contentions that "wholesale" changes had been made to the bill. Mannetjies Grobler of the Democratic Alliance said despite its flaws, the bill was a step forward and the DA reluctantly supported it. "This bill is not a perfect bill. I am sure amendments will be brought to this House in the future. "The ANC in this whole process seem to have ridden roughshod over Minister Buthelezi and his department's proposed views concerning a proper Immigration Bill. "As we tried to progress on the deliberation of this bill, there was no doubt that the ANC had only one goal in mind, that of redrafting the Immigration Bill at any cost and without any rhyme or reason. "Its concern was that the Immigration Bill formulated by Minister Buthelezi's department should not be passed," Grobler said. The IFP's Prince Nhlahla Zulu said his party supported the bill, but with strong reservations, as the original draft would have been much better. Annelise van Wyk of the United Democratic Movement also supported the bill, but said the UDM believed it would be back in Parliament for amendment sooner rather than later. The New National Party's Sakkie Pretorius also spoke in favour of the measure. Only the African Christian Democratic Party voted against the bill, mainly because it extended the definition of the word "spouse" to include a party in a permanent heterosexual or homosexual relationship. The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
Parliament springs into action and the Immigration Bill makes deadline (Business Day, 20/05) - ANC's main aim was to ensure that Buthelezi's version did not become law and that it could claim responsibility for drafting the legislation, says opposition. It was the June 2 deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court for the repeal of the apartheid-based Aliens Control Act that galvanised Parliament into action to finalise immigration legislation that took eight years to formulate, in one week. All parties, except the African Christian Democratic Party, voted for the Immigration Bill on Friday, although grave reservations were expressed by the opposition and there were predictions that further amendments would be necessary later. For Home Affairs Minister and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, it was a bruising experience, in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) threw out the bill he and his department favoured. The bill's tortuous passage through the parliamentary process after being tabled last year strained the minister's relationship with the home affairs committee, chaired by the fractious Aubrey Mokoena, and the ANC. At the last minute the ANC came up with its own version of the bill, which was a radical redraft of the version tabled. This was subjected to intense negotiation with the IFP, which won some major concessions, but there was no time to consult once again with business, civil society or the department before the bill was adopted by the committee on Thursday. For Buthelezi and Democratic Alliance (DA) home affairs spokesman Mannetjies Grobler, the ANC's main aim was to ensure Buthelezi's version did not become law and the ANC could claim responsibility for drafting the legislation. Nevertheless, Buthelezi said, despite his reservations, the bill was adopted as "an enormous improvement on the present uncertainty and levels of discretion" in the Aliens Control Act. The bill aims to regulate the influx of foreigners to SA to promote economic growth. It establishes the legislative framework for the issuing of temporary residence permits allowing foreigners to live in and work in SA. Various types of temporary residence permits are provided for, depending on the intended activities of the foreigners, the lengths of stay and grounds on which they qualify to come to SA. The temporary residence permits include a general entry visitor's permit, which caters for tourists, as well as short-term business, study, medical treatment and other activities which are not strictly work-related. Also covered are diplomatic permits, treaty permits, business permits (for investors and their families), crew permits, relative's permits, work permits, retired person permits, corporate permits (for corporate applications) and an exchange permit. The grounds and criteria for the acquisition of permanent residence are also provided for. These are divided into two classes, one relating to the acquisition by right on the basis, for example, of having held a work permit for five years, or being the spouse of an SA national, and the other relating to the acquisition of this right on certain conditions and within certain limits. Work permits will only be required when an employment relationship is maintained within SA. The bill introduces a quota system for issuing work permits. The home affairs department, in collaboration with the departments of trade and industry and labour, will be required every year to determine the skills needed by the country. It will have to establish categories to accommodate all foreign skilled workers and will set numeric limits for each of the categories. When the quotas are exceeded, foreigners will be able to obtain work permits through a process of labour certification. An Immigration Advisory Board, with civil society representatives, will advise on policy, make regulations and assist with interdepartmental co-ordination. Border control is vested with the home affairs department, which will also be responsible for an inspectorate with powers to search for illegal immigrants. Magistrates courts will act as immigration courts. The bill also deals with the deportation and detention of illegal foreigners and establishes mechanisms to co- ordinate law enforcement among various organs of the state. It also establishes a new departmental function of deterring and redressing xenophobia. The major change in approach from Buthelezi's bill is the quota system. This was also the major bone of contention with opposition parties, and both the IFP and the DA objected to it. Another area of dispute was the deletion of clauses allowing the department to fast-track restructuring without having to comply with the normal rules and regulations of the state. The ANC did not feel that these clauses were necessary. The African Christian Democratic Party did not support the bill because it opposed the extension of the definition of the word "spouse" to include a party to a permanent heterosexual or homosexual relationship. Business has voiced strong opposition to the quota system, which it believes will be costly, time-consuming and bureaucratic. It believes that the situation has not changed. It is also dissatisfied with the lack of consultation on the final product. It feels that the long negotiation and consultation in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on the original bill proved worthless. Grobler said that the bill did not design or define the system of quotas and left it to the discretion of the minister. "The quota system is just at the opposite end of the spectrum of that which was provided for in the original bill introduced by the department. "Since the publication of the white paper, the notion was that government should not determine what skills we need. " The quota system represents the epitome of statism, command economy and centralisation. It reflects the presumptuous and always erroneous notion that government may determine the needs of society," Grobler said. "On the contrary, the notion espoused in the original bill was that government cannot make such determination. The bill was relying on the free dynamics of market economy, creating incentives and disincentives, as one would do in a modern world. "The original draft was the product of a perspective that embraces and understands the dynamics of the 21st century and the age of globalisation. "Most other countries are moving away from the quota system and are doing so for very good reasons," Grobler said. "Administration is becoming increasingly impossible in a labour market characterised by the irreparable breakdown of the connection between qualifications, skills and job descriptions." While not perfect and not what business wants, the bill is soon to become law and all parties have committed themselves to making it work as best it can.
West Cape must expect refugee influx, says premier (Cape Town, Sapa, 20/05) - The Western Cape would have to prepare to feed an influx of expected refugees, the province's premier Peter Marais said on Monday. Addressing the Hex Valley Association of Producers' Open Day for Farmworkers at De Doorns, near Worcester, he said the province could expect an influx of refugees and would have to prepare for it. Marais said that 48 percent of all children younger than five were underfed in Mozambique. In Angola the figure was 35 percent, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 32 percent, and in South Africa 10 percent. Marais said that because of the political instability in Zimbabwe and the Congo, South Africa could expect an influx of refugees. "One of mankind's biggest challenges today is to bring about peace and stability in poor countries," Marais said. "Africa is our continent. We cannot walk away from Africa's problems and say it is not our problem. As long as Africa is poor and unstable, South Africa will be poor and unstable." Marais encouraged farmworkers to equip themselves and make use of skills training opportunities offered to new farmers and workers on farms.
Scotland Yard flies in to work on 419 scam (Cape Argus, 20/05) - Top national police investigators are probing a multimillion rand fraud - dubbed the 419 scam - following the arrest of six people, five of whom are foreigners. In addition, members of Scotland Yard arrived in the country to support the South African police in investigating the suspected international drug and fraud cartel. Organised crime detectives are keeping information under wraps to protect the large-scale investigation. Police are working on leads pointing to international companies which have been targeted by the syndicate. Senior Superintendent Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said from Pretoria on Monday that the syndicate operated a lucrative, well-organised fraud business involving drugs, and buying and selling brand name goods from prominent companies across the country. Experienced organised crime police investigators have already identified several hideouts in Gauteng and the Western Cape and are working around the clock to trace other syndicate members in other provinces. On Sunday the police swooped on a Roodepoort hotel and arrested two Nigerians while they were preparing documentation, including falsifying identity books, for the scam. On Sunday at 11.30pm members of the provincial police organised crime unit arrested two Nigerians, one Cameroonian and a South African woman at a Philippi house. Police spokesperson Nina Kirsten said 65 rocks of cocaine, 104 ecstasy tablets, 204 Mandrax tablets, 700 US dollars, a computer and a printer, five falsified identity books, seven passports, 15 date stamps and a red Toyota Conquest were found. Martins-Engelbrecht said the arrests were a blow to the so-called 419 scam, in which rich business people around the world were targeted. She said: "They are believed to be the masterminds, operating in South Africa. "We believe the arrests are a breakthrough." The alleged masterminds are two men, a 27-year-old and 31-year-old, suspected of being involved in defrauding a British student of an estimated R1,5-million last month. The money has not yet been recovered, but Scotland Yard investigators, working undercover, approached the South African High Commission in London for support in the matter. The detectives confiscated several hundred of the 419 scam letters in envelopes allegedly written in South Africa. The letters were addressed to businessmen around the world. Martins-Engelbrecht said many people were too ashamed to come forward after being defrauded. Syndicate members would send letters, with a letterhead "419", to national and international businessmen. The letter would stress the urgency of the matter, and request blank letterheads, invoices and banking details. Additional fees are continuously requested in order to further the transactions. The syndicate claims to sell and buy prominent brand name goods which include clothing and shoes.
Immigration Bill rejected by organised business (Cape Town, Business Day, 20/05) - Organised business has rejected the hastily revised Immigration Bill adopted by Parliament on Friday, while Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi says the legislation is deeply flawed and "shows the weakness of our democracy". Business leaders expressed disappointment that consensus could not be achieved after an eight-year process. Aspects of the bill introduced by the African National Congress (ANC) at the eleventh hour such as the quota system for skilled foreigners would merely perpetuate the bureaucratic, time-consuming and costly system currently in operation and continue to frustrate corporate SA's attempts to recruit critically needed skills. SA Chamber of Business CEO Kevin Wakeford said business had pinned its hope on a more liberal approach to immigration, preferring the market-driven model in Buthelezi's original draft bill. This would have seen business hiring according to need, with a levy on foreign recruits serving as an incentive to prefer locals where they had the required skills. Instead, the bill requires government to determine quotas for each skills category every year. Permits to hire foreigners will only be issued if the quota has not been filled. Wakeford described this as "incredibly bureaucratic, time-consuming and highly costly". Subjective discretion had replaced market forces, he said, and this would tend to lead to inequities and unfairness. Wakeford was also critical of the lack of consultation over the final draft of the bill, a brainchild of the ANC that was negotiated with Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party at the last minute but did not include any input from business or civil society. There had, however, been exhaustive consultation on the original draft. The chairman of Business SA's immigration task team, Vic Esselaar, says that, from the point of view of business, the new dispensation was little different from the status quo as the home affairs department would still decide if permits would be granted or not. He said this would be done based on quotas and informed by statistics, which were notoriously unreliable. "Business will be in the same position (as in the past) in that it will not be able to predict whether it will be able to get the required skills in future," he said. Buthelezi told Parliament he would have withdrawn the bill were government not facing a Constitutional Court deadline to scrap the unconstitutional Aliens Control Act by June 2. "This has placed me in a situation where I am presenting and piloting a bill of this Parliament as my bill, but it is the bill as amended by the majority party with its warts and all. It is this legislature which will be answerable should there be problems." He said that rewriting the bill despite a lack of clarity seemed more important to the ANC than "allowing the perception that something good and worthwhile may have come from Buthelezi, who is after all only the leader of a minority party". This showed weakness and insecurity in the ruling party, and indicated a lack of true leadership, Buthelezi said. The home affairs department would need to develop "large additional administrative capacity" and would need increased budgetary allocations as a result.
ANC steals Buthelezi's prize Bill (Sunday Times, 19/05) - It has been a week of truth for the Minister of Home Affairs, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Just 48 hours before the debate on his Immigration Bill, the ANC introduced radical changes through the Home Affairs parliamentary committee which it dominates. Instead of allowing the free market to regulate the entry of skilled foreigners by charging employers a premium, as Buthelezi had suggested, the ANC called for a quota system whereby the number of foreigners entering the economy would be determined by state departments. It flew in the face of the policy that had been on the table for years and had been implicitly accepted: that the procedures for skilled immigrants to enter SA had to be simplified and expedited. "Under the circumstances," Buthelezi told Parliament on Friday, "I should have withdrawn this Bill because it is my prerogative to do so." He added that he might well have done so if he had not been under pressure from a Constitutional Court deadline to replace the Aliens Control Act. Apart from the deadline problems, it would have been understandable if Buthelezi had withdrawn the Bill in a fit of pique. The prize piece of legislation on which he had been working for years had been stymied at the eleventh hour by "the political primacy of the ruling party". Due to the flaws in the Bill, his department would "not be able to deliver the new system of migration control as fast as we expected and without significant and possibly damaging downtime", he warned. But Buthelezi, who has grown critical of government policies, had a decision to make: would he insist on his policy, which he was convinced was right, or accept that democracy means that regardless of whose policy is better, the biggest party wins? The Bill was quite thoroughly flawed, he said. It places a greater administrative burden on the government, which would have the difficult task of making annual assessments of exactly what skills are needed, and the impossible task of conducting "delicate assessments" of each applicant. The need for Parliament to intervene again through legislation would continue. "I have done the best my country and my conscience demanded of me. I bow before the wishes of this legislature and of the ruling party," Buthelezi said. But the implications of doing so were not lost on him. The making of the Bill " had gone astray" and "overrode reason and careful consideration of issues". It was a sign of "the weakness of our democracy where whims seem to prevail over responsible policy formulation".
Police sting cracks human smuggling network (The Star, 19/05) - Three immigration officials and a Foreign Affairs employee have been arrested at Johannesburg International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle foreigners into and out of South Africa. North Rand police Superintendent Eugene Opperman said on Sunday the arrests had come after months of police surveillance. The first immigration official was arrested on Wednesday, the second on Thursday and the third on Saturday. The suspects had allegedly been trying to smuggle two Pakistani men into South Africa and two Chinese women out of the country. "On Wednesday, a 31-year-old immigration official attempted to smuggle a foreigner into the country. They paid him a large amount of money to help the foreigner," said Opperman. "On Thursday, police agents caught another immigration official attempting to smuggle two foreigners out of the country. They also paid him a large amount of money," he added. On Saturday, a department of foreign affairs official was caught red-handed trying to smuggle a Pakistani national into the country. "He told the Crime Intelligence agents that he would give them R10 000 if they looked the other way," said Opperman, adding that "the agents played along, and once the man had handed over the R10 000, they told him that he would also, besides the other charges, be charged with trying to bribe a police officer". All four officials were expected to appear in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court soon on charges of corruption and violating immigration laws. Asked whether the suspects could have been operating a syndicate, Opperman said it appeared that they had worked individually.
Immigration horse-trade irks Buthelezi and business (Mail & Guardian, 17/05) - After 11th-hour delays and last-minute crisis talks South Africa is finally set to get its new Immigration Bill - a political compromise that has left the Minister of Home Affairs, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Business South Africa and others dissatisfied. Minister of Home Affairs and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi is known to be unhappy about the final result and is likely to make his displeasure known during the debate and vote in the National Assembly on Friday. But the party is not expected to vote against it. "In terms of the clauses we oppose, you are going to get us on the podium," said IFP MP Prince Zulu at the end of Wednesday night's eight-hour horse-trading session, during which the Bill was approved by the home affairs committee. Other political parties are also expected to come out in favour of the new legislation. Despite reservations, the prevailing sentiment appears to be that the Bill is better than nothing. And privately MPs say the current draft legislation - the result of high-level political negotiations between the IFP and the African National Congress over the weekend - is an improvement on what was initially tabled in Parliament in June 2001. The Immigration Bill has been at the centre of a tug-of-war between the ANC and IFP. The law's aim is to ease the recruitment of foreign skilled workers to redress South Africa's crucial skills shortage - an aim announced by President Thabo Mbeki during his state of the nation address in 2000. Political conflict came to a head last week when ANC MPs tabled a substantial rewrite of the Bill. Last Thursday's scheduled committee vote was cancelled and high-level crisis talks between the parties got under way. Although broad consensus was reached on the Bill, disagreement remained over details. As the Bill was adopted clause by clause by consensus on Wednesday night, it came down to just three normal votes - carried by the numerical strength of the ANC MPs, plus the New National Party member. These were on the work permit clause, which includes a controversial quota provision; the removal of the departmental restructuring provisions from the Bill; and the deletion of the progressively punitive fines and jail penalties for offences, in favour of the more traditional phrasing of "maximum fine and/or jail terms". But the amendments sparked concern in Business South Africa, which represents big business. "Business cannot condone this process and expresses its extreme concern that we may be faced with an Immigration Act in the near future whose precise nature and import has never been considered by important stakeholders," it said in a fax to home affairs committee chairperson Mpho Scott on Wednesday. Despite some objections by the home affairs department - particularly over the quota system - senior officials say the Bill can be implemented. There was a collective sigh of relief after Parliament's home affairs committee finally approved the long-delayed Bill late on Wednesday night. Parliament also came under pressure. It had to meet Constitutional Court deadlines of early June for remedying several unconstitutional sections of the current Aliens Control Act, or face contempt of court. Former chairperson Aubrey Mokoena, redeployed to the back benches last month, was accused of stalling the Bill. All stops were pulled out to get the Bill approved despite three postponements of the committee's vote in a week. The weekend talks between the ANC and IFP followed a sweeping rewrite by ANC MPs uncomfortable with the Bill drafted by home affairs and approved by the Cabinet last year. In the resulting agreement, the immigration courts the ANC rejected have been included, while it has relented on demands for border control to be policed by the defence force rather than home affairs. The proposed restructuring of the department has been excluded, but diplomatic and treaty permits are back in. And various business-related permits, which had been conflated into one in the alternative ANC Bill, have again been separated into business, corporate and work permits, which now involve a quota system. Speculation that all was not well surfaced quickly as the IFP delegation did not attend the joint announcement. The IFP home affairs committee members were also late for the committee meeting. It is understood that there was broad agreement between the parties but disagreement on detail, which was raised in party ranks shortly before Wednesday's scheduled meetings. Scott told fellow MPs the delay was because the IFP was holding discussions with home affairs officials. But when the home affairs committee got down to business, the tone of proceedings gave little away of the drama of previous days. A "the" and an "on" were inserted and there was some haggling about whether some words should remain in italics. The National Assembly waived its three-day waiting period between committee vote and chamber debate to process the Bill. It will be voted on by the National Council of Provinces' home affairs committee next Wednesday and debated in the council shortly thereafter.
Assembly passes controversial Immigration Bill (Parliament, Sapa, 17/05) - The much-delayed and controversial Immigration Bill was finally approved in the National Assembly on Friday, albeit with Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi severely criticising certain last-minute amendments brought by the ANC. The bill has been the subject of more than four years of political wrangling and controversial changes. The final draft differs markedly from what Buthelezi and his department originally proposed. Introducing debate on the bill, he nonetheless pledged to carry out the will of government and accepted the measure. "If I withdraw the bill at this stage, as my instinct says, we could not meet the Constitutional Court deadline (June 2). "This has placed me in a situation where I am presenting and piloting a bill of this Parliament as my bill, but it is the bill as amended by the majority party (ANC), with its warts and all. "It is this legislature which will be answerable should there be problems in the areas I have pointed out," Buthelezi said. The original bill Cabinet had placed before Parliament "was what I felt to be the best way to respond to present needs and future challenges". "I cannot help but read the response that Parliament gave to Cabinet proposals as a process gone astray, in which the desire to assert the political primacy of the ruling party overrode reason and careful considerations of issues." Buthelezi said he was acting not in his capacity as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, but as a minister of state, and "as long as I remain a minister of state, I shall faithfully execute any legislation this Parliament may wish to adopt". "I am a democrat and bow to the will of the elected representatives." His problems with the bill included provisions dealing with determining the country's skills needs, creating categories and quotas, work permits, procedures for permits, law enforcement and border control, and corporate permits. Among other things, the department would have to develop large additional administrative capacity for carrying out new functions, and would need much bigger budget allocations. "It is unusual for a minister to do so, but it would be remiss of me not to place this on record that there are technical problems with the bill, which I hope will be corrected before its enactment," he said. On the positive side, the bill was an enormous improvement on the current uncertainty and levels of discretion. It contained innovative solutions which placed South Africa ahead of many other countries that were struggling with issues of migration. The bill also brought immigration control into compliance with the highest standards of human rights protection, including administrative and judicial review, and the establishment of Immigration Courts. In these, and many other respects, it represented a monumental step ahead, and set South Africa on a much stronger footing to cope with the issues of immigration control, which was bound to increase in future, Buthelezi said. National Assembly home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott, of the ANC, said the bill did not necessarily meet all the expectations of all parties, but was a "product we can all live with". Passing the bill was not an end in itself, and it would have to be reviewed from time to time to see if it was doing what it had been intended to do. Scott rejected contentions that "wholesale" changes had been made to the bill. Mannetjies Grobler of the Democratic Alliance said despite its flaws, the bill was a step forward and the DA reluctantly supported it. "This bill is not a perfect bill. I am sure amendments will be brought to this House in the future. "The ANC in this whole process seem to have ridden roughshod over Minister Buthelezi and his department's proposed views concerning a proper Immigration Bill. "As we tried to progress on the deliberation of this bill, there was no doubt that the ANC had only one goal in mind, that of redrafting the Immigration Bill at any cost and without any rhyme or reason. "Its concern was that the Immigration Bill formulated by Minister Buthelezi's department should not be passed," Grobler said. The IFP's Prince Nhlahla Zulu said his party supported the bill, but with strong reservations, as the original draft would have been much better. Annelise van Wyk of the United Democratic Movement also supported the bill, but said the UDM believed it would be back in Parliament for amendment sooner rather than later. The New National Party's Sakkie Pretorius also spoke in favour of the measure. Only the African Christian Democratic Party voted against the bill, mainly because it extended the definition of the word "spouse" to include a party in a permanent heterosexual or homosexual relationship. The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
Anger erupts at Muizenberg refugee meeting (Cape Town, Cape Argus, 16/05) - Voices were raised and people walked out of a meeting addressed by the new Safety and Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, on resolving the problems between refugees and residents of Muizenberg. Nqakula was speaking at a meeting organised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the Cape Town Refugee Union and the African National Congress in the Greater Muizenberg area last night. He said the South African government was committed to assisting refugees to get a better life, and that could only be achieved through their participation. The meeting at the Muizenberg Pavilion was attended by more than 400 people, mainly refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo and Angola, as well as Muizenberg residents. It was aimed at diffusing the growing tension between residents and the refugees in the area. Some refugees claimed that their homes were being raided by the police every night, white people in the area were racist and police were not investigating any cases they laid with them. George Wangenga, 23, from DRC, said he had been beaten up by a train security guard but police had never followed his complaint up. He said the situation was terrible for foreigners in Muizenberg, but he conceded some foreigners were behaving badly. He urged them to respect the laws of a foreign country. Nqakula said South Africans needed to understand that refugees who were here had come for a variety of reasons including instability in their own countries, a better education and simple greener pastures. But he urged them to respect South African laws and the communities they live in. "When refugees come in a country they are subjected to the laws and regulations of that country. As a result of the process you have gone through during your applications, the government is satisfied with the way you have conducted your selves. We know that we are not going to have any problems with you," he said. "However, we will revoke the status of any refugee when evidence shows that the refugee has behaved in a manner that is against our laws." Nqakula said any criminal behaviour by refugee weakened their status. He urged people to point out illegal refugees. "If you are in South Africa illegally we are going to apprehend you." A minority of refugees was creating a bad impression of all refugees and asylum seekers. "I want to believe that most of the people that are here will become part and parcel of our peace loving nation. "I want to appeal to good citizens to unite to flush out those with criminal records - not only here in Muizenberg but across the country." Nqakula said the number of people applying for refugee status was growing, with 1 620 applying so far this year. Countries within the SADC region were facing a huge drug trafficking problem and said "people without legal status were creating loopholes" for such problems. He appealed to refugees to register with the Department of Home Affairs. "Come forward and apply, legalise your stay because if you are not registered you have no right to be in South Africa and you will be arrested." Voices were raised when people were asked to express their grievances. Some people accused the government and UNHRC of failing to assist them in their plight. They also called on the government to establish a refugee camp - an idea criticised by the minister, saying refugees could go they wanted to. Some of the refugees walked out after being denied an opportunity to ask questions. A number of residents also walked out. Jaap Naude chairman of the Muizenberg and Lakeside ratepayers association said the meeting was "one-sided and none of the Muizenberg residents were given a chance to express their views and the problems they encountered. "The meeting was not conducive to dialogue and will never be able to solve any thing," he said. Naude said they were being accused of being racist while comments made by refugees during the meeting proved to be racist. "It is not that we are racist - we are living in fear, residents are living in fear . It is the refugees' responsibility to behave well." Ben Turok, ANC member of parliament in the greater Muizenberg area, was optimistic that if another meeting was organised it would bring solutiona to the matter. He said the whole thing was "racially motivated".
Focus in Lindela Dentention Centre (Irin, 16/05) - Stella is 23-years-old and about to be deported to Zimbabwe. For R1,000 a month (about US $100) she prepared salads and sandwiches in a pub in Johannesburg's wealthy northern suburbs. In her hometown of Bulawayo she had no work. Last week on her way home she was stopped by police in Johannesburg's high-rise suburb of Hillbrow and asked for her identity document. Unable to produce one she was allowed to go home to collect toiletries and some personal items and then taken to the infamous Lindela repatriation centre outside Krugersdorp. This privately-run centre, which is situated among old gold mines west of Johannesburg - which ironically once thrived on immigrant labour - is the last stop before deportation. The centre accommodates about 6,000 people a month, many of them waiting the full 30 days alloted by law for immigration officials and their embassies to decide if they stay or go. For many, the repatriation papers will be the only official documentation they've ever had. Sitting on the grass in the pale winter sun, surrounded by high ochre-coloured walls, Stella is resigned to her fate. When asked how she crossed the border into South Africa, which the Department of Home Affairs admits is porous, she looks away, a small smile playing on her lips. "Next time I will try to get papers," she said. Next to her is a woman apprehended in Johannesburg's Alexandra township. She is reluctant to reveal anything about herself as she feeds her chubby baby from the food tray containing samp (maize) and beans, chicken and spicy chakalaka sauce. Next to her are two other babies, unsteadily eyeing the brightly coloured jungle gym, their mothers and two female security guards watching them closely. Women form about 20 percent of those held at Lindela. By day, as they wait to be sent home, they play netball or doze or line the perimeter wall gossiping in their new found camaraderie. Most are in their teens or twenties and the scene resembles a community playground rather than a detention centre. By night reality hits as they file into dormitories with up to 28 irin double bunk-beds. The men's section on the other side of the heavy blue security gate has the same ochre-coloured walls and night-club style murals of famous musicians. But here it's a bustle of men playing checkers and mbau on thick concrete slabs, washing clothes, sitting on their haunches sharing cigarettes. A long line of men, some still wearing overalls splattered with paint, queue to phone friends, family, connections, arranging matters in quick urgent tones, asking for things to be brought to them. At the end of the courtyard howls of outrage and cheers punctuate a packed football match. Most rooms have television sets and inside, men sit on their beds or in the cash canteen watching music videos. Home Affairs officials visiting the centre are crowded by people who want to complain or pitch a last ditch plea to avoid being sent home. The officials listen attentively but maintain that many there "constantly change their stories." To beat a flurry of aliases the centre now takes fingerprints on arrival and each person's details are captured on a barcoded security card. They have to produce these at meal times and at the clinic, so that staff can know at any time how many people are there. Aaron, a middle aged Zimbabwean, says this is his third stint in Lindela. "I work as a security guard in Johannesburg, I'm just waiting to go back." Lowering his voice conspiratorially Aaron complains that the guards beat them with batons at night and the food gives him a rash. A young boy wearing white and red butcher's boots leans into Aaron and says "tell her about the beating last night." Cameras follow everybody's movements with security staff monitoring a wall of screens in a darkened control room. The tapes are kept for two months and retrieved to resolve allegations of beatings or ill treatment. But while the centre may appear attractive with it's activities roster, free clinic, library and religious services and walls dotted with extracts of human rights clauses, this doesn't stop escape attempts. A few months ago, a group of men managed to scale the thick high walls, run across bare grass, over a razor wire fence, over a second electric fence, past dog kennels and into the night. They were caught and one was beaten to death. His death sparked a mini riot and police and centre security locked everyone in their rooms until the tension eased. An investigation is underway but one of the centre's directors Gavin Watson says the man was killed by patrons of a nearby shebeen. He claimed they mistook the fleeing foreigners, who were unable to understand their calls to them in the dark and were bleeding from the razor wire, for the perpetrators of recent rapes in the area. Watson said the centre officials sent to fetch them were mistakenly implicated in the deaths. Last year the centre, run by hospitality company Bosasa, cost the South African government about R32 million (around US $3 million). Though most of the detainees are from African countries - particularly Mozambique and Zimbabwe - almost every country on the globe has featured in the centre's computer system. Most nearby repatriations are by train or truck. But those further afield, like China, can cost up to R20,000 (US $2,000) which includes the fare of an accompanying immigration official. Some people complain that South Africans living in sprawling shanty towns don't get that kind of social spending from the government. But Home Affairs Director General Billy Masetlha says the people at the centre clearly don't belong in already overcrowded police cells and are entitled to humane treatment. He believes the numbers who pass through the centre will reduce when the region's economic and social conditions improve and pegs his hopes on President Thabo Mbeki's New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) which is touted to jump start the region's economies. "Ninety-five percent of the detainees were looking for a job. We've got to be sympathetic and we can't criminalise these people. People are wading through rivers containing very dangerous animals like crocodiles - they are trying to find money whatever the cost. We can't ignore the pull factor," he said. However, Masetlha questioned why people weren't acquiring proper travel documents. "We had about 6 million visitors last year and they all went home - so why not these 6,000 we see every month?" Jody Kollapen of the South African Human Rights Commission said conditions have improved at the centre, but "when you look beyond the buildings and the food you see a scale of human suffering, the look of desperation on their faces." Emma Algotsson, a researcher for Lawyers for Human Rights said: "We are concerned about how people get here in the first place. Many people living in rural areas can't get to the cities to buy visas and passports. A woman selling tomatoes across the border doesn't have money to go and buy a visa." Meanwhile, in the courtyard a man with a megaphone calls out names to lines of men sitting impassively on concrete benches. One man in his early twenties stands up when his name is called, the men surrounding him smile and pat him farewell. He'll be on the truck to Lesotho in a few hours. But, as the legend goes, he'll probably be back in Johannesburg before the truck.
Lawyers echo business concerns over Immigration Bill (Parliament, Sapa, 16/05) - The Law Society of the Northern Provinces on Thursday joined organised business in expressing concern about the Immigration Bill, which is expected to be adopted by the National Assembly on Friday after more than four years of political wrangling and controversial last-minute changes. All eyes will be on Home Affairs Minister and IFP President Mangosuthu Buthelezi when he introduces debate on the bill, which differs markedly from what he originally proposed and he is deeply unhappy about. Buthelezi appears to have the support of Business South Africa and now the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, who too are dissatisfied with the final product. The law society represents Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Northern and North West Provinces. In a statement, it expressed concern about the ANC's departure from the spirit and tenets of the green and white papers on immigration and the original bill tabled by Buthelezi. "The amendments of the `final' drafts as processed up to last week were radically departed from in the last two days. Stakeholders, including the organised profession, had at great effort and expense given input into the process. "These were largely ignored in the final stretch... ." The law society said no opportunity had been given for input on the latest changes, and that even the department of home affairs had the latest amendments sprung on them. It noted that the department had objected to many major aspects of the changes. "The Council of the Law Society of the Northern Province believes that many of the latest amendments are cumbersome, unworkable and not of any benefit in the process of importation of much needed skills." Quoting trade and industry director-general Dr Alistair Ruiters, the society said there was a skills shortage, in the category of highly-skilled individuals, of between 30,000 and 500,000 people "Resident permits will have to be applied for... It will be counter-productive to have their applications adjudicated in a user-unfriendly, administratively onerous regime of immigration legislation and regulation." Parliament's home affairs committees on Wednesday approved the bill after a marathon session that ended at 11.30pm when MPs agreed to disagree on key provisions. It is likely that all political parties will approve the bill, despite privately acknowledging it is deeply flawed and that amendments will probably be necessary once it is enacted. Both houses of Parliament are under pressure to adopt the bill before the end of the month, to allow President Thabo Mbeki sufficient time to promulgate the measure before June 2, the Constitutional Court deadline for a new immigration law. IFP MPs in the home affairs committees voted against three key provisions in line with the department of home affairs concerns, despite attempts to reach consensus with the ANC in a series of bilateral meetings aimed at rescuing the bill. The IFP backed by the DA voted against a re-drafted provision relating to work permits, which controversially introduced a quota system at the last minute against the department's wishes. Earlier in the day, the department of home affairs objected to the redrafting of the provision, saying it "represented a fundamental shift of policy, a complete change of the very nature of proposed migration control in South Africa". However, the ANC, NNP, UDM and ACDP voted in favour of the quota system. An ANC amendment to a clause dealing with offences introduced on Wednesday night was only supported by the NNP, with other parties voting against. However, the ANC's majority in the committee won the day. On another key provision relating to the restructuring of the department, the ANC's insistence that it be dropped from the bill was agreed to by the NNP and UDM. The IFP, DA and UCDP wanted the provision included. Earlier they heard the department express concern that if the provision was deleted it would be unable to speedily implement the legislation. "Without this clause it is impossible for the department to switch from one system to the other (of migration control) without having to shut down for a considerable period of time, either as a whole or in party, which would be unthinkable," deputy director-general Ivan Lambinon said.
Sparks fly as Immigration Bill battle heats up (Johannesburg, Business Day, 16/05) - Hopes that the political logjam over the Immigration Bill had finally been broken were dashed yesterday when Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi expressed strong objections to a new version of the long-delayed bill. New immigration laws are critically important in alleviating SA's skills crisis by allowing the recruitment of skilled foreign professionals. Bottlenecks in the existing system have proved hugely frustrating for business. But changes to the law have been bogged down for years in political altercations between Buthelezi, who is also president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and the African National Congress (ANC). All the while, business has come no closer to seeing the fulfilment of a pledge by President Thabo Mbeki last year that government would move quickly to remedy the skills crisis. Business joined the fray yesterday, protesting against lastminute amendments that were trumpeted by the ANC as a significant breakthrough. In a letter to committee chairman Mpho Scott, Business SA expressed its "extreme concern" about the introduction of a law on which important interest groups were not consulted. The ANC claimed the amendments would mean work permits for skilled workers would be processed much faster than before. It said it was determined to meet deadlines for the bill, including its adoption by the National Assembly tomorrow and its finalisation by the Constitutional Court by June 2. In the process it appears to have ridden roughshod over Buthelezi's views and those of his department. Parliament's home affairs portfolio committee sat till late last night to finalise the bill, being processed at lightning speed. Buthelezi, who threatened to withdraw the bill last week, disagreed with compromises thrashed out over the weekend between ANC and IFP MPs. However, he refused to express his views until the legislative process was complete, and is likely to pronounce on the bill when he introduces it tomorrow. The department also lodged strong objections saying the amendments, which it saw for the first time only yesterday, were unworkable and, in some cases, "ludicrous". It said it did not have the administrative capacity to implement the proposals. The main change was the introduction of a quota system to replace the market-driven system the department originally envisaged. Under the original proposal, employers would have had the freedom to recruit as many foreign skilled workers as they liked, but would pay a levy, the size of which would depend on the scarcity of skills being recruited. But the ANC objected to what was in effect the "outsourcing" of the immigration control function. The amendments propose a quota work permit covering categories of skills required. Government would determine annually how many skilled workers were needed in various fields and issue up to this number of permits. But deputy home affairs director-general Ivan Lambinon objected, saying the department had considered and rejected this system because it would require "an enormous amount of administrative capacity" and was a "major move backwards".
South African immigration policy futile, says Human Rights commissioner (Krugersdorp, Sapa, 16/05) - South Africa's policy towards illegal immigrants, which required their arrest, detention and deportation, was futile, human rights activists said on Thursday. "What does it achieve?" asked SA Human Rights Commissioner Jody Kollapen while touring the Lindela Repatriation Centre outside Krugersdorp on the West Rand with the media during an open day. "Nothing! We are not winning the battle." Kollapen said as long as many factors pushed Africans south to what they saw as a land of plenty, the current policy was a waste of taxpayers' money. Lawyers for Human Rights researcher Emma Algotsson agreed. Department of Home Affairs director general Billy Masetlha conceded that little could be done to keep illegal immigrants out, if not even crocodiles and hippos along the Limpopo or lions and elephants in the Kruger National Park could. The main pull factor was the lure of employment and a better life, while the ravages of poverty, famine and civil war motivated many to make the attempt. "We can't do much as Home Affairs or as immigration officers. This is a problem bigger than the department." Masetlha said it had to be addressed on a regional basis. He said the immigration problem was one more reason why the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) with its emphasis on good governance and regional stability had to be supported. Masetlha said his department was looking at ways to deter multiple returnees. Many illegal immigrants routinely returned to South Africa after being deported, and even bragged about it to immigration officials. He said a Nigerian law that imposed a three year minimum jail sentence on the country's nationals who were adjudged to have damaged its "good name" while abroad was helpful. While such laws, in neighbouring countries, would help prevent criminals from immediately returning, it would be difficult to apply to socio-economic refugees. Prison terms, he said, would not deter those who had already braved lions. Masetlha said South Africa had substantially tightened its border controls since November last year, after relaxing them about 12 years ago. The home affairs head said about 6000 illegal immigrants were apprehended every year. The cost of repatriation last year, alone, was R32-million. This year, only R18-million has been budgeted. Costs varied greatly. The return home of one Chinese national last year cost Home Affairs R20000, while the deportation of Zimbabweans and Mozambicans were considerably cheaper due to the shorter distances involved. He said it was not clear how many illegal immigrants were presently in the country, saying "thumb-suck" figures ranged from 2,5 to six million. Masetlha said more could be apprehended if "capacity on the ground to detect and apprehend" the immigrants was improved. "Our capacity is limited. If we improved it tenfold the numbers would increase correspondingly." He said the department relied on the police and the national defence force to assist its small task force of immigration officers in regulating migration.
Report on Lindela Detention Centre (Krugersdorp, Sapa, 16/05) - Human Rights bodies on Thursday gave facilities at the sometimes controversial Lindela Repatriation Centre a clean bill of health, saying it complied with Constitutional requirements. SA Human Rights Commissioner (SAHRC) Jody Kollapen and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) researcher Emma Algotsson said the conditions under which illegal immigrants were held had vastly improved since 1998, when the deportation camp was opened. "Physical conditions have improved," Kollapen told Sapa after he and reporters inspected the sprawling facility housed in a former West Rand Consolidated gold mine compound along the R28 road between Krugersdorp and Randfontein on the West Rand. "It now complies with the Constitution in every respect." He told reporters at a "media open day" at the usually inaccessible centre that the SAHRC had frequently clashed with the centre's managers, the privately run Bosasa company and their principals, the Department of Home Affairs over conditions at the centre. Kollapen said he hoped the involvement of his commission and civil society organisations such as LHR had helped make a difference. Algotsson said conditions back in the late 1990s were "hideous." Since then the mine compound, which on average houses 1400 immigrants due to be returned to their home countries, has been substantially overhauled and services improved. The smaller women's section - almost 80 percent of illegal migrants processed at the centre are men - includes a well-stocked, snug, play centre for children and a free dispensary for soap, toilet paper, baby food and sanitary products. The women sleep in former hostel rooms on double bunks, the mattresses of which were replaced hours before Thursday's visit. The larger men's section included a concrete soccer field where a large audience was watching a veritable "African Cup of Nations" six-a-side soccer tournament. A long line was also waiting to phone to ask friends and kin to bring clothes, or to fight for their release. But, as Kollapen and others pointed out, inmates cannot be expected to enjoy the centre's good food, comfortable quarters and tasteful wall murals when, for most, it is the last stop before the poverty that awaits them at home. Lindela has often attracted negative publicity, usually after a visit by human rights activists. It was most recently in the news in March when a Nigerian escapee was beaten to death during recapture and two others injured. Bosasa also gave a briefing on its other activities - it runs two centre for awaiting-trial juveniles and numerous hostels for some of South Africa's largest mining groups, including Goldfields, Sasol, Durban Roodepoort Deep and Harmony. Officials were reluctant to say much about the company's owners, saying many were private shareholders.
ANC says there's agreement, IFP remains mum on Immigration Bill (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - The African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party have reached broad agreement on the contentious Immigration Bill after days of intensive talks and behind-the-scenes consultations, ANC Chief Whip Nathi Nhleko said on Wednesday. However, this could not be immediately confirmed with the Inkatha Freedom Party. The party failed to arrive for a joint press conference with the ANC on Wednesday morning and then arrived late for a meeting of Parliament's home affairs committee, fuelling speculation that there was a last-minute hitch. IFP MPs on the National Assembly's home affairs committee referred all queries to their spokesman, Deputy Public Works Minister Musa Zondi, who was in a Cabinet meeting and unavailable for comment. The committee, and its National Council of Provinces counterpart, met briefly on Wednesday morning and were briefed by a state law adviser on proposed changes to the bill as agreed to during consultations by both parties. It is not clear whether the Department of Home Affairs, which is piloting the bill through Parliament, has agreed to the changes. Political parties have until 3.30pm on Wednesday to study the new amendments and will then vote on the measure, clause by clause. National Assembly home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott told MPs that the delays in processing the bill - because of consultations between the ANC and the IFP - were to ensure that the measure was "one that all of us can be proud of and that we can live with". Earlier on Wednesday, Scott told reporters agreement had been reached on eight contentious issues. These included permits, the use of chartered accountants in processing applications, the immigration advisory board, immigrations courts, the inspectorate, the restructuring of the department, border control and offences. Scott said the bilateral consultations followed ANC amendments to the bill which had resulted in an IFP counter-proposal. "The other (opposition) parties never came back with anything," he said in reply to a question why other political parties had apparently been sidelined. Replying to media questions, Nhleko rejected the view that differences of opinion between the two parties were fuelled by the ANC's apparent antipathy to Mario Ambrosini, the special adviser to the Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who played a major role in drafting the original measure. Ambrosini was left out in the cold when the ANC and IFP drafted changes to the bill, with the state law advisers assisting the joint technical team. "The question of whatever the differences were has nothing to do with personalities or with people who either occupy certain positions ... "The issue is these were areas of differences at party to party level," Nhleko said. Buthelezi is the IFP president and last week threatened to withdraw the bill after the ANC initially made sweeping last-minute changes to the measure. The parliamentary committees will meet from 10am on Wednesday are expected to work throughout the day, and probably even in the evening. Nhleko said the ANC was hopeful that the bill would be adopted in Parliament and promulgated by the President before the Constitutional Court deadline of June 2 for a new immigration law in South Africa or for the current Aliens Control Act to be amended.
Child trafficking claims are false, says Minister Nqakula (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - Reports that South Africa was emerging as a key role player in child trafficking were devoid of all truth, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said on Thursday. His statement contradicted claims by a Cape Town-based child rights organisation and a report of the South African Law Commission's Project Committee 110. In written replying to a question from Jabu Sosibo (ANC), he said child trafficking was not prevalent in South Africa. "Neither can South Africa be described as a "key role player" in respect of this particular crime." Should such a crime occur, then trafficking in children was not an independent crime in South Africa, Nqakula said. "If a person removes a child illegally from South Africa a person will usually be arrested for having committed the crime of `kidnapping' or `abduction'. "If a child is `sold', the act usually falls within the ambit of legislation dealing with illegal adoptions," he said. Parliament's joint monitoring committee on the improvement of quality of life and status of children last month heard submissions from a child rights organisation, Molo Songololo, on the sexual exploitation of local children. Molo Songololo spokeswoman Debora Mobilyn told MPs the trafficking of South African children was "predominantly an in-country phenomenon". Mobilyn said the main traffickers were the children's own parents and local gangs, who sometimes colluded. "Girl children are the primary targets, although boy children have also been identified as victims." The girls ranged in age from four to 17 years. The reasons for an increase in the phenomenon locally "lie primarily in the economic situation in South Africa". "Demand for sex with children is another primary cause." Research for the report, which had started in Cape Town, had taken her organisation's investigators as far afield as Port Elizabeth, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The trade in children was linked to the illegal trade in guns and drugs, and to prostitution. Mobilyn said the aim of her briefing was to create awareness among government officials of the levels of sexual abuse of children in South Africa. Child trafficking was "one of the fastest growing enterprises in the global economy". "And South Africa is emerging as a key role player in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children," she reportedly said. Meanwhile, Parliament's task group on the sexual abuse of children, in its draft report, noted the finding of the SALC's Project Committee that South African children were increasingly being trafficked by their own parents into slavery or prostitution in order to generate income or to pay off a debt. "The task group expresses its deep concern about these forms of sexual abuse of children," the draft - which will be finalised next week, states. It urges the SALC to proceed as speedily as possible with drafting proposals for a new Sexual Offences Act. "The task group encourages the South African Law Commission to include in its draft of the new children's statute a general provision that criminalises the trafficking in children," the draft report says.
Immigration Bill inches towards finalisation (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - MPs finally began voting on the contentious Immigration Bill on Wednesday as they rushed to meet a Constitutional Court deadline, despite reservations from Business South Africa and the home affairs ministry following sweeping amendments negotiated at party level. Parliament's home affairs committees began voting on the bill clause by clause from about 4pm, under pressure to complete it by Thursday at the latest Thursday, as the bill is due to be debated in the National Assembly on Friday. The department of home affairs, which was largely sidelined after the bill was tabled in Parliament, had sight of the changes negotiated by the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party only after 10am on Wednesday. Although the ANC claimed broad agreement had been reached on contentious issues, IFP spokesman Musa Zondi said his party was dissatisfied with the details. He also said Home Affairs Minister and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi remained unhappy about the negotiated compromise. Buthelezi had on Wednesday morning thanked the IFP team for at least getting the ANC to retreat on some of the contentious issues, but had made clear he was not happy about the final product, Zondi said. Buthelezi had told IFP members who were involved in bilateral meetings with the ANC that the changes would not give South Africa the kind of immigration system he had tried to pilot through Cabinet and Parliament for three years, Zondi told Sapa. Echoing Buthelezi's concerns, the department in a short presentation to MPs expressed reservations about the last-minute amendments, which, it said, made fundamental changes to migration control policy. Deputy director-general Ivan Lambinon said his department had less than three hours to scrutinise the new version of the bill. It could therefore not guarantee that reformulated measures "will not pose insurmountable problems or unforeseen difficulties" if adopted by Parliament. The department raised difficulties with several of the compromise provisions. One of its major gripes related to the redrafting of work and corporate permit provisions, which Lambinon said represented a "fundamental shift of policy, a complete change of the very nature of the proposed migration control in South Africa". The department also objected to the introduction of a quota system for work permits, which it had looked at between 1995 and 1998, and disregarded because it did not meet South Africa's needs. "They require an enormous amount of administrative capacity... and are open to abuses, discretion and perfunctory compliance." The department also objected to not ever being asked to apply its mind to a generalised system of quotas, only to find it being raised for the first time at 10am on Wednesday. On a key clause relating to the restructuring of the department, Lambinon said home affairs strongly objected to its proposed deletion. As soon as the bill was enacted there would be a public outcry for its speedy implementation, he said. "Without this clause it is impossible for the DHA to switch from one system to the other without having to shut down for a considerable period of time, either as a whole or in part, which would be unthinkable," Lambinon said. The provision was widely discussed in Cabinet, and in the end it was adopted on the basis of substantive re-formulations made at the request of Public Service Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi "who recognised the necessity of this provision", he said. Lambinon said it should be appreciated that the bill did not only bring about a large legislative reform, but also a very significant administrative one. Meanwhile, Business South Africa (BSA) expressed its "extreme concern" that the country might be faced with an immigration law whose precise nature and import had never been considered by important interest groups. In a letter to the chair of the National Assembly's home affairs committee, Mpho Scott, BSA said new amendments to the bill had not been discussed with stakeholders, nor "dealt with in Nedlac as is clearly intended in our law". "At this critical stage the exact nature of these amendments is unknown, and we believe that they have not yet been finalised - only one day before they are ostensibly voted on," immigration task team chairman Vic Esselaar wrote. His view reflected the concerns of investors - domestic and foreign -who were ready to "invest and promote our economy if the appropriate encouragement is given". The bill, among other things, aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa. - President Thabo Mbeki has to sign the bill into law by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after parts of the current Aliens Control Act were found to be unconstitutional.
Buthelezi unhappy about Immigration Bill compromises (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi was unhappy with the compromise changes to the Immigration Bill negotiated by his party, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and the African National Congress, IFP spokesman Musa Zondi said on Wednesday. Buthelezi had told IFP members who were involved in bilateral meetings with the ANC that the changes would not give South Africa the kind of immigration system he had tried to pilot through Cabinet and Parliament for three years, Zondi told Sapa. Buthelezi had on Wednesday morning thanked the IFP team for at least getting the ANC to retreat on some of the contentious issues, but had made clear he was not happy about the final product. Asked whether the IFP would oppose the bill during voting in the committee stage, Zondi said: "I don't know what they will do. It is currently being discussed by our leader and our members on the committee." Zondi, who was part of the IFP team involved in bilateral talks with the ANC, said the negotiations had been "mainly intended to rescue the bill" after the ANC tabled surprise amendments last week. "We did not get 100 percent of what we wanted." Asked if the IFP shared the ANC's view that there was broad agreement between the two parties on contentious provisions of the bill, he said: "There is broad agreement, but we are not happy with the details. "As a party we would have preferred what the minister originally tabled." On whether Buthelezi planned to withdraw the bill in protest, Zondi said: "I can't answer. The department is considering the bill from their perspective."
Home Affairs objects to Immigration Bill changes (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - The department of home affairs on Wednesday expressed reservations about last-minute amendments to the Immigration Bill negotiated by the ANC and the IFP, which, it said, made fundamental changes to migration control policy. Addressing Parliament's home affairs committees, deputy director-general Ivan Lambinon said his department had less than three hours to scrutinise the new version of the bill. It could therefore not guarantee that reformulated measures "will not pose insurmountable problems or unforeseen difficulties" if adopted by Parliament. The department raised difficulties with several provisions that were negotiated at party level between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress over the past few days. The bill is being piloted through Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who is also the IFP president. The IFP, which said it was dissatisfied with some of the details of the proposed changes, indicated earlier in the day that Buthelezi was unhappy with the outcome of the bilateral negotiations with the ANC. One of the department's major gripes related to the redrafting of work and corporate permit provisions, which Lambinon said represented a "fundamental shift of policy, a complete change of the very nature of the proposed migration control in South Africa". The department also objected to the introduction of a quota system for work permits, which it had looked at between 1995 and 1998, and disregarded because it did not meet South Africa's needs. "They require an enormous amount of administrative capacity... and are open to abuses, discretion and perfunctory compliance." Lambinon said the thrust of the department's new immigration policy was that of "diminishing evaluative processes in the issuance of permits and administrative capacity dedicated to such purpose". "The techniques used in these clauses do not achieve such purpose." The department also objected to not ever being asked to apply its mind to a generalised system of quotas, only to find it being raised for the first time at 10am on Wednesday on receiving the new version of the bill. On a key clause relating to the restructuring of the department, Lambinon said home affairs strongly objected to its proposed deletion. "The DHA would regret the deletion of this clause, and to the fact it was not afforded the opportunity to justify its necessity in law and policy during deliberations in the committees." As soon as the bill was enacted there would be a public outcry for its speedy implementation, he said. "Without this clause it is impossible for the DHA to switch from one system to the other without having to shut down for a considerable period of time, either as a whole or in part, which would be unthinkable," Lambinon said. The provision was widely discussed in Cabinet, and in the end it was adopted on the basis of substantive re-formulations made at the request of Public Service Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi "who recognised the necessity of this provision", he said. "Without this provision it will not be possible to redefine job descriptions, reorganise offices and change statutory qualifications and duties within the required time frame." Lambinon said it should be appreciated that the bill did not only bring about a large legislative reform, but also a very significant administrative one. Because of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, "we do not have a system of immigration control which is up to par, either from a legislative or an administrative viewpoint". Lambinon said the reform of the underlying administrative structure was going to be very significant and vastly necessary. "There is no hidden or ulterior agenda in this process, but only a real need to get the system up and running without total destruction of the function, which would cause South Africa's international image to suffer. "The objection raised in committees had a flavour suggesting that this section was motivated by ulterior and unknown motives, which is just not the case," he said. The committees began voting on the bill, clause by clause, on Wednesday afternoon, and were expected to continue into the night.
Business expresses concerns at changes to immigration law (Parliament, Sapa, 15/05) - Business South Africa on Wednesday expressed its "extreme concern" that the country might be faced with an immigration law whose precise nature and import had never been considered by important interest groups. In a letter to National Assembly home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott, BSA said new amendments to the bill had not been discussed with stakeholders nor "dealt with in Nedlac as is clearly intended in our law". "At this critical stage the exact nature of these amendments is unknown and we believe that they have not yet been finalised - only one day before they are ostensibly voted on," immigration task team chairman Vic Esselaar wrote. He urged the committee to take note of this position, which he said reflected the concerns of investors - domestic and foreign - who were ready to "invest and promote our economy if the appropriate encouragement is given". "Business cannot condone this process and expresses its extreme concern that we may be faced with an Immigration Act in the near future whose precise nature and import has never been considered by important stakeholders."
Toxic skin creams smuggled, 12 Zambians arrested (Johannesburg, Sapa, 15/05) - Twelve Zambians were arrested in Pretoria on Wednesday in connection with the illegal possession and distribution of unlicensed, toxic skin lightening creams, police said. The creams contain hydroquinone, a bleaching agent thought to cause skin cancer. Police spokeswoman Senior Superintendent Mary Martins-Engelbrecht told Sap the arrests followed an intensive investigation by the national organised crime unit, the Medicines Control Board and customs officials. The probe began on Monday after a South African truck driver en route from Zambia was caught near Krugersdorp transporting about four tons of skin lightening creams. During subsequent investigations, a detective was approached by a Zambian woman who offered him a bribe of R2000 in exchange for the confiscated goods, Martins-Engelbrecht said. A meeting was arranged and twelve Zambians aged between the ages of 25 and 30 were arrested and charged under the Medicines Control Act and the Customs and Excises Act. The confiscated skin lightening creams were manufactured in Italy and exported to various African countries, from where they were smuggled into South Africa.
Government wakes up to flight of health workers (Johannesburg, Irin, 15/05) - South Africa's leading nurses' union on Tuesday welcomed comments by the government addressing the debilitating flight of health professionals from the country. Speaking at a Commonwealth meeting of health ministers in Geneva, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said: "The recruitment of health workers from developing countries has created unforeseen shortages in those countries." She said that the exodus of medical professionals could be stemmed by bilateral agreements between developing and developed countries. "While we are pleased that the minister acknowledges the magnitude of the problem, we insist that the health department consult us throughout the setting up of these bilateral agreements," nurses' union leader, Thembi Mngomezulu, told IRIN. "It would be in the government's best interest to make sure we agree to all of the terms of any agreement," said Mngomezulu, deputy secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA). More than 300 specialist nurses leave South Africa every month according to DENOSA. Many never return. Many of those who leave have complained of their conditions of work and how they are treated. "We are tired of lip service. The time has come for some real action," Mngomezulu said, adding that nurses run hospitals and carry a huge responsibility but "are suffering or leaving". She said that if experienced nurses carry on earning the same as other nurses after six years service, all the experienced staff would be lost. Fully trained public sector nurses can earn US $716 a month, unless they move away from the bedside into management. Their starting salary after four years' study is US $296. "A vicious cycle has developed in that the few loyal nurses that remain in the public service are required to deal with a heavier if not totally unrealistic workload. The state as an employer, last year agreed on introducing incentives to retain specialised skills in the health services. To date, such incentives have not materialised," Mngomezulu said. She added that the flight of specialised skills would have a devasting effect on the quality of care for the terminally ill, especially for HIV/AIDS patients. "We are smack in the middle of a national epidemic. The last thing we need now is people jumping ship. Already many of the hospitals which come face to face with dying patients are understaffed and ill equipped." Dr Kgosi Letlape, chairperson of the SA Medical Association (SAMA) said: "Countries must address the underlying reasons why health care workers find it necessary to leave their countries to continue their medical careers abroad." He emphasised that developing countries should appreciate their health care workers and remunerate them for what they are worth if they were serious about stopping the poaching of their skilled health work force. "Doctors leave for many reasons and do not necessarily have to be actively recruited to pursue their careers elsewhere. South African doctors are very well trained and have always been sought after by other countries." Letlape stressed that there were various reasons why doctors in both the public and private sector choose to emigrate. These include inadequate facilities and resources that sap morale, and a lack of treatment policies for diseases such as HIV/AIDS in the public sector. There are no accurate statistics available on the brain drain, but SAMA estimates that at least 5,000 South African doctors have moved to countries such as Canada, America, Britain and Australia South Africa is particularly angry at UK-based recruiters, accusing them of poaching the country's best medical professionals in what the government calls "a crucial time in the nation's development". The migration of health professionals is not particular to South Africa. Over the last five years there has been an increase in medical personnel leaving the Southern African region as a whole to seek greener pastures in the more affluent west. A recent study by the World Bank reported that some 70,000 highly qualified African scholars and experts leave their home countries every year in order to work abroad. "Many of these highly skilled emigrants never return home due to the lack of motivation and opportunities for doing so. In order to replace those that have left the continent for greener pastures, Africa spends an estimated US $4bn annually on recruiting some 100,000 skilled expatriates," the report read. According to official statistics, 10,000 people emigrated from South Africa in 2000. Unofficial estimates put the number of professionals heading overseas at three times that stated by the government. A study of emigration to Britain, the United States, New Zealand, Canada and Australia by the Paris-based Institute for Development Research (IDR) estimated that 233,609 people left South Africa for these destinations between 1987 and 1997 - 41,000 of them professionals. One of the worst examples of the regional brain drain cited by the IDR is Zambia. A few years ago the country had 1,600 doctors, but there are now only 400 in practice. Zambian doctors have migrated to Europe, the United States and neighbouring Botswana, lured by higher salaries. In Zimbabwe, a large number of doctors and nurses are also leaving every month, according to a leading Zimbawean financial newspaper. The Financial Gazette reported that qualified nurses, who earn about US $281 a month after being certified to practice, are leaving mostly for Britain. An increasing number are also emigrating to countries such as New Zealand and Australia. Analysts said the main reason for the exodus of Zimbabwe's black professionals was the country's economic and political crisis. Political scientist at the University of Stellenbosh, Heidi Hudson, told IRIN that African governments could do more to halt the brain drain "rather than just becoming increasingly frustrated". While economic conditions "dictate that they cannot yet afford to pay western-size wages, they can ensure that the respect of basic human rights and law prevails over all", she said.
IFP, ANC to meet on eve of immigration vote (Parliament, Sapa, 14/05) - Senior members of the ANC and the IFP will meet on Tuesday night in a final bid to resolve differences over the Immigration Bill on the eve of a parliamentary committee vote on the contentious measure. This was confirmed by National Assembly home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott (ANC). Scott said the vote had been postponed twice so that both parties could resolve their differences. Senior Inkatha Freedom Party and African National Congress members would receive a briefing on Tuesday night from members of a joint technical committee set up to find common ground on a revised version of the bill. If it gets the go-ahead, the new draft will be distributed to political parties late on Tuesday or on Wednesday morning, who will then have to vote on it in the committee later in the day. Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi - who is piloting the measure through Parliament - is also the IFP president. He and his legal adviser have been at loggerheads with the ANC for months over the measure, and even threatened to withdraw it last week after the ruling party introduced radical changes to the bill. Scott said a lot of work had been done to resolve differences, including meetings over the weekend. The committee and its NCOP counterpart would definitely meet on Wednesday to vote on the bill. It is scheduled for debate in the National Assembly on Friday. However, a home affairs official told Sapa on Tuesday night that the department had not yet been consulted about the changes. "We are given to understand that the provisions relating to the work permit - which is the core of the bill - have been completely re-drafted," the official said. In his reaction, the Democratic Alliance's Mannetjies Grobler accused the ANC of still playing "ducks and drakes with Parliament by bogging down progress on the new Immigration Bill". He urged the ANC to "stop its political games and work with - instead of against - the home affairs ministry to finalise the bill". The DA did not support the bill as redrafted by the ANC, Grobler said. "The ANC bill does not address the issue of the skills crisis facing South Africa," he said. Both Houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the bill by the end of the month. This will allow President Thabo Mbeki to sign the measure into law by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after parts of the current Aliens Control Act were found to be unconstitutional. The bill, among other things, is aimed at attracting skilled foreigners to South Africa. Although the IFP and the ANC appear to have agreed on the need for immigration courts, other points of contention remain. These include the issue of which department should oversee the monitoring of South Africa's borders, and the powers given to home affairs to introduce regulations that were not subject to Parliamentary oversight.
Immigration Bill vote delayed again (Business Day, 14/05) - Yet another committee vote in Parliament on the much-delayed and contentious Immigration Bill has been postponed, as the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) continue bilateral attempts to salvage the measure. Parliament's home affairs committees were scheduled to vote on the bill today, but late yesterday members of parliament were informed it had been postponed for the third time in a week. It is hoped the measure will be finalised by the committees tomorrow, as it is supposed to be debated in the National Assembly on Friday. Home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott was not immediately available for comment. The ANC, represented by its deputy chief whip Andries Nel, met IFP chief whip Koos van der Merwe yesterday about the bill, which has been mired in controversy for months. Neither could be reached for comment. The United Democratic Movement's Annelize van Wyk said: "No matter what, the bill is flawed." The original bill drafted by the home affairs ministry, and the version with ANC amendments, were both problematic. Mannetjies Grobler of the Democratic Alliance described the process as "a big joke". Both houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the bill by the end of the month. This will allow President Thabo Mbeki to sign the measure into law by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after finding parts of the current Aliens Control Act unconstitutional. The bill aims to help attract skilled foreigners to SA. Although the IFP and the ANC appear to have agreed on the need for immigration courts, other points of contention remain.
Tourists flock to South Africa after September 11 (Mail & Guardian, 14/05) - South Africa was the only tourism destination in the world to have increased its market share after the terror attacks on the United States on September 11 last year, Tourism Minister Valli Moosa said at the weekend. Confirming this on Sunday, his representative, Thindile Makwakwa, said Moosa had made the statement at a major tourism conference in Durban on Saturday. "South Africa has defied gravity. Whereas tourism has collapsed in many countries, we have increased in all our markets around the world, especially Europe and Asia, except the United States," Moosa said. Figures released at the Tourism Indaba on Saturday showed that 18 469 more foreign tourists visited South Africa in January this year compared with the same month last year. The statistics emerged from a survey of 150 international tour operators. According to the Sunday Times, Professor Melville Saayman, of Potchefstroom University, who conducted the survey, said more tourists chose South Africa after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington as perceptions changed about what constituted a safe destination. Moosa told the conference: "Tour operators throughout the world actually use the term `hot' when referring to South Africa."
Immigration Bill vote delayed, third time in a week (Parliament, Sapa, 13/05) - Yet another committee vote in Parliament on the much-delayed and contentious Immigration Bill has been postponed, as the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party continue bilateral attempts to salvage the measure. Parliament's home affairs committees were scheduled to vote on the bill on Tuesday, but late on Monday afternoon MPs were informed it had been postponed for the third time in a week. It is hoped the measure will now be finalised by the committees on Wednesday, as it is supposed to be debated in the National Assembly on Friday. Home affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott was not immediately available for comment. The African National Congress, represented by its Deputy Chief Whip Andries Nel, met IFP Chief Whip Koos van der Merwe on Monday about the bill, which has been mired in controversy for months. Neither could be reached for comment. The United Democratic Movement's Annelize van Wyk told Sapa: "No matter what, the bill is flawed." The original bill drafted by the home affairs ministry, and the version with ANC amendments, were both problematical. "We are going to pass a bad piece of legislation, a Draconian law," Van Wyk warned. In his reaction, Mannetjies Grobler of the DA described the process as "a big joke". "The IFP and the ANC might be trying to iron out their differences, but the bill is still there. They haven't yet moved one inch further." Both Houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the bill by the end of the month. This will allow President Thabo Mbeki to sign the measure into law by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after it found parts of the current Aliens Control Act unconstitutional. The bill, among other things, aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa. Although the IFP and the ANC appear to have agreed on the need for immigration courts, other points of contention remain. These include the issue of which department should oversee the monitoring of South Africa's borders, and the powers given to home affairs to introduce regulations that were not subject to parliamentary oversight.
Commentary on Immigration Act: Excessive vigilance is counterproductive (Business Day, 13/05) - Anyone who has been following the Immigration Bill saga over the last few weeks is likely to be terribly confused right now. For a start, the African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament replaced maverick home affairs committee chairman Aubrey Mokoena ostensibly because he had been heedlessly delaying the passage of the bill and was irritating Inkatha Freedom party (IFP) leader and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi into the bargain. Now the new chairman, Mpho Scott, has brought ANC amendments that threaten to have the bill withdrawn altogether. With a constitutional court deadline of June 2 looming with the court having found critical sections of the Aliens Control Act to be unconstitutional this would be a disaster. If deadline is not met, huge chunks of the current immigration law will be of no force and effect and SA will be without key immigration control instruments. The areas in which the ANC have problems with Buthelezi's bill are those which grant power to the home affairs department. For instance, there is the conflict over who actually controls the borders of the country. In committee debates, the ANC has insisted that control of the borders, as opposed to officially designated points of entry, are a defence responsibility. Home affairs says that, constitutionally, defence does not have powers of arrest so control of borders should be vested in home affairs. Then there is the whole issue of immigration courts. The original bill contained provisions for the creation of these specialist courts in a way which gave the impression that they would be somehow independent of the judicial system as it stands. In spite of an agreement between Justice Minister Penuell Maduna and Buthelezi that these courts will be ordinary magistrates courts, the ANC in Parliament is apparently implacably opposed to this. The other hot area of contest is the issue of permits that would allow foreigners to work in SA. One of the key aims of the bill is to ease burdens on the recruitment of skills from overseas. The ANC want all exceptional skills permits to be lumped together with ordinary work permits. There is apparently a fear of giving the IFP too much control over Eurocentric migrations to the country above and before those from African countries. The enmity and bitterness between Buthelezi and his IFP and the ANC goes back a long way. For some 15 years following the terminal break in relations in London in the late 1970s, Buthelezi was almost as big a target as apartheid president PW Botha. While now they might call him Shenge and declare the old wounds healed, it seems clear that they do not want a department of state run by an opposition minister to gain more authority and independence. It seems to be that in spite of having "ring-fenced" Buthelezi with an ANC director-general, an ANC deputy minister and an ANC-dominated parliamentary committee, home affairs is equated to IFP. There is nothing wrong with watching your political opponents very closely. Indeed those politicians who do not are foolish. But if it gets in the way of making good law for the country, as is beginning to happen now, then this vigilance has become counterproductive.
Bilateral agreements to control migration of health professionals mooted (Johannesburg, Sapa, 12/05) - Minister of Health Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministers of Health in Geneva on Sunday the recruitment of health workers from developing countries must be controlled by bilateral agreements between such countries and developed nations. "We acknowledge the difficulty of balancing the interests and rights of individual professionals with broader social obligations to the millions of people in need of health care. However we are convinced that such an important component of our health system cannot be solely regulated by the push and pull factors of imperfect markets," she said. The high number of health professionals exiting developing countries also created unforeseen shortages which was problematic for government, the health ministry said in a statement from Geneva. "We are convinced that bilateral agreements will bring some level of stability and predictability to the movement of our personnel. This movement can then also be better accommodated in our human resource development and training strategies," the statement said. The Commonwealth health ministers are holding a preparatory meeting ahead of the 55th World Health Assembly in Geneva this week. The migration of health personnel is one of the items on the assembly's agenda. The Commonwealth has created a Code of Practice for International Recruitment of Health Workers and Tshabalala-Msimang is calling for it to be made binding on all Commonwealth member states.
Editorial: Open our doors to skilled Africans (Sunday Times, 12/05) - When President Thabo Mbeki gave the State of the Nation address in February 2001, he singled out several actions which would turn South Africa into a globally competitive economy. Among the actions the government would take, Mbeki said, would be to cheapen the cost of doing business, plough money into roads and telecommunications infrastructure, encourage investment in research and development and enhance the skills levels of South Africans. Then there was another aspect to Mbeki's "Action Plan for Growth", which came as music to the ears of the business community. He promised to expedite legislation aimed at easing immigration laws to make it easier for companies to recruit skilled foreigners. "Immigration laws and procedures will be reviewed urgently to enable us to attract skills into our country," he said. Well, it is now almost a year-and-a-half later. Some of the promises that the President made in that speech have been effected and there has been movement on some of the others. On the immigration front, however, there has been absolutely no change. This is despite the fact that the economy needs to fill nearly 500 000 vacancies for which companies are battling to find suitable candidates. This is despite the fact that such people exist just beyond our borders. While European and North American countries dangle their sexy currencies in front of skilled South Africans, we are spurning skilled people who want to come to our country. Most of these skilled people are not, as conventional wisdom would suggest, in Western countries. Many are to be found in countries to the north of us. Those among them who have found their way into our economy have proved to be exceptionally talented, hard-working and, most importantly, committed to this continent. Working in South Africa is for them not a mere excursion to an interesting destination but a lifelong relocation to a country on their continent where they feel they can use their skills. But we have left the process of enabling them to get here in the hands of eccentrics. For three years Home Affairs committee chairman Aubrey Mokoena has held up the passage of the Bill with his filibustering . The childish spat between Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his director-general, Billy Masethla, has further frustrated the process. And the antics and mere presence of Buthelezi's adviser Mario Ambrosini has alienated the ANC to the extent that middle ground has been nigh impossible to find. Where to from now then? After the end-game that was played out this week, there is hope that progress will at last be made. Buthelezi and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna have reached some compromise on key clauses on which they were fighting turf battles. And the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party are meeting this weekend to find common ground. This is where their leadership will be tested. The compromise they emerge with must be one that fulfils Mbeki's 2001 promise. It must also be one that recognises that we are part of a continent endowed with enormous skills which we are losing to other parts of the world. We can play a role in reversing Africa's brain drain.
Immigration policy goes backwards (Sunday Times, 12/05) - The final wrangle between the ANC and the IFP over the Immigration Bill - taking place this weekend - could result in a policy just as restrictive and bureaucratic as already exists. As a result, skilled immigrants will continue to find it difficult to enter South Africa - despite the crippling skills shortage. The ANC and the IFP are meeting this weekend for final talks on the Bill, after the ANC introduced surprise changes to it on Thursday, the day the Bill was due to be voted upon and finalised by Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs. Among the changes the ANC introduced are provisions that will make the process of obtaining a work permit lengthier and more cumbersome. In the Bill introduced into Parliament by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, two years ago, it was proposed that the process of obtaining work permits be simplified in the following respects: Work permits may be issued to an employer who has obtained certification from a chartered accountant stating that the conditions of work and remuneration will not be inferior to those of local citizens or residents in the same jobs; and that An employer hiring a foreigner pay a fee, set as a percentage of the employee's income, which is set aside in a training fund used to train locals. The Bill also says that quotas may be set for the issuing of work permits for particular categories of people. But the ANC believes that this will not provide South Africans with adequate protection from foreigners who could steal their jobs. It has proposed additional procedures including: An employer must first prove that it has taken proper steps to recruit a local; There must be consultation with the Department of Labour and with professional organisations about the availability of suitably qualified locals; The prospective employer must have shown a willingness to train locals for similar positions; and The issuing of a work permit to a foreigner must not disadvantage a local from being employed in a similar position. These provisions are similar to those that exist now, which have been heavily criticised for impeding the entry of skilled immigrants. ANC MP Mpho Scott, the chairman of the committee that is processing the Bill, said he would not discuss the details of his party's proposals in the media. However, he said, the objective of the changes, in particular those concerning work permits, was to balance the importation of skills and the protection of local professionals. "It's a question of how to balance the two," said Scott. Parliament has the right to change legislation presented to it by the Cabinet and to take decisions based on majority support. Scott emphasised that the ANC was simply following normal parliamentary procedure in making amendments based on the mandate provided by the party. Ironically, the ANC's conservative retreat on immigration policy comes in a week where Parliament was told by the Director- General of Trade and Industry, Alistair Ruiters, that the biggest obstacle to economic growth was the absence of skilled people. "Unless we address the question of skills we are not going to address unemployment. The problem is not that people are unemployed, it is that they are unemployable. "We have been told by economists that we have vacancy levels in high skill areas of up to 500 000," said Ruiters. Although medium- to long-term measures are in place to raise skills levels, in the short term there is little alternative but to aggressively import skills, say economists. The Bill is to be finalised and debated in Parliament this week after more than two years of filibustering by the ANC, which has seen the Bill continually stalled. But now, Parliament is under pressure to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling that says that the Bill must be made into law by June 2. The reasons for the lengthy delay have often been unclear and confusing and put down to petty squabbles and turf battles between the two parties. However, the differences now appear to have crystallised into discernible differences in policy - over the extent to which Home Affairs should be allowed the autonomy to enforce immigration law. In addition to the dispute over permits (which includes several other technical issues), there is also fundamental disagreement over how immigration laws should be enforced. The Bill, as proposed by Buthelezi, says that border control should be exercised by Department of Home Affairs officials. The ANC argues against this view and says that border control should be exercised by the defence force.
Buthelezi 'at end of tether' over Bill (Mail & Guardian, 12/05) - South Africa's new immigration law remains steeped in controversy after sweeping last-minute amendments were brought by the African National Congress in Parliament - prompting the cancellation of Thursday's scheduled vote on the Bill. The Department of Home Affairs, which drafted the original Bill under Inkatha Freedom Party Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was caught unawares by the cancellation. Buthelezi hinted on Thursday that the ANC's 11th-hour intervention might force him to withdraw his Bill, and could have fallout for the IFP's role in the government. Sources said he was "at the end of his tether". "If the [ANC's] proposals depart radically from the Bill as I presented it to Cabinet, I might be forced to make a decision," Buthelezi said. "I am aware I am the leader of a minority party [in the government]." The ANC parliamentary caucus on Thursday gave its full backing to a radical rewrite of the Bill. It is understood there will now be horse-trading behind closed doors. The revamping of the legislation - drafted by home affairs and approved by Cabinet in mid-2000 after several delays - is being driven by ANC MPs deeply uncomfortable about certain provisions. In the making for almost five years, it has been subject to repeated filibustering and intervention by the ruling party. The Bill aims to ease the recruitment of foreign skilled workers, replace antiquated immigration controls and streamline the running of home affairs. Importantly, it seeks to remove the wide discretion of senior home affairs officials. ANC MPs are known to be deeply unhappy about the Bill's proposal of immigration courts. They also want the defence force, rather than home affairs, to oversee border control and are uncomfortable with the planned restructuring of the department to give regional offices considerable independence. The ANC's sweeping rewrite surfaced after last-minute discussions on Wednesday aimed at smoothing out disagreements that have emerged in committee debates and public hearings over the past three weeks. Among the key changes it proposes are the removal of immigration courts from Buthelezi's Bill; the deletion of the exceptional skills permit and treaty permit under which, for example, Cuban doctors were admitted to South Africa; and the reinstitution of bureaucratic discretion in some cases. Various business-related permits have been reclassified. A business permit now covers pursuing charitable activities, research, the establishment of businesses, cross-border trade and the self-employed. And the work permit proposed in the ANC amendments requires employers to show appropriate measures were taken to hire locally, while demonstrating a "willingness and plans to train a citizen or resident to occupy similar position in the future". In addition, provisions to promote a human rights-based immigration control have been deleted. There also appears to be no provision for diplomatic permits. One proposal that withstood serious amendment is the immigration advisory board, designed to replace the selection committees of home affairs officials who currently make immigration decisions. ANC home affairs committee head Mpho Scott said the amendments were "minor". But a Democratic Alliance MP said the ANC document was a surprise. "It seems games are being played at the expense of the country." The exclusion of immigration courts has raised eyebrows, as an agree- ment appeared to have been reached between Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Penuell Maduna and Buthelezi on Wednesday. The home affairs committee has been under pressure to meet two Constitutional Court deadlines to remedy unconstitutional sections of the Aliens Control Act. The Bill must go before the National Assembly for debate next Friday. Observers say it could be mere months before the new law is challenged in court on grounds of unfair procedure and administrative discretion. Several provisions, including a maximum 30 days' detention prior to deportation without the right to court appearance, could also be challenged on constitutional grounds. The ANC amendments do not address trade union concerns about corporate permits, which allow a company, under home affairs licence, to issue its own work permits. The Congress of South African Trade Unions advocated a quota system, to be negotiated at the National Economic Development and Labour Council. Vincent Williams of the Southern African Migration Project said the Bill has shifted the administrative burden of issuing permits to foreigners to other departments with doubtful capacity. Home affairs had effectively abrogated its authority and blurred the lines of responsibility. He said the Bill created the potential for witch-hunts by encouraging citizens to inform on illegal foreigners.
Report on foreign-owned sweatshop (Sunday Times, 12/05) - A sweatshop owner who has been underpaying his workers for years has been ordered to fork out more than R500 000 in back pay. Cheng-Huang Tang, 47, owner of a Newcastle factory known as Pranton SA, which was last year exposed by the Sunday Times for locking up its workers, has been instructed by the Department of Labour to pay 87 workers R501 287. Three other factories that also disregarded the minimum wage for workers have been ordered to pay employees a total of R32 273. Most of the underpaid workers at Pranton are expected to collect between R3 000 and R9 000. Although Pranton SA is still registered as a textile business with Tang as its sole director, a labour hire consultancy which took over recruitment of Pranton's workers last month said the company was now known as Python. Pranton - one of three companies raided by labour inspectors and officials of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union after complaints that workers were being locked in overnight - had been paying most of its workers between R80 and R140 a week, although the minimum wage in the knitting industry is between R181.46 and R279.77. Tang, who has been living in Newcastle for more than 10 years, did not wish to comment. Last month, Sactwu declared a dispute with Pranton after it retrenched its workers and then re-employed them as independent contractors, leaving them without benefits like leave, sick leave or overtime. The matter is to be heard in the Labour Court. Two months ago, a Sunday Times investigation found Pranton had been supplying children's and women's jerseys to major clothing retailers like Edgars, Mr Price, Jet and Ackermans. The president of Newcastle's Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Michael Chang, said it was unfair to ask Pranton to pay a wage backlog of more than R500 000. "Workers have never complained about their wages. They were working very nicely. Why is the union asking for back pay?" Chang said the factory owners had not been involved in the wage-determination process and had asked the bargaining council for the clothing and textile industry to grant them an exemption from the latest minimum wage of R280. "We are asking for the minimum wage to be reduced to R181. If we pay R280, most factories won't survive. "Tang is not a rich man. He spends his free time working hard. The South African Chinese are very poor people, not like the American Chinese." Louis Jordaan, a consultant from Bosch Labour Hire, said Pranton had asked the company to look at the Labour Department's order for back pay. "They will have to pay them if they can verify all the information on the back pay order." Jordaan said when Pranton retrenched its workers in April and asked his company to supply independent contractors, Bosch Labour gave Pranton's employees the first opportunity to tender for the work. "There's no minimum wage. They are not employees anymore. Their wage will depend on how many hours they work and the amount they produce. Some earn between R150 and R300." Jordaan said "it's quite possible" some of the workers were earning less than before. He also said Pranton had run into trouble because the price of yarn had increased by 100% since 1999 and the company had been producing for the local market only. Jay Anand, the Department of Labour's assistant manager for communications, said before the four compliance orders were issued, efforts were made to secure written undertakings from the employers but these had failed. He said the four employers had 21 days to comply with the order or lodge objections.
Future of Immigration Bill in balance (Business Day, 10/05) - The future of the urgently required Immigration Bill hangs in the balance following the tabling of large-scale changes to Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi's legislation and the summary cancellation of yesterday's vote on the bill. The June 2 deadline for new immigration legislation is getting ever closer. The latest conflict over the bill, and the possibility that wholesale changes from the African National Congress (ANC) might force Buthelezi to withdraw it, have raised tension over meeting the deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court. The ANC's changes have been described as a total subversion that will irretrievably harm immigration control. Buthelezi told a news conference yesterday that he had not made any decision yet on withdrawing the bill, but if the ANC changes departed "radically" he "might have to take a political decision". He said he was anxious about developments, particularly as he had reached a compromise with Justice Minister Penuell Maduna on specialised immigration courts. He said he was keeping his options open. At almost exactly the same time as Buthelezi spoke to the media, news started circulating in the corridors that the home affairs committee meeting which was supposed to have voted on the bill, clause by clause, had been called off. Newly appointed ANC chief whip Nathi Nhleko said the ANC's caucus had been briefed on the progress being made with the bill. He said the ANC amendments had been explained and they were fully endorsed by the caucus. The meeting had been cancelled for further consultations. He would not say who the consultations were with. Home affairs officials said that they had not been approached for more meetings. Neither the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) nor the Democratic Alliance (DA) reported any approaches for further talks. Indications were that the ANC component was consulting with senior government members on how to proceed. Nhleko said there were other "political processes" that had to be completed and differences of opinion on the bill studied. He insisted the bill's passage had not reached crisis point and was confident the June 2 deadline would be met. The ANC chief whip in the National Council of Provinces, Enver Surtee, said the bill was still scheduled to be debated in the National Assembly on May 17. In response to a question about the ANC not trusting Buthelezi and his special adviser, Mario Ambrosini, he insisted that it was not about mistrust but rather "the making of good legislation". DA spokesman Mannetjies Grobler said the ANC was using cheap tricks. Bringing a drastically revised version of the bill to the table only 24 hours before scheduled voting was a "deliberate and calculated attempt" to humiliate Buthelezi. He said the DA supported the ministry's bill.
Immigration Bill talks for ANC, IFP (Sowetan, 10/05) - The African National Congress (ANC) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) will meet over the next few days in a bid to salvage the contentious Immigration Bill, which has experienced a rocky passage through Parliament and soured relations between the two parties. Home Affairs portfolio committee chairman Mr Mpho Scott said the delegations would meet to thrash out solutions to ensure that the Bill was "a product we can live with". A committee meeting to finalise the Bill yesterday was postponed at the last minute for additional consultation. It is now expected to meet on Tuesday. Eleventh-hour amendments by the ANC, which detractors say were a departure from the original, pilotted by IFP president and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, resulted in frantic attempts to salvage the process. Scott said he still believed te constitutional deadline for a new Immigration Bill would be met. The ANC was accused of "a total subversion" and of turning the Bill "inside out". Buthelezi said yesterday that he was keeping his options open. "I'm not coming to any decision about withdrawing the Bill. It depends on whether it is turned inside out and departs radically from the Bill as I presented it. "I might be forced to take a political decision. I am the leader of a minority party in government and I'm aware of that." He said that he has certain obligations to his own party. Pressed on whether withdrawing the Bill was a possibility, he replied: "I'd rather leave my options open. I don't know exactly what's going to happen." On his meeting with Justice Minister Penuell Madona in Cape Town on Wednesday, he said that there had been agreement about one of the Bill's contentious provisions, namely, special immigration courts. The ANC was originally opposed to these, claiming that they were unconstitutional. Buthelezi said that an agreement had been reached on a "short and sweet amendment." He said that magistrates' courts would be immigration courts, and in bigger centres, like Johannesburg and Cape Town, they would be specifically designated as immigration courts. Both Houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the Bill by June 2, the deadline set for a new immigration law, after the Constitutional Court held that the Aliens Control Act was unconstitutional. The measures, among other things, aim to attract skilled foreigners to South Africa.
Mbeki plays down visa row (Cape Town, Sapa, 10/05) - President Thabo Mbeki has played down the row over the United States' delay in issuing a visa to mining boss Tokyo Sexwale, saying it was probably just an administrative glitch. Sexwale, a former premier of Gauteng, went public on the matter on Wednesday, suggesting that the US government might still be listing the African National Congress as a terrorist organisation. This was after a visa delay kept him from attending Thursday's listing of Gold Fields on the New York Stock Exchange. Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has already raised the matter with the US government, has described it as "really unfortunate". Speaking to journalists at Tuynhuys on Friday morning, Mbeki said Sexwale has been affected by an "old regulation". "It did indeed affect us a long time ago. I remember that we had to get our visas specially cleared in Washington, but that was a long time ago. And the practice stopped: I'd even forgotten that such a thing used to happen. However, Dlamini-Zuma had started discussions with the US government on it, and he was quite sure it would be sorted out. "I just suspect that it's some administrative glitch or something that has remained in their books. In the atmosphere after September 11 maybe that kind of thing sort of popped up again," he said. "I wouldn't imagine that the US government would want to place restrictions on the entry of a Nelson Mandela into the United States, because that's what it means." Zuma said at Tuynhuys that the South African ambassador to Washington, Sheila Sisulu, had taken the matter up. Dlamini-Zuma said she had spoken to the US ambassador in South Africa Cameron Hume, and had tried to speak to her counterpart in the US. She had so only been able to contact the deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa. "They have to sort it out, the ball is in their court," she said. Sexwale, chief executive of Mvelaphanda Holdings and a director of Gold Fields, had sought the visa in order to host Mandela on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday afternoon. During the apartheid years, Sexwale served a prison term of 13 years for an attack on two policemen while smuggling arms for the ANC. The US embassy on Wednesday denied that the ANC appeared on any list of terrorist organisations. Spokeswoman Judy Moon said anyone convicted of a serious crime required a waiver from Washington in terms of US law. But it had been "administratively impossible" to issue Sexwale's visa in time, she said.
ANC, IFP accused of holding Parliament hostage over Immigration Bill (Cape Town, Sapa, 10/05) - United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa on Friday accused the African National Congress and Inkatha Freedom Party of holding Parliament hostage over the Immigration Bill. The continued delay in finalising the bill was unacceptable, he said in a statement. "The UDM rejects the fact that Parliament is being made the rubberstamp of the ANC and IFP who continue to bicker outside Parliament and thereby holding this institution hostage." Holomisa's remarks follows news that high-level ANC and IFP delegations are to meet over the next few days to try bring the parties closer together on the controversial and much-delayed bill. A meeting of the home affairs portfolio committee to finalise the bill on Thursday was postponed at the last minute because of the high-level consultations. This followed eleventh-hour ANC amendments which detractors say are a radical departure from the original piloted by IFP leader and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Buthelezi says he is keeping his options open and might even be forced to withdraw his bill. Holomisa said "the whole sorry mess" placed question marks over Cabinet's decision-making, as it was Cabinet that approved the bill and sent it to Parliament. "The latest interventions leaves one with the impression that the ANC and IFP are admitting the Cabinet were fools to pass the Bill in the first place. "Their belated recognition of their error gives them no right to undermine Parliament, and ignore input from parties other than the IFP and ANC." The bill was necessary to bring vital skills in to the country, but this was taking a backseat to petty politics, he said. Both Houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the bill by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after it found parts of the current Aliens Control Act unconstitutional. The measure aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa.
Thousands of South African citizens wrongfully detained at Lindela, says Attorney General (Parliament, Sapa, 10/05) - The wrongful detention of South African citizens at the Lindela repatriation centre in Gauteng between 1996 and 1999 by the department of home affairs cost taxpayers millions of rands, according to an Auditor-General report. A damning performance audit of the department - tabled in Parliament on Thursday - found that between August 1996 and September 1999, 21719 people held at the centre were released after being identified as South Africans. Lindela is situated between Krugersdorp and Randfontein on the West Rand. The centre was the focus, in December last year, of a hard-hitting SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report, which criticised the department for its "inertia" in dealing with corrupt practices and abuse of power. This, the SAHRC report said, was rife at the centre. The AG's report said if the South African citizens had been held for only one day, the department would have incurred accommodation costs of about R541889. However, some were detained for up to five days before being identified as citizens. The department argued that many illegal aliens detained at Lindela had obtained a South African identity document fraudulently, and an in depth investigation was often required to verify the authenticity of these documents. "This accounts for the five days before they are identified one way or the other," the AG's report quotes the department as saying. It also found that some illegal immigrants were detained for up to 157 days over that period, four months longer that the maximum 30 days stipulated in the Aliens Control Act. The government lost about R1-million in transport costs as a result of illegal immigrants escaping during deportation in 1999. Out of a total of 12438 people repatriated by train from the detention centre between April and September 1999, 4911 did not reach Lebombo on the Mozambique border. Airline companies owed the department R4,16-million as at November 1999 in penalties for conveying prohibited persons into South Africa. Some amounts owed by the airlines had been outstanding for up to three and a half years. The report also revealed that certain asylum seekers had stayed in South Africa for up to 11 months before applying for asylum. The time between the rejection of an application for asylum and the lodging and consideration of an appeal was not kept to a minimum, allowing some asylum seekers to remain in the country for more than three years. A total of 181286 illegal immigrants were deported in 1998, and 176351 the previous year. This was significantly lower than the Human Sciences Research Council estimate of between three and five million illegal aliens in the country in 1997, the report said.
Ties between South Africa, Angola Good, says official (Pretoria, Sapa, 10/05) - A senior Angolan official denied on Thursday that the relationship between his country and South Africa was strained. "Anything said about relations between Angola and South Africa being frigid, is mere speculation," said Dr Joaquim do Espirito Santo, director for Africa and the Middle East of the Ministry of External Relations. Instead the relations were good, he said at a news conference in Pretoria where the two sides had met since Monday to discuss various possibilities for cooperation. Santo was asked about the nature of the ties between the two countries, as former president Nelson Mandela's state visit to Angola had not yet been reciprocated by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. "Our belief is that President Dos Santos will visit South Africa one day when the conditions are right," he said. Asked which conditions would they might be, he said certain rules and procedures had to be observed in relations between states. "Clearly once our president receives an invitation from his counterpart, one can then undertake the necessary arrangements for a visit." Welile Nhlapo, deputy director-general of Foreign Affairs, led the South African delegation during the meeting. He pledged South Africa's assistance to Angola in efforts to achieve peace and national reconciliation, the two delegations said in a joint communique. Santo said his delegation had also updated the South Africans on the situation in Angola. On Saturday, in what was described as their boldest attack in months, Unita rebels overran the town of Caxito, 60km from the capital Luanda. About 79 people were reportedly killed. "This kind of sporadic and spectacular attack by Unita can occur anywhere in the country," Santo said. "From that we can conclude that any idea of negotiations for peace or a settlement was never part of (Unita leader) Dr (Jonas) Savimbi's vocabulary." Nhlapo said the attack was a very serious development which could not be ignored. Anything that undermined the prospect of peace in Angola was cause for great concern. Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her Angolan counterpart, Joao de Miranda, were expected to sign a declaration of intent on cooperation during his visit to South Africa later this year, the two delegations said. This week's meeting was intended to discuss the areas of cooperation and included crime-related matters affecting both countries, Nhlapo said. "Our understanding is that there are syndicates operating which had been creating a lot of problems in terms of violent criminal activities, particularly targeted at Angolan visitors visiting here." The Angolans also met representatives of the SA Police Service to explore how their respective law enforcement agencies could cooperate. They discussed a legal framework for cooperation regarding both apprehension and conviction, Nhlapo said. He said three South Africans were in jail in Angola on fraud and drug-related charges. During a meeting with the SA Chamber of Business, business opportunities in Angola were identified. "We are aware of the potential of Angola and the interest developing in South Africa," Nhlapo said. The South African delegation expressed interest in the oil industry of Angola. "...The Department of Minerals and Energy proposed closer cooperation in this field, taking into account that Angola's new deepwater oil fields hold promise of being some of the richest oil fields in and around the African continent," the two delegations said. "Also of interest to South African companies may be the transformation of the downstream sector of Angola's oil industry, particularly installation and maintenance of infrastructure and operation of service institutions." Besides bilateral relations, the two delegations discussed multilateral collaboration. "The declaration of intent foresees closer cooperation in international forums such as the Organisation for African Unity (and) the United Nations," they said.
State furious at US for visa checks on ANC (Johannesburg, Business Day, 10/05) - Government yesterday rejected "with the contempt it deserves" the US's apparent continued treatment with suspicion of members of the African National Congress (ANC), subjecting them to extraordinary scrutiny before granting them visas to visit the US. Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that although government was aware of the practice during apartheid, SA had been unaware that the US had continued to treat ANC members as suspected terrorists until a "prominent" South African such as Tokyo Sexwale fell victim. Dlamini-Zuma was talking to journalists after it emerged that Sexwale, a director of Gold Fields and Gauteng's former premier, could not get a visa to the US in time to be present at yesterday's listing by Gold Fields on the New York Stock Exchange. She said she had raised the matter "sharply" with the US. She said the US ambassador to SA, Cameron Hume, had already found the matter "regrettable". However, Dlamini-Zuma said, the SA government was still seeking both an explanation and an assurance that a similar situation would not occur again. Officials at the US embassy in Pretoria declined to comment yesterday. They said they were in touch with Washington to find out what had happened. The ANC said it was "unacceptable that ANC members who spent years in apartheid prisons for legitimate actions against an unjust system should be victimised in this manner". The party's chief spokesman, Smuts Ngonyama, said the ANC took exception at the "embarrassing anomaly". Ngonyama said it was significant to note that Mandela, whom Sexwale was due to join in the US yesterday, was himself convicted of a "serious crime" and spent several years on Robben Island. Sexwale spent 13 years on Robben Island. It was on Robben Island that former US President Bill Clinton, during a state visit to SA, paid tribute to freedom fighters such as Mandela and Sexwale, Ngonyama said. Perhaps even more ironic, he said, was the fact that the international community regarded apartheid as a crime against humanity, "yet those people who fought against it continue to be subject to official harassment by US authorities". The ANC called on the US to apologise to Sexwale and to provide a full explanation for why leaders and members of the ANC "continue to be singled out and treated with suspicion. We urge the US government to correct any policies or practices, whether official or de facto, which liken the just struggle for democracy in SA to acts of criminality or terrorism especially the waiver' of visas being used to vet ANC leadership." Furthermore, said Ngonyama, "this kind of treatment flies in the face of the good relations that exist between SA and the US, and the valuable co-operation in economic and other spheres that has taken place between the two countries in the period since 1994". The US is SA's biggest trading partner. Since 1994, annual trade between the two countries has increased from R14,8bn to more than R40bn. There are about 400 US companies in SA. Advocacy group Media Review Network called on the SA government to insist that the US make public its secret list of so-called terrorists. "The Sexwale incident makes it apparent that the US possesses a secret list apart from the official published list", the organisation said.
South Africa 'amazed' by US treatment of Sexwale (Pretoria, BuaNews, 09/05) - South Africa has expressed its unhappiness and shock at the shabby treatment dished out to local prominent businessman and African National Congress (ANC) heavyweight Tokyo Sexwale by the US authorities, when seeking a US visa, this week. Speaking to reporters in Cape Town and Pretoria, via a teleconference, foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the country regretted the incident and hoped the US government would resolve the issue. 'We find the situation incredible and quite amazing,' she lamented. 'We reject it with the contempt it deserves.' The incident happened when Mr Sexwale's attempt to acquire a visa was delayed by the US authorities, who told him the US embassy and consulate in Johannesburg were barred from issuing him with a visa. It is alleged the denial was a result of his being a member of the ANC, which is believed to be listed in the US as a terrorist organisation and his former status as a Robben Island prisoner. Mr Sexwale, a former Gauteng Premier and now director of the Gold Fields mining company, was due to host former President Nelson Mandela today, at the listing of the company on the New York Stock Exchange. The US has beefed up its security at that country's airports, following the September 11 terror attacks there, that saw passenger jets crash into US key buildings. The Minister says she has spoken to US and South African ambassadors both in the country and in the US and hopes they will 'look at it.'
South Africa berates US over visa delays for ANC members (Pretoria, Sapa, 09/05) - South Africa on Thursday berated the United States for delaying the issuing of visas to African National Congress members. "It is really unfortunate and we reject it with the contempt it deserves," Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told reporters in Cape Town. Describing the situation as incredible, she said the issue had been raised "quite sharply" with the US. Politician-turned-businessman Tokyo Sexwale went public on the matter on Wednesday, suggesting that the US government might still be listing the ANC as a terrorist organisation. This was after a visa delay kept him from attending Thursday's listing of Gold Fields on the New York Stock Exchange. Expressing his frustration, Sexwale said on Thursday: "I am still without a visa, sitting here in Johannesburg." He was to have hosted former president Nelson Mandela on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the afternoon. Sexwale, former Gauteng premier, is chief executive of Mvelaphanda Holdings and a director of Gold Fields. During the apartheid years, he served a prison term of 13 years for an attack on two policemen while smuggling arms for the ANC. US embassy spokeswoman Judy Moon reportedly denied on Wednesday that the ANC appeared on any list of terrorist organisations. She added: "Anyone who was convicted of a serious crime requires a waiver from Washington in terms of US law. But granting a waiver for members of the ANC who have legitimate reasons as to why they ended up in jail is usually a formality." It had been "administratively impossible" to issue Sexwale's visa in time, she said. Sapa could not reach Moon on Thursday. ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said ANC members had encountered delays in obtaining US visas since 1994. "We have been suffering in silence," he told Sapa. He said senior figures who had been treated this way included foreign affairs portfolio committee chairman Pallo Jordan. "It is unacceptable that ANC members who spent years in apartheid prisons for legitimate actions against an unjust system should be victimised in this manner." Sexwale said on Thursday: "It is really disappointing that we require a waiver for having fought apartheid, which the world had declared a crime against humanity." He said he was awaiting advice from his legal team. At a briefing on the inaugural summit of the African Union, Dlamini-Zuma said: "We have raised the matter quite sharply with our American colleagues, and we hope they will look at it and hopefully do something about it." It appeared that ANC members travelling to the US had for some time been granted waivers without being aware of this, Dlamini-Zuma said. The US expanded the screening of visitors after last year's September 11 terrorist attacks. An increase in the number of people being scrutinised apparently brought the visa delays that affected ANC members. Dlamini-Zuma said she raised the issue with the US Ambassador to South Africa Cameron Hume on Wednesday night. South Africa's envoy in Washington, Sheila Sisulu, would monitor progress in resolving the matter. Hume understood her concerns and described the situation as regrettable, the minister said. "They will try and work at it. But, obviously, it seems that it needs a lot of working." This would be a long process that would also involve the US Congress. Meanwhile, the US would seek to use the current exemption process in such a way that delays were avoided, Dlamini-Zuma said. The ANC said in a statement the treatment its members was getting from the US flew in the face of the good relations between the two countries. "The US government should apologise to Tokyo Sexwale," the ANC said.
US-South Africa relations still good, says Zuma (Parliament, Sapa, 09/05) - The scrapping of the US-SA Binational Commission does not indicate a souring of relations between Pretoria and the new Republican administration in Washington, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday. Replying to questions in the National Assembly, he said the form of the relationship with the new United States government was still to be discussed. "This does not downgrade relations...once a new administration (in the US) comes, it conducts things differently. "It has nothing to do with relations." He acknowledged that such commissions did add value to ties between countries, but was at pains to point out that they were not essential in fostering closer co-operation. "It does not mean that without the binational there is no value and no focus." Zuma dismissed a suggestion from Freedom Front leader Dr Pieter Mulder that the dissolution of the commission was linked to South Africa's close ties with Cuba and Libya's President Muammar Gaddafi. "Our relations with Cuba and Gaddafi had nothing to do with this...in fact our relations with the United States are very good," he said. The commission was set up during the Presidencies' of Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton in 1995 to strengthen ties between the two countries. It was chaired by then US Vice-President Al Gore and South Africa's Deputy President and was tasked to promote co-operation on a wide range of issues. The end of the binational commission was confirmed earlier on Wednesday by Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Cape Town. She told journalists that South Africa and the US had mutually agreed to discontinue the commission. A binational commission was not a life-long agreement and was not transferable from one administration to another. This was not only the case with the US government, but applied to any country that South Africa entered into that kind of agreement with. The relationship with the US would not change as a result of the decision. "What is important is the content of the relationship not its form because a binational commission is the form of that relationship not the content. "The content is not going to change," Dlamini-Zuma said.
Top level IFP-ANC meeting to salvage Immigration Bill (Cape Town, Sapa, 09/05) - The ANC and the IFP will meet at the highest level over the next few days in a bid to salvage the contentious Immigration Bill, which has arguably experienced the rockiest passage ever through South Africa's democratic Parliament. Home Affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott told Sapa the two delegations would meet over the next day or two to thrash out problems to ensure the bill was "a product we can live with". A committee meeting on Thursday to finalise the bill was postponed at the last minute because of the consultations. It is now expected to meet on Tuesday. Eleventh-hour amendments by the African National Congress, which detractors said was radical departure from the original piloted by Inkatha Freedom Party president and Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, resulted in frantic attempts to salvage the process. Scott said he still believed the constitutional deadline for a new immigration bill would be met. "I'm still optimistic," he told Sapa. The ANC was accused by its detractors on Wednesday of turning the bill "inside out" and of "a total subversion". On Thursday, Buthelezi told Sapa he was keeping his options open and might even be forced to withdraw his bill. "I'm not really coming to any decision about withdrawing, but it depends on whether it (the bill) departs completely, if it turns it inside out and departs radically from the bill as I presented it. "I might be forced to take a political decision. I am a leader of the minority party of the government, and I am always aware of the position." However, he also had certain obligations to his own party, Buthelezi said. Pressed on whether withdrawing the bill was in fact a possibility, he said: "I'd rather leave my options open. I don't know exactly what is going to happen." Buthelezi acknowledged he was "anxious and apprehensive". On his meeting with Justice Minister Penuell Maduna in Cape Town on Wednesday, he said there had been agreement about one of the bill's contentious provisions: special immigration courts. The ANC was originally opposed to these, saying they were unconstitutional. Buthelezi said an agreement had been reached on a "short and sweet amendment". Magistrates' courts would be immigration courts, and in the bigger centres such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, would be specifically designated as immigration courts. Democratic Alliance home affairs spokesman said there was a total crisis. "It's a game between the ANC and the IFP. Parliament is being used as a tool." Both Houses of Parliament are under pressure to pass the bill by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after it found parts of the current Aliens Control Act unconstitutional. The measure, among other things, aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa. ANC MPs earlier this week accused the home affairs department of ignoring their instructions regarding amendments to the bill. Other points of contention included the issue of which department should oversee the monitoring of South Africa's borders, and the powers given to home affairs to introduce regulations that were not subject to parliamentary oversight. The bill is expected to be debated in the National Assembly on May 17. Meanwhile, the ANC's new Chief Whip Nathi Nhleko denied that the relationship between the ANC and IFP was in crisis due to differences of opinion over the bill. "It is a natural thing, so I don't want to treat this as a crisis for the fact that you have differences between the ANC and the IFP." The delay in processing the bill would allow the different parties an additional opportunity to reach consensus. "I don't think we are experiencing a crisis as far as the relationship is concerned," he said. ANC National Council of Provinces Chief Whip Enver Surty said the differences over the bill revolved around administrative issues, such as which department was responsible for monitoring the country's borders. "It is really not a question of whether we trust Mr Buthelezi or not, it's a question of which is the appropriate system. "These are fundamental questions that shouldn't go to being interpreted in terms of personalities, but in terms of the substantive content of the bill," he said.
Buthelezi keeps his options open on new bill (Sapa, 09/05) - - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi says he is keeping his options open and may be forced to withdraw his immigration bill, should last-minute changes by the African National Congress depart radically from the original he tabled in Parliament. On Wednesday the ANC tabled changes to the draft measure which detractors said changed the bill "inside out and (were) a total subversion". Asked about his earlier threats to withdraw the bill, Buthelezi said: "I'm not really coming to any decision about withdrawing, but it depends on whether it (the bill) departs completely, if it turns it inside out and departs radically from the bill as I presented it." Buthelezi, who is the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, said: "I might be forced to take a political decision. I am a leader of the minority party of the government and I am always aware of the position. "However, he also had certain obligations to his own party. Pressed on whether withdrawing the bill was in fact a possibility, he said: "I'd rather leave my options open. I don't know exactly what is going to happen." Buthelezi acknowledged that he was "anxious and apprehensive". "I must confess that," he told reporters. On his meeting with Justice Minister Penuell Maduna in Cape Town on Tuesday, he said there had been agreement about the contentious provision for creating specialised immigration courts. The ANC is opposed to special immigration courts, saying it is unconstitutional. Buthelezi said an agreement had been reached on a "short and sweet amendment". Magistrates' courts would be immigration courts and in the bigger centres such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, they would be specifically designated as immigration courts. He said this would obviously entail special training for court staff.
Buthelezi and Maduna meet over Immigration Bill (Cape Town, Sapa, 08/05) - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi and his justice counterpart Penuell Maduna met in Cape Town on Wednesday over the contested Immigration Bill, on the same day the ANC proposed last-minute changes, regarded by some as a radical departure from the original measure. The National Assembly's home affairs committee will meet to vote on the bill on Thursday afternoon. However, the Department of Home Affairs described the proposed changes as turning the bill "inside out and a total subversion". "It substitutes a liberal forward-looking approach with a restrictive backward looking one." However, it appears unlikely that Buthelezi, who is piloting the bill, will withdraw it from Parliament. Denying claims that the amendments were a radical revision of the bill, Home Affairs committee chairman Mpho Scott (ANC) told Sapa: "There is no way you can amend that bill radically. The changes are minor changes and part of the normal process of Parliament. It is not a total departure." Scott said bilateral meetings with political parties were continuing. "We'll continue to talk until the (Thursday's) meeting to find each other. We'll also be in contact with the ministries, so that we will have something we can live with. "We'll definitely finalise the bill on Thursday." It is understood that a copy of the agreement reached between Buthelezi and Maduna at their meeting was faxed to Scott on Wednesday. The two ministers apparently agreed on the need for special immigration courts, originally opposed by ANC MPs as unconstitutional. However, the ANC's amended bill does not reflect this agreement, Sapa was told. Justice Ministry spokesman Paul Setsetse would not confirm details of the meeting, but merely said Maduna and Buthelezi had met to "look at the difficult issues raised by officials in government and the portfolio committee". "The two ministers are providing leadership in this regard. They will be engaging officials and everyone involved with a view to finding an amicable solution to the areas of concern." Buthelezi has previously threatened to withdraw the bill. Setsetse said all the issues raised would be consolidated and that a proper post-mortem would be done on each aspect of the bill. "We are confident an amicable solution can be found." He was unable to say how this would be done, with the home affairs committee set to vote on the bill on Thursday. Parliament is under pressure to pass a new immigration bill by June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law, after it found parts of the current Aliens Control Act unconstitutional. The measure, which, among other things, aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa, has also been the subject of tension between the ANC and Buthelezi. ANC MPs earlier this week accused the Home Affairs Department of ignoring their instructions regarding amendments to the bill. Other points of contention included the issue of which department should oversee the monitoring of South Africa's borders, and the powers given to home affairs to introduce regulations that were not subject to parliamentary oversight. The bill is expected to be debated in the National Assembly on May 17.
Long-awaited Immigration Bill nears completion (Irin, 07/05) - Refugees and economic migrants may not get the breaks they hoped for, as South Africa's controversial Immigration Bill nears completion. Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) warned that gains made in the existing Refugee Act could be reduced if the Refugee Appeals Board is abolished and replaced by the envisaged immigration courts proposed by in the draft Bill. The original draft wanted immigration courts to be separate from the rest of the justice system. But amid strong opposition this was amended so that magistrate's courts could be designated by the Minister of Justice to deal with immigration matters. "It took a long time for the appeal board to build the capacity and knowledge it needs to deal with people who have had their asylum rejected. It is a specialist court and it would take a long time to build up and replace this capacity within another court based on the magistrate's system," said van Garderen. "Political refugees are very vulnerable and need special protection," he said. "South Africa's treatment of undocumented immigrants has already led to complaints by human rights organisations." Xenophobia in South Africa was at its most extreme last year when foreign residents of an informal settlement in Zandspruit outside Johannesburg were attacked and their houses were burned down. Even people either married to or in relationships with foreigners were targeted. At the Lindela detention centre west of Johannesburg in March, one man died and several others were hospitalised when they were beaten up after escaping from the centre. The proposed Bill also does not recognise old and established migration patterns such as cross-border traders and economic migrants, he said. "It is extremely expensive and impossible for cross-border traders to get the right documents so they enter the country on tourist permits and end up being classified as illegal. The state is spending a lot of money tracking them down and returning them when it should be focusing on crime prevention strategies targeting cross-border crime syndicates. "These people become separated from their families and deported but before the train has even returned to Johannesburg they are back," Van Garderen said. "Instead of trying to control migration, they should manage it - make it possible for people to enter legally, record them and spend more resources on fighting cross border crime and less on tracking down innocent people." However, Van Garderen said the LHR was encouraged that Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi included minimum standards for the detention of undocumented immigrants. It hoped Buthelezi would follow through with the establishment of an independent monitor to ensure these are adhered to. LHR also wanted assurance that detained people were not denied rights they would be entitled to if they were refugees or asylum seekers. Vincent Williams of the Southern African Migration Project said the draft Bill stifles the movement of people in Southern Africa and doesn't reflect the values of the African Renaissance and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). "It creates the context that South Africa is about to be swamped by thousands of unwashed illiterate immigrants and everybody must be mobilised against them. It even says education programmes will be conducted in other countries to discourage people from coming here. Where is the African Renaissance in that?" "I am being extreme but I don't think it is a good piece of legislation. One of the aims of the legislation was to simplify the issue of permits, but they have now increased the number of permits and fragmented the application process." Williams said almost 80 percent of the procedures normally done at Home Affairs would be farmed out to other government departments, educational institutions and universities. Citing an example, he said a student work permit would have to be verified by the relevant university then sent back to Home Affairs for approval. The administration and logistics of this would cause delays, add to the workload and increase costs. It would also leave the institution with the responsibility of monitoring the applicant's movements and reporting suspected contraventions to the authorities. "I could decide I don't like the guy on the corner selling cigarettes and tell him if he doesn't give me R50 I'll report him to Home Affairs," he said. He also questioned a clause calling for a chartered accountant to certify funds of people applying for permits. "We hear that there is already a shortage of chartered accountants and if the applicant turns out to be bankrupt then the Department can blame the accountant - that's not right." "It also makes it difficult for investors if they have to be screened by a chartered accountant - instead of simplifying procedures, it complicates them." He echoed Van Garderen's concerns on refugees saying that many people were being stopped and searched if they looked slightly different. "Even South Africans are victims of that. It is very clear this Bill will leave Home Affairs with the responsibility of enforcing immigration laws by entering any premises and seizing any documents and arresting people." He also questioned why certain exemptions given to farmers and mines weren't extended to other sectors for foreign contractors. The issue of permits for foreign investors recently saw Buthelezi and his director general Billy Masetlha at loggerheads when Masetlha declared the chairman of a large mining group a prohibited person saying his work permit was not in order. Businesses used this as an example of how immigration rules were restricting foreign investment and discouraging investors from travelling to South Africa. Home Affairs deputy director general Ivan Lambinon said the draft Bill was in its final stages with certain clauses being amended. The much delayed new legislation, which has caused much division in parliament, must be enacted by 2 June.
Mbeki appoints new Deputy Minister to Home Affairs (Cape Town, Sapa, 06/05) - Husband and wife team, Charles Nqakula and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, have been promoted by President Thabo Mbeki. Nqakula, the deputy minister of home affairs, succeeds the late Steve Tshwete as safety and security minister. Mapisa-Nqakula, who in January was appointed the ANC Chief Whip, becomes the new home affairs deputy minister. In a statement, the presidency said Mbeki had expressed confidence that the pair would discharge their responsibilities "most effectively" in accordance with the country's Constitution. Nqakula and Mapisa-Nqakula would be sworn in at Tuynhuys on Tuesday at 1.30pm. Nqakula, a former journalist, is also the national chairman of the South African Communist Party and was formerly Mbeki's parliamentary counsellor. Mapisa-Nqakula recently announced sweeping changes in the ANC in Parliament, and news of her promotion less than six months after succeeding Tony Yengeni as Chief Whip was met with surprise among parliamentary officials. She was also the master of ceremonies at Tshwete's funeral on Saturday. Tshwete died unexpectedly on April 26 and was buried at his home village of Peelton in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.
Immigration courts vital to Buthelezi's bill (The Star, 06/05) - Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi is considering withdrawing the crucial immigration bill currently before parliament if the ANC makes significant amendments to the draft legislation. Sources close to Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, say the minister will withdraw the bill if the ANC pushes ahead with threats to remove controversial clauses from the long-overdue bill. The ANC and IFP have been at loggerheads over several clauses in the bill - drafted by Buthelezi's special adviser, Mario Ambrosini - specifically the establishment of immigration courts, which the ANC has taken strong exception to. The two sides again locked horns over the courts during a meeting of the home affairs committee on Monday, with senior ANC MP Patrick Chauke saying his party had made it clear during debates last week that it wanted the entire clause removed from the bill. "Our position is very clear: we do not want this clause here," said Chauke. IFP MP Peter Smith, a constitutional expert who was temporarily deployed to the committee by his party specifically to deal with the bill, said the immigration courts were crucial to the implementation of the new immigration system envisaged by the bill. "If we don't have something like this (immigration courts), we can tear this bill up and throw it away because you're not going to have any system that works," said Smith. He emphasised that the ANC's fears - that Buthelezi and his department were trying to establish courts which are independent of the judicial system - were unfounded because the minister of justice would be responsible for setting up the immigration courts. If the ANC were to insist on removing the clause which provided for the establishment of the immigration courts, said Smith, then the committee could "kiss the bill goodbye". The portfolio committee heard several spirited objections to the bill - from the chairperson of Parliament's justice committee, Johnny de Lange, among others - during the public hearings. Lawmakers are rushing the bill through Parliament to meet a June 6 Constitutional Court deadline to repeal unconstitutional sections of the apartheid-era Aliens Control Act, which is meant to be replaced by the new immigration bill.
MPs remain divided ahead of Immigration Bill vote (Parliament, Sapa, 06/05) - ANC and opposition members of Parliament's home affairs committee look set for a showdown on Thursday on various aspects of the Immigration Bill, including the sticky issue of immigration courts. The committee completed its deliberations on Monday and is now set to vote on the controversial and much-delayed draft legislation later this week. Newly-elected chairman Mpho Scott said the committee had been given an extension of a May 7 deadline to process the bill. The measure, which, among other things, aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa, has also been the subject of tension between the African National Congress and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who as home affairs minister, is piloting the bill through Parliament. ANC MPs on the committee on Monday accused the department of home affairs of ignoring their instructions regarding amendments to the bill. Former chairman Aubrey Mokoena (ANC) said his party had called for the deletion of a clause dealing with immigration courts. "Our position is very clear; we do not want this clause here." Mokoena - who, while chairman of the committee, was seen by the opposition as an obstacle to the timeous processing of the bill - said he did not understand the "radicalism" of some of the provisions in the bill. The department of home affairs had been warned by the department of justice, the judiciary and the chairman of Parliament's justice committee against the constitutionality of the clauses establishing immigration courts, he said. However, Peter Smith of the Inkatha Freedom Party said the amendments proposed by the department took into account those concerns. It had also never been the original intention for the Minister of Home Affairs to set up separate courts, as argued by ANC members. According to the amended version, magistrate courts could be designated by the minister of justice to deal with immigration issues. Smith said it was imperative that the provision be included in the bill. "If we don't have something like this you can tear it (the bill) up and throw it away ... if you don't have something of this nature you can kiss the bill goodbye," he said. The Democratic Alliance and the New National Party agreed, with the DA's Mannetjies Grobler saying the fact that the courts were "designated" and not "established" removed any constitutional concerns. Other points of contention included the issue of which department should oversee the monitoring of South Africa's borders, and the powers given to the home affairs to introduce regulations that were not subject to parliamentary oversight. The bill is expected to be debated in the National Assembly on May 17, ahead of a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline for a new immigration law or an amended Aliens Control Act.
Mozambique pipeline will give South Africa altenative to coal (Johannesburg, Business Day, 06/05) - The construction of the R14bn Sasol pipeline that will transport natural gas from Mozambique to SA will provide the petrochemical company with an alternative to coal as a source product for its range of synthetic fuels. A ceremony on Friday celebrating the start of construction for the 850km pipeline from the Temane gas field in the Inhambane Province in Mozambique to Secunda in Mpumalanga was attended by President Thabo Mbeki and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano. Sasol Petroleum International GM Peter Stuart-Thompson said that with the pipeline gas would for the first time be able to compete with coal in SA. Stuart-Thompson said as older coal mines became more expensive to operate gas was being seen more as a viable alternative. Most of the cost in producing gas went into the initial construction of compression plant which pushes gas to its destination and the pipeline, making operating cost lower over the long-term when compared with a coal mine. Stuart-Thompson said gas was also seen as a better option due to it being more environmentally friendly than a coal mining operation. "While an open-cast coal mine could be damaging to the environment, all gas production involves is the drilling of a hole to the gas field and then having it transported via pipeline," he said. Sasol did not give a specific figure on how much revenue it expected to generate from the project, but its CE Pieter Cox said he expected the pipeline to deliver positive returns over its lifetime. The pipeline, which is expected to be completed in 2004, will increase Mozambique's gross domestic product by more than 20% and create close to 1000 jobs. The pipeline will be owned in a joint venture between Sasol and the governments of SA and Mozambique. The parties have made provision for the future inclusion of black economic empowerment shareholders as well as privatisation initiatives. Mbeki, who was on the final day a state visit to Mozambique, said that the project showed the "private sector and government can work together". He said "this relationship had given birth to a better life for the people of Mozambique and SA". Chissano was more than happy with SA's involvement with the project. He said "the Russians came and left (Mozambique)", "the Americans came and left", but SA is a part of this country so they cannot leave". Chissano said his country's gas reserves should not be seen as resources that were being sold to SA, but as a power resource for Mozambique. "This can already be seen on some nearby islands and towns, were gas was already a source of power," he said. Chissano said that not only would the supply of gas protect the local forest, as people would no longer use firewood as a source of energy, but the project would go some way to "creating jobs and fighting poverty". Mozambique has an unemployment rate of 21%, and 70% of its population is living in poverty. In praising Sasol, Chissano said he knew it was "not an easy task" to start the pipeline. He said "it takes courage, and Sasol has shown courage". Sasol's share price closed up 3,19% to R116,40 with 953626 shares traded on Friday.
Sowetan journalist to appear in court (Johannesburg, Sapa, 05/05) - A journalist for The Sowetan newspaper is scheduled to appear in court on Monday on illegal immigration charges, the Department of Home Affairs said on Sunday. Khethiwe Mabena is accused of contravening the Aliens Control Act by allegedly acquiring fraudulent South African residence documents, said Leslie Mashokwe of Home Affairs. Mabena was arrested on April 2 but was later released on R5000 bail and issued with a temporary permit for prohibited persons, allowing her to stay in the country for her trial.
Mbeki, Chissano launch gas project in Mozambique (Cape Town, Sapa, 03/05) - major gas project, involving oil company Sasol and the South African and Mozambican governments, was launched by Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Joaquim Chissano on Friday. The ceremony, at the Temane gas field in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique, was attended by a number of senior Mozambican and South African government officials and diplomatic dignitaries, Sasol said in a statement. The project will bring natural gas to South Africa during the first half of 2004, and is expected to bring significant benefits to both countries. It will increase Mozambique's GDP by more than 20 percent, the company said. The project consists of a major gas field development in Mozambique, a pipeline of about 865km to Secunda in South Africa, the conversion of Sasol's current gas pipeline network, and the supply of natural gas to industries in South Africa, including Sasol's factories. The pipeline will be owned by a joint venture between Sasol and the governments of South Africa and Mozambique. - Mbeki was on the second day of a scheduled three-day visit to Mozambique. He cut it short to return to South Africa on Friday to attend the funeral of former Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete in Bisho on Saturday.
Mbeki completes successful visit to Maputo (Pretoria, BuaNews, 03/05) - President Thabo Mbeki is expected back in the country later this afternoon after a successful two-day visit to Mozambique. Presidential spokesperson David Hlabane told BuaNews that after being granted freedom of the Maputo city yesterday by Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the two leaders held a bilateral meeting with their respective ministers. President Mbeki then toured the heroes' memorial site in Maputo before giving a lecture on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) at the Higher Institute of International Affairs. Later Mr Mbeki addressed the Mozambican National Assembly and emphasised that the two countries faced the challenge of ensuring the attainment of development and prosperity and other sister countries in the continent. 'With regard to our bilateral relations, our joint efforts to attract investment to Mozambique has seen South Africa becoming the largest foreign investor in this country, with R25-billion invested by the South African businesses and parastatals,' he said. He said through the leadership of President Joaquim Chissano and his government, South Africa had managed to attract mega projects such as the Mozal Smelter and Sasol as well as about 220 large, medium and small enterprises. 'The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the industrial Development Corporation (IDC) have made the largest investments on the continent here in Mozambique,' Mr Mbeki said. He explained that South Africa's leading black businessmen and women had engaged their counterparts in Mozambique through The Black Economic Empowerment Circle. He said countries should revive and develop economies that 'brings them into the age of information and communication technology and build strong and valuable indigenous businessmen and women.' Mr Mbeki said through the Maputo Corridor, the two countries had learned lessons that would help the common task of development and implementation of the Bilateral Agreement on Road Transport for Goods and passengers. On energy development, the President said the two countries would continue their engagements on the best possible options for the full utilisation of Cahora Bassa and ensure that agreement was reached that benefited mainly the people of Mozambique.
ANC likely to reject clauses in draft bill (Cape Town, Business Day, 03/05) - The African National Congress's (ANC's) home affairs committee in Parliament is poised to reject key clauses of the Immigration Bill when voting begins on Monday. The passage of the bill has been bedevilled for years by political conflict between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The minister responsible for the bill is IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, while the bill was drafted by the minister's special adviser, Mario Ambrosini. The committee has been instructed by National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala to complete its work by May 8. It is also facing a constitutional court deadline of early June. Outgoing chairman of the committee Aubrey Mokoena refused this week to accept explanations that the clauses providing for the creation of special immigration courts were constitutional, and insisted that Buthelezi should meet Justice Minister Penuell Maduna. If he did not, the committee would decide the matter. Ambrosini had told the committee that Buthelezi had not been approached by Maduna, and so the cabinet approval of the immigration courts remained the department's point of departure. He said Buthelezi remained willing and able to meet Maduna, but had not been approached. There is confusion about who will chair Monday's meeting of the committee, which will decide on the clauses. Mokoena was removed from the position of chairman of the committee last Thursday, with the ANC's Mpho Scott succeeding him. Scott, whose appointment was effective from yesterday, has not attended any of this week's meetings of the committee. Late on Tuesday Mokoena indicated that he would take the chair when the committee met on Monday. Attempts to reach Mokoena yesterday proved fruitless. IFP MP Peter Smith tried to save the clause by suggesting that someone should be instructed to facilitate a meeting of the two ministers. He said the clause on immigration courts was too important for the committee to risk getting it wrong. Democratic Alliance spokesman Mannetjies Grobler told the committee that his party had taken legal advice on the courts provisions, and found that they did conform with the constitution. During public hearings on the bill, ANC justice committee chairman Johnny de Lange said they were unconstitutional. Grobler suggested that instead of "establishing" the courts the bill should "designate" them, clarifying that they were part of the court structure and were separate courts. The ANC did not accept his suggestions. United Democratic Movement MP Annelise van Wyk said the committee could not be held hostage by a meeting of ministers. Ambrosini and home affairs officials had from Tuesday night until Monday morning to redraft problematic clauses in the bill. The committee will vote on each clause when it meets on Monday.
Cracking the ANC whip (Mail & Guardian, 03/05) - African National Congress chief whip Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula this week helped prepare the funeral of long-standing friend and mentor, Minister of Safety and Security Steve Tshwete. Her close relationship with the party heavyweight underscores her own standing in the ANC. Trusted because of her perceived political acumen, she is secure enough to take tough action even if ructions may follow. Her strong loyalty to President Thabo Mbeki she was described by one trade unionist as "an Mbeki praise-singer" must also have been a factor in her rise through party ranks. In May last year she and other senior women MPs and politicians pledged loyalty to Mbeki and support for his second term as ANC president. This followed the famous letter by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to Deputy President Jacob Zuma suggesting a link between the political prominence of certain ANC women and the president's sex life. As the leader of the parliamentary observer mission to Zimbabwe during the recent election there, she did not cover herself in glory. Days after Commonwealth observers condemned the violence-marred election, the ANC component of the team insisted it was legitimate prompting opposition jibes that they were acting under instructions from above. Mapisa-Nqakula (47) a qualified teacher, Umkhonto weSizwe guerrilla trained in the Soviet Union and Angola and an MP since 1994 is the fourth ANC chief whip and first woman to hold the job.There are two sides to her. Most know her as warm and moderate in her manner, but ANC insiders describe her as tough, ambitious and, on occasions, unpleasant. She is said to have lobbied long and hard for the chief whip's job and once threatened a Mail & Guardian reporter who asked her an unwanted question: "We are watching you!"In 1984 she decided to follow into exile her now husband Charles Nqakula, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and current South African Communist Party chairperson.She has been tipped to take over the safety and security portfolio, but many believe she will be left to complete unfinished business in Parliament, where the ANC's reputation has been tarnished by controversy over the watchdog committee on public accounts and protracted delays over the Immigration Bill in the home affairs committee. Facing low morale among ANC MPs, haphazard organisation within the party's parliamentary offices and allegations that ANC MPs are rubber stamps of the executive, Mapisa-Nqakula has overseen key changes since taking office in January. Last week the ANC's parliamentary committee chairs were reshuffled with the clear purpose of removing dead wood and drafting in talent and energy. Out went the autocratic and obstructive head of the home affairs committee, Aubrey Mokoena, and into the foreign affairs committee came Pallo Jordan, a leading intellectual left on the margins since he was dropped from the Cabinet.It is understood Mapisa-Nqakula proposed the changes and fought for their adoption in the ANC's national working committee. But the "chief whip cracked the whip", as one MP put it, much earlier. Staff were shaken out of their tendency to leave their offices on the stroke of 4.30pm. Once Mapisa-Nqakula stood outside a locked office door, bearing a notice "Back in five minutes", for more than an hour. It turned out the staff member had not come to work that day and that the notice had been posted the previous evening.Since 1994 she has been a member of the ANC's national executive committee. Rising to the position of secretary general of the ANC Women's League, she resigned from the organisation in 1995 with 10 other high-ranking members who clashed with the league's president, Madikizela-Mandela, over her leadership style.An ordinary MP until 1996, her first step up the parliamentary ladder was her appointment as chairperson of the parliamentary intelligence committee. A sign of her rising prominence in the ANC but also, for many, a major blot on her record was the internal commission she headed into the organisational disarray of the party in Mpumalanga in 1999. Charged with investigating the "autocratic and divisive leadership" of then premier Mathews Phosa, the commission made the wholly incredible finding that a group of political journalists had conspired with Phosa to advance his ambitions. Ahead of the 1999 national election, Phosa was removed as premier candidate. ANC parliamentarians describe Mapisa-Nqakula as easy to work with and supportive. While in Zimbabwe, she left on two occasions to take care of problems back in Parliament and to brief government ministers. "Politically she is clear, absolutely 100% clear, and very politically astute," says an ANC MP, adding that her no-nonsense, dynamic manner is "a breath of fresh air". But she also commands respect among opposition MPs. Says Pan-Africanist Congress MP and chief whip Patricia de Lille: "I have respect for her. She is very tactical in her approach; she is extremely balanced." Democratic Alliance chief whip Douglas Gibson remembers when he was stranded outside Cape Town International airport with a broken ankle. "She stopped her car and asked: 'My dear, can I give you a lift home?' She didn't have to do that."
Buthelezi denies 'special force' reports (Cape Town, Sapa, 02/05) - The Immigration Bill was not an attempt to create a home affairs "special force" under his control, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi said on Thursday. He was criticising some media reports about the bill, saying they were a "misrepresentation" that needed clearing up. "(They) create the impression that I am endeavouring to create some kind of `special force' under my control," he said in a statement. "This misrepresentation requires clarification." The home affairs portfolio committee, which last met on Tuesday this week to discuss the draft legislation, decided the controversial measure would be voted on Monday. The bill has been provisionally scheduled for debate in the National Assembly on May 17. It has to be adopted by both Houses of Parliament and promulgated by President Thabo Mbeki before June 2, the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for a new immigration law. Buthelezi said one of the underlying issues the bill tried to address was which of the many agencies involved in border control and functions at points of entry should be "the leading agency". "About 14 organs of state currently carry responsibilities in respect of border control." However, the bill did not ascribe sole responsibility to his department. "The bill endeavours to bring the badly needed integration into the process of border control. "The degree of integration is not decided in the bill... this integration can only be brought about through the total agreement of the other organs of state involved. "If there is no agreement, the situation stays as it is," Buthelezi said. It should therefore be clear that I am not attempting to establish any "special force", but am simply trying to bring some order into the current fragmented system of border control, Buthelezi said.
Voting on Immigration Bill set for Monday (Parliament, Sapa, 30/04) - The National Assembly's home affairs committee on Tuesday decided the much-delayed and controversial draft Immigration Bill will be voted on next Monday. There is some concern about the bill's constitutionality, including among senior ANC members, and Justice Minister Penuell Maduna is expected to meet Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi this week to discuss the issue. Buthelezi's special adviser, Dr Mario Ambrosini, told the committee on Tuesday it was agreed last week that a meeting would take place only if Maduna felt it was necessary to change the Cabinet's position on the bill. Both had agreed to the bill at a Cabinet meeting last year. Buthelezi was available to meet Maduna at any time, but as he (Buthelezi) had not been approached, he assumed Maduna had no problems with the bill, Ambrosini said. The measure, which aims to help attract skilled foreigners to South Africa, proposes setting up separate courts to adjudicate immigration issues. But the department of justice reportedly believes this contradicts the long-term goal of establishing a single judiciary and amalgamating legislation governing court matters. Parliament's justice portfolio committee chairman Johnny de Lange, addressing the home affairs committee last week alongside justice officials, argued the move was unconstitutional, and suggested the courts be integrated into existing structures. According to Parliament's rules committee the bill must be processed by May 7, ahead of a June 2 Constitutional Court deadline for a new immigration law or an amended Aliens Control Act. On Tuesday, outgoing home affairs committee chairman Aubrey Mokoena told members "the executive had done its job" in passing the bill through Cabinet, and the committee now had to carry on with passing the bill itself. MPs had the authority to vote on the bill, including the questionable sections, which should now be dealt with like any other clauses. "But, we must apply our minds properly," he said. It was agreed the state law advisors would effect the amendments to the bill proposed in the committee, and clause by clause voting would take place on Monday, and on Tuesday, if necessary.
Mbeki leaves for Maputo talks (Pretoria, BuaNews, 02/05) - President Thabo Mbeki will lead a top government delegation to Mozambique for two-day talks with President Joaquim Chissano, later this afternoon, The discussions will focus on the continent's recovery plan, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), and the new African Union and other issues of mutual and regional interest. President Mbeki is expected to attend a memorial service for the late safety and security minister Steve Tshwete at the Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria West, before flying out to the neighbouring Portuguese-speaking country. Accompanying Mr Mbeki in cementing relations between the two nations, will be foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and other senior officials. South Africa and Mozambique have since 1994, enjoyed close bilateral relations, underpinned by major macro-economic projects such as the multibillion Rand Maputo development corridor, the greater Limpopo Transfrontier peace park and the N4 toll road between Witbank and Maputo. The two have since signed more than 20 agreements, under the Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation (JPCC), covering various spheres such as fisheries, the Maputo harbour, natural gas, trade and agricultural development. Last year, South Africa surpassed Portugal as the major investor in the Mozambican economy and enjoys a massive trade balance in its favour. The country's exports to Mozambique amounted to R5 389 956, whilst imports amounted to R283 874. Mozambique is also currently South Africa's major trading partner in Africa. Mozambique is recovering from the prolonged civil conflict and the destructive floods that ravaged it two years ago and destroyed most of the country's infrastructure as well as its economy. 'Since 1994, the South Africa government, supported by the private sector, has identified various areas of possible bilateral co-operation which could promote regional economic integration processes, whilst simultaneously assisting Mozambique with its reconstruction and development programme,' said the foreign affairs department. 'Mozambique, given its strategic geo-political location in relation to South Africa, realised the mutual benefits which could accrue from close co-operation with South Africa in the field of the implementation of macro-economic projects,' the department stressed. At least more than 250 South African companies are currently operating in Mozambique, representing a diverse spectrum of small, medium and large business concerns.
Mechanics of the drug market (Johannesburg, Business Day, 02/05) - Research on drug use in SA shows that while the market remains highly segmented along racial lines, crossover effects may be starting to occur. "This is bad news, because it creates new markets for drug merchants and increases competition between distribution chains, which can lead to violence," the researchers say. The study, by the Institute for Security Studies, says a good example of crossover is the sale of ecstasy by Nigerians. The report finds that after 13 members of a syndicate of "white bouncer mafia", consisting of former policemen, prominent businessmen and well-known athletes, were arrested in Durban in 1998, the Nigerians gained a foothold. The study says the Nigerians had been supplying ecstasy to their white female associates for some time, and were able to offer the drug in Durban at a substantial discount to the price charged in clubs. "Soon, clubbers had the cellphone number of Nigerian suppliers, and procured their drugs before entering clubs." The report is a wide-ranging study of the drugs being distributed in the country. The writers make some wry observations about dagga: "Attacking the dagga supply is like spitting in the ocean. "The expense and effort that would be required to prevent cannabis from being grown in SA is prohibitive." It says crop eradication perpetuates poverty, robbing a household of a source of income and failing to have a significant effect on the problem. The report says while exports may, at first glance, appear to be somebody else's problem, the funds raised by overseas sales are used to purchase hard drugs for import into the country. "By targeting exporters we will be hitting the real criminals, people making masses of money by poisoning the country," the researchers say. The research also analyses how Nigerian syndicates work. It says trying to take out the top man in a Nigerian syndicate is an exercise in futility. "A Nigerian syndicate is an organic network where vacuums are easily filled." It says the fact that Nigerian nationals and residential hotels are found at the core of the crack epidemic means that there are a number of ways of tackling the problem. "The Nigerian dealers are easy to identify, and most are here illegally," the reports says. "The hotels, which provide the essential link between the dealers and the sex workers, are mostly in rates arrears and in stark violation of health and building codes." The study suggests that the buildings could be converted into social housing, selling units to locals in exchange for their housing grants. It has found that before the 1994 elections, cocaine and crack were not commonly available in SA. The first arrest for crack cocaine, it says, occurred in 1995, "a full decade after crack peaked in the US". The study says this is not because international cocaine barons were observing sanctions, nor because the borders were impenetrable. "Both the state and the opposition smuggled on a large scale throughout the later apartheid era," the study says. "It was due to a lack of a community of pushers in SA people with the international connections to procure the drug and the experience to know how to best market it." Of white men arrested for offences, 31% were arrested for substance offences. Only Indian men are higher at 39%. The study says coloured females have the highest rate of substance-related arrests at 35%, and white females are second at 21%. The report says black people are least likely to use drugs. Whites are most likely to use cocaine, and coloureds and Indians are more likely to use Mandrax tablets. The editor of the study, Ted Legget, describes the report as "an intriguing glance into the world of the drug-motivated criminal. This is not one world, but many worlds: sex workers trading their attention for rocks, Cape gangsters warring over a prime retail street corner, wife beaters gearing up on booze or other drugs, white kids from the suburbs peddling stolen cellphones for a fix in the inner city."
South African murdered in Mozambique (Pretoria, Sapa, 01/05) - A South African man was murdered during a robbery in a shabby part of Maputo, Mozambique, on Tuesday. Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa on Wednesday confirmed the murder of William Efeen Berk, and said the South African consulate in the city was affording his next-of-kin full consular services. Mamoepa could neither confirm Berk's age nor the circumstances of his death. A report in Mozambique's Noticias newspaper said Berk was killed in the crime-ridden suburb of Mashava while on his way from a bank in the company of a Portuguese colleague. It said the man was also robbed of his money and car. The colleague, Armando De Almeida, was seriously wounded. Police told Noticias the car was afterwards recovered and they are continuing their search for the killers. Berk was employed by Astrof-equipamentos, a local heavy machinery equipment company.
Suspected 419 masterminds in court (Mail & Guardian, 01/05) - Two Nigerian men believed to be the masterminds behind the 419 fraud scam appeared in the Johannesburg Regional Court on Monday. Frances Ibe and Jude Nugoogu of Hillbrow were believed to have been involved in defrauding a British national of at least R1,5-million. The men were arrested on Saturday at a Roodepoort hotel during a police sting involving both South African policemen and detectives from Scotland Yard. Further investigations led the police to a rented house in Rivonia where they confiscated over 200 envelopes addressed to different businessmen and women in different parts of the world. Six South African and Nigerian passports, as well as three international telephone directories were also confiscated during the raid. The British detectives arrived in South Africa on Friday after confiscating scam letters in London that had originated in Johannesburg. Police said the two suspects could be linked to many of the other 419-scams in which many people had lost vast sums of money. The case was postponed to June 4, when the men's legal representative would be available to arrange a date for bail.
This page last updated 04 July 2002.