Abuse of permits by the sex industry has forced immigration officials to clamp down on those seeking to do short-term modelling work in Cape Town, says a Home Affairs official.

November 28 2011 at 01:15pm

The National Association of Model Agencies head, Jacques Holtzhausen, said the industry was being negatively affected by the clampdown.

Scores of international models and clients descended on the city each year between October and March. When they arrive in the country, immigration officials are supposed to endorse their S11.2 permits, allowing them to work.

But six weeks ago, international models started complaining that immigration officials had refused to endorse their permits, said Holtzhausen.

He added there were not enough local models to meet demand. And without enough models, international clients took their business elsewhere.

Fiona Craig, co-owner of Fusion Models, explained that without the permit, models could not get a tax reference number, meaning they were unable to work.

Gavin Levy, acting chairman of the SA Association of Stills Producers, said the clampdown would affect the Western Cape economy.

The industry had spent more than R600 million in the 2009/2010 summer season. It had created 49 000 jobs in 800 productions.

Money was spent on equipment, car hire, accommodation and location fees.

"A core component of the international photographic industry is the presence of a large talent pool, supplemented by international models," said Levy.

He said damage could be done to Cape Town's reputation as a "world-class production centre".

But Jack Monedi, acting chief director for permits at Home Affairs, said abuse of the S11.2 permits by the sex and entertainment industry had warranted a clampdown.

"There hasn't been a change in rules, but immigration has been told to be more strict because we have to look at the interest of South Africa," he said.

"We are under siege. We've had many people come in with those permits, then they don't go back. They go into the underground industry, which includes prostitution," said Monedi.

Craig, however, hit back. "We are not the sex industry. We're the fashion industry," she said.

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