So much smoke, but is there a fire?

Within a few days from each other, we have seen President Ramaphosa and Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba make public statements in which they announced a series of changes and new measures intended to encourage investment and tourism into South Africa. The general direction these announcements go into is welcomed, and we have in the past seen how such high-level policy directives trickle down to the administrative level and positively influence Home Affairs management and adjudicators in the exercise of their legitimate discretion. But much of what was said was fairly vague, so don’t get your hopes up too much for substantive changes any time soon.

Will the President’s Jobs Summit and International Investment Conference (both taking place in October) prove to be yet more talk shops with no tangible outcomes, as critics suggest? Admittedly, his ambitious R 1,2 trillion investment drive initiated some months ago has already seen the first results (including investment commitments from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China to the amount of R 35 billion), so perhaps he will be able to deliver on the dire jobs situation as well? And as important as the land debate is for South Africa and its people, and although Ramaphosa has been trying hard to convey that land redistribution would be done in a lawful and orderly way, foreign investors desperately need clarity on the way forward. This continues to be a fine balance to hold, and we wish him success in that.

The trend of senior politicians of all major parties openly making xenophobic (or rather Afro-phobic) statements and using (illegal) immigration for their own election agendas, is of major concern and surely harmful to the investment drive. Facts and data are often omitted or skewed, and vulnerable foreigners in this country are being used as scapegoats for our social ills. Ten years ago, we saw how dangerous and deadly this kind of rhetoric can quickly become. A repeat of such horrors must be avoided at all cost.

Minister Gigaba’s announcement of 25 September was packed with information, and we have listed the most important pieces here together with our prognosis of (limited) real impact. Take special note of upcoming changes to the critical skills list!

Lastly, good news for asylum seekers and refugees! Home Affairs’ directive from 2016 has largely been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court, which means that asylum seekers and refugees can now apply for temporary residence visas (after having obtained an exemption) and permanent residence permits from within the country!

Wishing you a generative start to the summer, and if you are in the Cape, enjoy the lush green landscape and the sense of rejuvenation. If you’d rather be watching whales, flowers or wildlife than pulling your hair out over visas and permits – we are here to make that happen.