Tuesday, May 05, 2009

South Africa Scraps Visas for Zimbabweans

SA scraps visas

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWEANS travelling to South Africa are no longer required to have visas, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has said.

According to media reports from South Africa, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said Zimbabweans no longer need to apply and pay for visas before travelling to South Africa.

Instead, they can apply for a free 90-day visitor’s permit at the border.

She said Zimbabwean citizens could also apply to do casual work while in South Africa.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula made the announcement in the presence of her two Zimbabwean counterparts, Co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, according to the media reports.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya-Moyo, welcomed the development.

"The South African government has scrapped visa requirements on Zimbabweans intending to travel to the country.

"We are very grateful for this kind gesture, and we hope that our people will now be able to visit their relatives in South Africa and we will obviously not want to disturb the agreement," he said.

South African officials believe many of the 8 000 or so Zimbabweans who apply daily for asylum status would now opt for the visitor’s permit.

A senior immigration officer in Harare yesterday confirmed that the ministers and Principal Chief Immigration Officer Mr Clemence Masango travelled to South Africa over the weekend to conclude the agreement.

"They travelled to South Africa, but I am not quite sure about the results. They are supposed to return tonight (last night)," he said.

In February last year, South Africa relaxed some of the stringent visa requirements for Zimbabweans intending to travel to that country following talks between the two governments.

According to the authorities, the invitation letters or evidence of the host’s address in South Africa were no longer a requirement when applying for a permit.

The security deposit was required only in respect of persons with a history of "overstaying" in South Africa or whose bona fides were questionable.

Applicants for a visitor’s visa were now required to submit a valid passport, one passport-size photograph and proof of funds in the form of traveller’s cheques, credit cards or foreign bank statements that showed balance of at least R2 000.

The scrapping of these stringent visa requirements was the culmination of talks between Zimbabwe and South Africa under the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security that began in November 2007.

The relaxing of the visa requirement was the first step towards the eventual removal of the visa.

South Africa had recently announced that it would soon scrap the visa and grant Zimbabweans permits to work in that country.

Repeal sanctions Act, Biti urges US

Herald Reporter

FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti has called for the immediate repeal of the draconian United States sanctions law, the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, saying it is barring the country from accessing lines of credit and is affecting Government’s economic turnaround programmes.

In an interview with pirate broadcaster SW Radio about his recent trip to Washington for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings, Minister Biti said Zimbabwe cannot progress with the Act in place.

Minister Biti said he met American lawmakers who contributed to the crafting of ZDERA and made it clear that it would be difficult for Zimbabwe to move forward with the sanctions law in place.

"I actually met Senator (Russ) Feingold, whom you know was one of the authors of these Bills. I also met Congressman (Donald) Payne, who was also involved in ZDERA.’’

He said he had also had audience with other US politicians "who mothered and gave paternity to this ZDERA — and I made it clear that it would be very difficult for us to move when ZDERA is there".

Minister Biti’s admission that ZDERA affected lines of credit marked the first tacit admission by a senior MDC-T official that the Western-imposed sanctions are economic, and not restricted to individuals.

Over the years, the party had claimed the sanctions, which were imposed as a knee-jerk reaction to the land reform programme, were targeted at senior Government officials.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, during his maiden speech in Parliament, was not explicit as he referred to the sanctions as "restrictive measures".

Minister Biti said the World Bank had the capacity to help Government but could not do so because of the sanctions law.

"The World Bank has right now billions and billions of dollars that we have to access, but we can’t access those dollars unless we have dealt with and normalised our relations with IMF.

‘‘We cannot normalise our relations with IMF because of the voting power, it’s a blocking voting power of America and people who represent America on that board cannot vote differently because of ZDERA," he said.

ZDERA states in Section 4 (c):

‘‘The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against: (1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or

‘‘(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution."

Minister Biti, however, described the meetings as fruitful, saying the officials understood that the sanctions law had to go.

ZDERA effectively stops American companies and related organisations from investing in Zimbabwe while the IMF and World Bank cannot extend lines of credit to the country on account of the US’ blocking vote.

By dint of this, Zimbabwe cannot even get development assistance.

US President Barack Obama recently extended the sanctions for another year, a move that was roundly condemned by progressives the world over.

Some, however, said Obama’s hands were tied as the sanctions law can only be lifted after going through Congress, which is a process not an event.

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