SA doing nothing to lift UK visa requirement


South Africa is not currently doing anything to have visa requirements for South Africans visiting the United Kingdom lifted, the Minister of Home Affairs says.

Asked by Congress of the People MP Nic Koornhof (Cope) what she was doing to have the restriction, imposed in March last year, lifted, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma responded: “No. I have not asked for the visa requirements to be lifted. There were objective, and subjective reasons that led to the visa requirements. For this reason, it will serve no useful purpose to request for the lifting of the requirement, at this stage.”

About 420 000 South Africans visited the UK every year before visas were imposed and most could enter visa-free under most circumstances. The Associated Press reported last February that Britain saw the SA Department of Home Affairs` (DHA) leaky passport issuing system as a major threat to security, especially from violent Islamic extremists.

Then Home Affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula told the National Assembly at the time the British government had informed Pretoria that it took the decision “based on its concern regarding the ease with which non-South Africans can acquire genuine South African travel documents from the proper issuing authority and use them to travel to the UK”.

She said London assured her the “decision to introduce visas is open to ongoing review. The South African government has accepted this decision and respects the prerogative of the UK government to take such a sovereign decision. We have undertaken to continue current engagements aimed at resolving some of the concerns that have been advanced by them in this regard,” Mapisa Nqakula said.

Britain warned SA in July 2008 it would impose visa requirements on the country`s citizens if the DHA did not address London`s concerns. SA was among 11 countries warned that they needed to demonstrate improvements in matters such as passport integrity, efficient deportation of their nationals from the UK and levels of illegal working in Britain.

The AP said British security and intelligence officials had warned of an increasing risk from Islamic extremists using South Africa as a transit point and planning plots there. They have said future attacks on Britain could be directed from countries other than Pakistan — where dozens of Britons with family ties have travelled for terrorist training or have been linked to recent terror plots.

Prosecutors in the London trial of several men accused of plotting to blow up at least seven trans-Atlantic commercial flights said last year that a suspect had flown into Britain from South Africa to lead the final stages of the plan. Mohammed Gulzar travelled to Britain from South Africa via Mauritius in July 2006. Gulzar was acquitted on all charges over the plot, but law enforcement officials said the case highlighted the potential for terror suspects to use South Africa as a transit point.