Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS
Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS

Changes to the visa rules governing children, scarce skills and turnaround times are part of the “complete overhaul” of the visa system that government envisages to support the tourism sector.

This was announced on Thursday by communications minister Nomvula Mokonyane during a post-cabinet media briefing. She said these were among a number of “inhibiting factors” that had been identified around the visa regime.

Tourism, which accounts for about a tenth of the economy and employs about 1.6-million people, is seen as providing a major impetus for growth and job creation and is likely to be one of the key focus areas of the economic stimulus package President Cyril Ramaphosa has said would be forthcoming.

The package is under construction by the government.

Mokonyane said the stimulus package would be presented “in a short period of time”.

She said the government was busy costing the measures to be implemented for this.

The minister said the visa regime was in the immediate control of the government and was being tackled by an interministerial committee.

The visa regime had to be a lot clearer in order to be an enabler for investment while not compromising the security of the country and vulnerable groups. She said stumbling blocks, such as the admission of people with scarce skills, had to be removed.

Previous measures to lift visa requirements for Russian and Brazilian tourists have resulted in a dramatic rise in travellers from those countries, while new requirements on Indian and Chinese visitors have had the opposite effect.

Moves to ease visa restrictions were already signalled in May by tourism minister Derek Hanekom, who said he was working with home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba on this.

Gigaba eased the contentious need for unabridged birth certificates in July, but only for travellers from foreign countries that list the names of parents in minors’ passports.

The department of home affairs has indicated that it aims to introduce e-visas this financial year and is devising systems to recognise international visas issued for Schengen countries and the US as sufficient for tourist entry into SA as well.

Gigaba also said earlier this year that the introduction of an e-visa functionality would allow visitors to SA to apply for visas online and receive an electronic visa within hours or days.

The overhaul of the visa regime with the finalisation of key mining legislation to support the mining sector and stabilisation of state-owned enterprises were among the measures that had to be taken to tackle the slowdown in economic growth, Mokonyane said.

The government had to accelerate efforts to unblock constraints to economic growth that had discouraged investment and employment creation.

“The upcoming job and investment summits, as well as the proposed government stimulus package, will provide details on reforms needed to drive growth,” Mokonyane said.