Finally, a home affairs minister who cares about immigration policy
Aaron Motsoaledi seems on track to effect changes that will help SA attract skills and much-needed investment
A new year brings many fresh opportunities. One may find, upon closer inspection, that these opportunities have an underlying theme — change. Change to an eating plan or lifestyle to have the desirable body, or a change in attitude to develop a healthier mindset.
This change has, not for the first time, carried over to our country’s immigration policy. We are expecting changes to the critical skills work visa list in March, in addition to changes to immigration and citizenship laws.
On December 3 we were invited to an immigration round table hosted by the Progressive Business Forum, at which home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi was the guest speaker. This round table was also attended by senior officials of home affairs, and prevalent in these discussions were the aforementioned changes in immigration policy as well as issues plaguing the department, chief among them the delays besetting applications and the poor quality of decision-making.
Home affairs officials stationed in SA and at missions across the globe are notorious for enforcing internal policies rather than the laws of the country, leading to unnecessary wrongful and unlawful refusal of a growing number of applications, often resulting in dire consequence for applicants. Many of these applications are filed by foreigners who are recognised by the preamble of the Immigration Act as people whose applications should be encouraged and facilitated. These foreigners range from those with attractive net worths intended to be invested in the country, to those whose skills and experience would lead to a boost in job creation, employment and increasing the skills of the SA labour force.
With recent reports indicating an ever-weakening SA economy, one cannot help but be baffled when applications of this calibre are refused for reasons that not only contradict the prevailing law and its ethos, but are detrimental to the country itself. These refusals indicate that the government, through the actions of home affairs, is not only being deliberate in its choice to not tap into a resource that could revitalise and nourish the country’s bid to become a global superpower in its own right, but is actively closing the borders to foreigners keen to bring investment, skills and business capability into the country.
It was, therefore, a pleasure to note that, during our discussions at the round table, the minister committed not only to an immigration policy beneficial to the country and his duties as the new home affairs minister, but to the people he serves in this role. This was indicated by his receptiveness to our suggestions on improving the quality of adjudication within home affairs, which called for, among other things, the proper application of the laws to visa and permanent residence applications. These improvements would, without a shadow of a doubt, bolster our country’s economy.
The minister’s commitment to service delivery is a soothing balm to an ache that has troubled South Africans who have noticed that the taxpayer base is being depleted as citizens with the skills needed to build the economy leave the country in alarming numbers, an exodus many will contend was induced by maladministration on the part of the government.
Motsoaledi has shown an increased (perhaps unprecedented) level of engagement with applications brought to his direct attention. It was evident that the minister has invested time, care and thought in reading and reviewing the representations before him, responding to each important aspect. Having met him, we are confident these outcomes come directly from the minister and not one of his delegates applying his automated signature.
This level of humanness was absent from our prior engagements with the ministry, and Motsoaledi’s compassion and care are a breath of fresh air to weary lungs.
The hope is that the anticipated changes to the country’s immigration policy will result in a critical skills list in the next few months that is more inclusive of the skills the country so desperately needs, attracting foreigners who will contribute to establishing a robust SA economy that can lead to a decrease in the unemployment rate and an increase in the number of skilled South Africans.
With Motsoaledi at the helm, we are optimistic, albeit cautiously, that the anticipated changes in our country’s immigration and citizenship laws will result in a progressive immigration policy that benefits SA, its people and the economy.
• De Saude-Darbandi is proprietor of De Saude Attorneys, which specialises in immigration and nationality law.