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Last Friday, home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi at last signed a waiver to allow foreign children to visit or leave SA, without having to show birth certificates or consent letters, while his department amends the legislation to remove the requirements altogether. The move was significant in the week of President Cyril Ramaphosa's investment conference, Motsoaledi said, and it would help tourism as the festive season approached. It might have been less remarkable if Ramaphosa hadn't said some time ago that the visa reforms were under way, with home affairs claiming months ago that it would no longer require the extended birth certificates. The result was tourists being turned away at the airport as recently as two weeks ago when they weren't carrying birth certificates for their children.

The birth-certificate debacle has cost SA plenty in lost foreign tourism. Its resolution, however belated, is a welcome sign. But it is emblematic of how excruciatingly slow and contested...

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