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Home Affairs vows to crackdown on back-door granting of visas, permits

Source: News 24, 12/02/2021

The Department of Home Affairs says it will leave no stone unturned in uncovering `dubious` visas and permits, such as permanent residence and special citizenships, which were granted irregularly.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had resolved to review some of those permits that were issued over the years, especially permanent residence visas, the department said. It added the decision was informed by a trend emerging from the outcome of numerous investigations it had undertaken over the past two years, especially those involving prominent people.
The announcement came after Motsoaledi`s interview with SAfm`s Bongi Gwala in which he said Enlightened Christian Gathering leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, were in South Africa illegally. He added the couple had entered South Africa for the first time on 6 September 2009 at the Beitbridge border post and were issued with visitors` visas. `We don`t stop people from visiting our country. Visitors` visas have a time frame - you can stay for 90 days or 30 days … because you`re a visitor,` Motsoaledi said at the time. However, while Bushiri was in South Africa in 2014, 2015 and 2016, he registered companies with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, emerged.
Motsoaledi said this was not allowed in terms of the conditions of the visitor`s visa. He said in 2012, Mary had entered the country through the OR Tambo International Airport, where she produced an alleged fraudulent permanent resident`s permit, which was issued on 1 February 1997. `Now, if you came to South Africa for the first time on 6 September 2009, how can you already have a permanent residency dating 1997?` However, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria suspended the department`s permanent residence notice against Bushiri and his wife until they pleaded in their criminal trial, City Press reported. The couple has since fled South Africa.
On Wednesday, the department said: `In the coming days, the minister will unpack the full details of his intervention which he decided on late last year. `The department will leave no stone unturned in uncovering dubious visas and permits, such as permanent residence and special citizenships, which were granted irregularly.`
Meanwhile, Motsoaledi welcomed acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka`s report on the implementation of the Citizenship Act. `As such, the minister has instructed the director-general of the department to start preparing the action plan which should be submitted to the Public Protector indicating the timelines of implementing the recommendations of the Public Protector,` the department said. `Likewise, the minister will submit his own action plan as directed by the Public Protector.` On Monday, the Public Protector`s office ordered the director-general of home affairs to take action against officials involved in the naturalisation of Ajay Gupta and his family for their failure to exercise due diligence by verifying the accuracy of the information contained in the motivation for early naturalisation. Gcaleka had investigated an alleged violation of the Executives Members` Ethics Code and SA Citizenship Act by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.News24 previously reported that in 2018, it emerged Gigaba had approved the early naturalisation of Ajay Gupta`s family despite him refusing to let go of his Indian citizenship. Gigaba had on a number of occasions publicly stated Atul Gupta was not a South African citizen. He then corrected himself and said Atul was a citizen, and it was Ajay Gupta who had not been naturalised. Gcaleka`s reported stated Gigaba had exercised his discretion and did not abuse his power in the process. She, however, found him in breach of the Executive Members` Ethics Code with regards to him failing to table the names in Parliament of persons who were granted South African citizenship under exceptional circumstances.
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