No exceptions to visa laws, even for Mandela actor Elba: Gigaba

25 November 2015 - 15:03 By Thulani Gqirana
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Actor Idris Elba. File photo.
Actor Idris Elba. File photo.
Image: Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

If President Jacob Zuma has to respect the country's visa regulations, then surely a superstar, no matter how famous, has to respect them too.

So believes Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who was addressing the media in Parliament on the implementation of cabinet concessions to the immigration regulations on Wednesday.

This comes after award-winning British actor Idris Elba reportedly cancelled a trip to South Africa at the last minute after his daughter, Isan, failed to meet the new immigration requirements passed into law earlier this year.

Elba played the role of Nelson Mandela in the award-winning film based on the icon's life, Long Walk to Freedom.

Sovereign laws

Gigaba said that as Elba was a British national, he did not have to apply for a visa and therefore only found out when he was told by an airline that he could not travel with his daughter without the proper birth certificate and permission from the mother.

"The principle is [that] no matter how important or famous you are, South Africa has sovereign laws which apply to all," Gigaba said.

He said Zuma recently had to give permission for his children to travel overseas, and had respected the regulations.

Gigaba said the concessions by Cabinet to ease the implementation of the amended legislation and regulations would take time. The concessions would come into effect after January 2016, he said.

"If we proceed carelessly without that legal instrument, we will be undermining our own legislation and placing ourselves in a constitutionally compromising situation for which we will be legally liable."

He said the status quo would remain until the necessary actions had been taken, including the capacity at the main ports of entry to capture biometric data.

The department would meet with the tourism sector to discuss these timelines, Gigaba said.

Framework of what’s permissible by law

On Tuesday, the Democratic Alliance condemned the failure by Home Affairs to implement the revised visa regulations immediately.

DA MP James Vos cited the example of the unabridged birth certificate requirements still in place, four weeks after the announcement of the concessions.

But on Wednesday, Gigaba said these changes had to unfold within the framework of what was permissible by law and would not happen overnight.

"We carry the mandate of being the first line of defence in this regard for the country and therefore must be willing to risk some measure of unpopularity to ensure national security is not forsaken," he said.

Source: News24

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