Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, on Thursday announced tough new measures to ensure the “security and integrity” of South African passports… which recently made world headlines when Ryan Air demanded that South African-passport holders prove their SA citizenship by completing an Afrikaans questionnaire. Of course the questionnaire was a mistake (many authentic South African travellers could not understand the questions), but it did raise the important issue of there being so many fake SA passports that the passport is no longer trusted. A few years ago, New Zealand introduced a compulsory visa for South Africans because of a similar problem with people entering their country on fake SA passports.
Addressing the media in Pretoria today, the Home Affairs Minister said the SA passport has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Dr Motsoaledi said: “Firstly, on the 24 March 2022, in our Krugersdorp office the nation saw us apprehending a Pakistani national and arresting him with some South African citizens and corrupt Home Affairs officials. All these people were working together to defraud the SA passport.
“Secondly and immediately thereafter, the story of “Lebogang from Bangladesh” made headlines all over the media, including on social media.
“This angered a lot of South Africans while some turned it into jokes. What people don’t realise are the serious consequences and hardships that the country suffers when its passports are defrauded in this manner.”
As he said, and as so many South African travellers know – the main consequence is that the lack of integrity of the SA passport causes many hardships whilst travelling.
“It is for this reason that this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue,” said the Minister. He then announced the first of three steps that the Department is taking to secure the integrity of the SA passport, and to make it foolproof against fraudulent acquisition.
Unfortunately those who will suffer most with the new step are mostly SA travellers; as is often the case – a minority of fraudsters make it difficult for the majority of well-behaved, travel-loving citizens!
Until today, South Africans were able to collect their new passports from any related offices around the country. They were also able to nominate third parties to collect their passports. Home Affairs had given travellers this privilege because people were often in a hurry, and many travellers – particularly in the business world – didn’t always have time to visit the offices. Unfortunately this privilege is now being taken away.
“We are announcing today that, unfortunately, this can no longer happen,” said the Minister.
He announced the following new measure for South African passport applications and collection:
- A passport can only be collected strictly from the office where it was applied for.
- Only the person who applied for that passport can come and collect it by activating it through a fingerprint. (This is a similar method to that already used to collect Smart ID Cards.)
- For minor children, their parents or guardians who helped them to apply for that passport will be the only ones allowed to come and collect it and activate it using their own fingerprints.
The Minister said: “We must strongly warn that any passport collected using whatever method other than the ones announced today will not be activated and hence will be of no use to the holder.
“We are aware that this will inconvenience some frequent travellers and some busy people who might not have time but we are appealing that everybody has to be prepared to readily pay this price for the integrity of our passports.”
The Minister also reminded passport holders to check their passports for expiry at least once a month, and actually fortnightly for frequent travellers.
There is NO such things as a South African emergency passport
Dr Motsoaledi also used the opportunity to dispel the myth of a South African “emergency passport”.
He said: “There is nothing called an emergency passport for any South African travelling to another country. The so-called emergency passport is actually a hand written document available only to a South African who is stranded in another country. This document allows them to return home and when they arrive, its usefulness and comes to an abrupt end.” (South Africans abroad call it an ETC – Emergency Travel Certificate.)
For any South African wishing to go to other countries, they have to apply for a passport following regular processes.
The good news is that for South Africans in SA, Home Affairs is able to produce a passport within five to 13 days (unlike the months that SA expats wait!!). In fact, under certain circumstances, Home Affairs can even produce a passport within 24 hours.
But before you rush to apply, the Minister says: “I must warn that this is very rare and the people will have to pay an arm and a leg for this to happen.
“So the safest thing to do is to keep on checking the expiry on your passport. With smartphones, you can set a reminder.”
South Africans in SA are encouraged to apply for passports using the Branch Appointment Booking System, which has been rolled out. Other options include using a partner bank from which to apply and collect your travel documents.
Transit visa for passport holders from Bangladesh and Pakistan reinstated
Following recent incidents, Home Affairs today announced the withdrawal of the transit visa exemption and reinstate transit visa requirements for Bangladeshi and Pakistani ordinary passport holders from 1 August 2022.
“This means that all travellers using ordinary passports issued by Bangladesh and Pakistan authorities are required to apply for a visa when transiting through South Africa to other countries,” said the Minister.
“The decision was informed by recent incidents wherein passengers from the two countries were caught attempting to enter into South Africa illegally by sneaking in through fire hydrant passages at the airport while on the way to the transit lounge to continue to other countries. In so doing, they try to evade immigration and other law enforcement officers at the Port of Entry, thus undermining the security and sovereignty of the State.
“The reintroduction of transit visas is one of the practical and strong interventions we are making in our ongoing efforts of strengthening entry requirements at our airports. It also underscores our resolve to stop people from undermining our systems.”
Source: Home Affairs here.