The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) challenged the recent move by government to compel South African citizens to acquire business visas at the Namibian High Commission in Pretoria before travelling to Namibia for business activities.
According to the NCCI the requirement, which was enforced in March this year, already has proven to have significant negative impact on cross-border business activities between Namibia and South Africa.
Considering South Africa as being Namibia’s biggest trade partner, the chamber feels that requiring South African businesses people to apply for a business visa three days in advance is causing delay and costing local businesses millions in losses.
“ The political leadership do not seem to understand the implications this visa regulations have on business people. South Africa is our biggest investor, our largest trading partner and also our biggest export destination therefore regular business consultations and conferences have to take place between this countries. This visa issue is causing us to lose out huge amounts of money. We ask government to be more reasonable with visa restrictions they impose,” Tarah Shaanika, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCCI said.
Many businesses in Namibia which play a pivotal role in this economy are subsidiaries of, or are having strong commercial relationships with South African companies which require representation of such companies on the boards of some Namibian companies. The NCCI took this issue up with the Namibian Government about a month ago, without any interest to have it resolved on the part of the Government.
The chamber is concerned that this action will make it more costly and more unrealistic for the Namibian businesses to run smooth operations and it is definitely not helping Namibian businesses to effectively implement the Harambee Prosperity Plan which they have wholeheartedly supported.
“It is unfortunate that this decision is enforced at a time when the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is making progress in deepening regional economic integration which should result in increased intra-regional trade and commercial activities. For the Namibian Government, which has been a strong proponent of deeper regional economic integration to enforce such a decision is not only surprising but also deeply disappointing,” Shaanika stressed.
Shaanika further called on the Government to reconsider this action and remove the visa requirement for South African citizens travelling to Namibia on business in its current form, while proposing that South African citizens be allowed to get such visas at entry points as is the case with the Namibian citizens travelling to South Africa for business.
“Many business clients from South Africa called and informed us that they were denied entrance to Namibia and that they are going to cancel their consultations. This, of course, came as a shock to us as we were not consulted and informed about this visa requirement. The Ministry of Home Affairs was supposed to communicate with us before taking this huge step. When Home Affairs is contacted, they communicate differently while officials at the airport have a completely different stance on the visa restrictions,” Gitta Paetzoldt, CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), said.
Meanwhile both Shaanika and Paetzoldt said that things will get worse if South Africa decides to retaliate and impose the same kind of visa restrictions on Namibians travelling to South Africa for business purposes. They also added that this visa restriction force South African business people to pose as tourists to obtain entrance into the country, which will be forcing them to disregard the legal system of the country.
“There is no constant communication between players in the business sector and the immigration department. We need a committee to make it possible for consultations to be done on how visa restrictions may or may not affect the economy. The HAN has sent out a letter to the Home Affairs raising our concerns,” Paetzoldt said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration refused to give comment, saying they do not have any information on the visa restrictions imposed on South African business people. Elizabeth Negumbo, a senior official at the Ministry said “we are not aware of this visa regulations, the ministry needs to discuss this before we can give out further communication.”