Questioning the new visa laws for children travelling to South Africa

Posted on July 18th, 2015 in Blog

The new laws for children under 18 travelling in and out of South Africa require them to travel with an unabridged birth certificate, letters of consent from the parents mentioned on that birth certificate and with copies of those parents passports. These documents also need to have a solicitor’s stamp on them as well to certify them.

My primary business is educational school tours with local South African children as well as schools from overseas. These new laws are an added stress and deterrent to my company.

This week was the start of a tour from a school in Devon, England consisting of 39 children with 5 teachers. They will be on tour for 10 days in South Africa touring Johannesburg, Mpumalanga, KZN and Cape Town bringing in a good income to many companies in South Africa as well as employment to many.

When they arrived at Heathrow on Thursday, 16 July 2015, 13 of the children were refused permission to fly to South Africa as they had a document without the solicitor’s stamp. This created anxiety for the entire group as it meant that 2 teachers needed to stay behind with that group whilst the rest continued on their journey to South Africa with mixed emotions. What a dampener for all!

What followed was a very expensive operation. Firstly the headmaster had to drive from Devon to Heathrow with the solicitor to reassure the group and stamp the necessary documents. Then the UK Tour Operator had to try and find flights for the group only to find that almost all flights were full due to UK holidays and South Africa still being a popular holiday destination. (This is good news for us, but not good news for the group of students.) Eventually flights were found on Kenyan Airlines via Nairobi. Next I had to organize extra transport to meet them at OR Tambo and transfer them all the way to Hazyview to meet up with the main group. This is at a huge expense because two drivers are needed. The law in SA stipulates that 1 driver may not travel more than 8 hours and Johannesburg to Hazyview and back will be more than 8 hours. All in all it is costing the group R21 000 extra PER PERSON.

I understand that our government wants to prevent child trafficking by making it safer for children to travel, but are such stringent laws necessary for all? Is this going to put people off travelling with children to South Africa? Will schools want to go through the expense and stress of bring students to SA for an educational tour when they can go elsewhere in the world for less hassle and often less money?

It is said that for every 1 tourist 8 people are employed directly and indirectly. I feel tourism is a way forward for our economy and we all need to avoid harming the industry – from the Government right down to the general person in the street.

For the above school group, the ending should soon be a good one – ‘All’s well that ends well’. I wish the same for my country.

Written by Julie Womack on Mandela Day 2015

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