Zuma disappoints Kenyans on visa deal

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South African President Jacob Zuma (left) speaks next to his Kenya's counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.

South African President Jacob Zuma (left) speaks next to his Kenya’s counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.

 

News that South Africa remain non-committal on easing visa restrictions for Kenyans travelling to that country has disappointed travelers to the southern African country which has tough visa conditions, including a Sh4,200 processing fee.

Further, those travelling are required to wait for more than seven days to get a visa feedback after submitting their applications, making it difficult to travel at short notice.

Kenyans have expressed their disappointment on social media after South African President Jacob Zuma, who is on three-day state visit to Nairobi, issued a press statement saying that visa concern was still being discussed but could not give specific timeline.

Prior to the visit Kenyans had high expectations that President Zuma was going to resolve this pending visa matter during the bilateral talks with host President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi yesterday.

South African nationals have it easier as they can get a Kenyan visa for free on arrival to the country. Unlike their Kenyan counterparts, SA nationals are not required to apply for paid visa before leaving their country.

President Zuma told reporters that there are issues that need to be considered and dwelt on so that when final understanding is reached, there are no loopholes that will be used by wrong people.

“Because this is a privilege that Kenya already extends to South African nationals coming into Kenya, in our view there is no reason why both our governments cannot agree on exemption for visas for each other’s citizens. I believe such an action will allow both our people, to get to know one another and to be able to work together for mutual benefit,” Kenyatta said reminding Zuma.

Kenyatta said Zuma had made a “commitment to urgently look at resolving these outstanding matters.” In a reply to a question, Zuma said that visas were discussed, but the discussions were inconclusive.

For many years Kenyans travelling to countries like Namibia have been required to obtain a transit visa from South Africa High Commission in Nairobi.  Namibia, like many southern African countries don’t have direct flights forcing the SA transit visa rule. The rule was relaxed last year after protest.

Last year, Kenyan Senators expressed outrage over the stringent rules that the South Africa government has imposed on Kenyans seeking visas which compelled SA to ease some rules.

Many senators complained Kenyans and other Africans were finding it difficult to access travel documents to South Africa due to harassment and frustrations at the South African embassy, thereby missing crucial business and official assignments.

Instead, President Zuma’s visit has focused on trade when he engaged his host President Uhuru Kenyatta in bilateral talks on areas of commerce, security, education, energy and immigration, resulting in the signing of four memorandums of understanding (MoUs).

With over 60 South African companies in Kenya, Zuma expressed concerns that both countries were home to foreigners and therefore opening up the visas to everyone would expose its country. He said the matter was being tackled but remained non-committal on the timelines.

Zuma arrived in the country Monday night for the first state visit to Kenya by a South African president.

The visit is expected to enable Kenya and South Africa to deepen economic, political, cultural and social relations and further provide a platform for both countries to review progress on key areas of bilateral cooperation

This includes partnership in trade and investment; agriculture; tourism and infrastructure development.

Kenya is seen as an important partner for South Africa in the East Africa region, in the advancement of inter and intra-African trade and investment.

 

East Africa Editor