Zim-SA visa processor won’t be probed

By Loyiso Sidimba

SOUTH AFRICA – The Competition Commission will not be launching an investigation into VFS Visa Processing – the company awarded a R1-billion visa facilitation tender including the government’s Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP).

Zimbabweans stand in a long queue at a Home Affairs office in SA when a deportation deadline loomed. File photo. Image by: ESA ALEXANDER
Zimbabweans stand in a long queue at a Home Affairs office in SA when a deportation deadline loomed. File photo.
Image by: ESA ALEXANDER

Instead, the commission is conducting advocacy work with various embassies relating to their agreements and arrangements with VFS Visa Processing, which was awarded the contract by the Department of Home Affairs.

Commission spokesman Mava Scott told Sowetan that advocacy mainly refers to the measures it takes to promote competition through the use of non-enforcement measures.

According to the commission, these include influencing change in behaviour through education and training, promoting market transparency through market inquiries and influencing policy and legislation by making submissions to parliament and government departments.

“The commission will not be investigating the matter further but will pursue the advocacy route in dealing with the issues that have been raised in the complaint,” Scott said.

He said the commission had decided not to refer the matter to the Competition Tribunal for adjudication after taking into account the existing case precedents on similar matters.

The commission’s decision follows a complaint from Visa Request managing director Jaco Badenhorst, who alleged that VFS Visa Processing was threatening small companies when it obtained exclusive rights to provide visa support services to a number of foreign missions.

Zimbabwean nationals applying for a special permit will be charged an application fee of R870. The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA had asked the government that no additional costs be levied on applicants for VFS Visa Processing’s administrative costs.

But the Department of Home Affairs believes the fee is reasonable compared to visas and permits of a similar duration.

It insists that the fee is also reasonable because applicants do not have to leave the country as would normally be required.

VFS Visa Processing has set up 10 application centres for ZSP across the country.

Badenhorst was unavailable for comment and attempts to contact VFS Visa Processing’s Southern Africa operations boss Rishen Mahabeer were unsuccessful. Sowetan