South Africa has effectively banned foreign pastors, prophets and other religious leaders from ever getting any work or residence permits to stay in the country according to Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Addressing a parliamentary portfolio committee on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said that foreign national religious workers will no longer be eligible for work permits, or permanent residency, in South Africa.
He made special mention of Malawi’s Prophet Shepherd Bushiri who escaped from South Africa after he was charged with money laundering saying investigations were still underway.
Motsoaledi said Bushiri, who skipped the border in 2020 together with his wife, did so illegally.
“I want to confirm that on our movement control system, we do not see any record of the Bushiri’s leaving, which means they left the country illegally,” he said.
The outspoken Minister added that foreign nationals seeking to start churches in South Africa will only be welcomed as visitors.
“We are saying they must come only as visitors, but as visitors who can perform work. This change means there’s no avenue available for these religious workers to migrate to permanent residence status,” he added.
A chief director has been dismissed, and four junior officials are still facing disciplinary proceedings, for illegally granting Bushiri a residency permit.
Motsoaledi said an investigation was also under way to determine how another evangelist, Nigerian Timothy Omotoso, had acquired South African residency.
Omotoso is currently facing a raft of rape and human trafficking charges in the Eastern Cape.
Meanwhile, Motsoaledi vowed to “punish” Zimbabwean nationals who are reluctant to apply for visas and/or waivers following the extension of the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) to 30 June next year.
“The ball is in their court, not in the government’s court. We will deal with them the same way we deal with someone who is in the country illegally and overstayed. There is punishment for that,” he said.
South Africa has since extended the validity of ZEP to 30 June next year citing that few foreigners had “thus far applied for visas and/or waivers.”