By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, has written to president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, about allegations that Ugandans are being denied South African visas.
Ugandans traveling to South Africa are finding it very hard to get Visas ever since homophobia broke out in the country a few weeks ago. But the situation worsened recently when Ugandan exhibitors paid for stalls, booked space, hotels and other facilities in South Africa for the Indaba Travel Expo, only to be denied visa at the last moment. These Ugandan exhibitors claim that they lost hundreds of millions of shilling because of this impasse that is being perpetrated at the South African embassy. However, in his remarks at Africa’s Travel Indaba at the ICC Durban on Saturday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government was working towards reducing the enormous and often unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists, who want to visit his country, face.
“If a tourist is held back by a lot of red tape, they immediately give up and go to another destination. This clearly requires that we should streamline our tourist visa regimes and as South Africa we are committed to working towards the African Union’s goal of a visa free travel dispensation and a single African air transport market,” Mr Ramaphosa said. He added that his country was in the process of overhauling the visa dispensation and introducing world class e-visa system.
In his Facebook post, Uganda’s tour operator Amos Wekesa, the executive director of Great Lakes Safaris, condemned the continued denial of visas to Ugandans to travel to South Africa, irrespective of travel frequency.
South Africa’s tourism minister Derek Hanekom said: “I met with a number of hosted buyers, sellers and media from more than 80 countries and asked them what would be a befitting welcome to our president and their message is recognition of tourism industry but from Nigeria to Ghana, from Kenya to Uganda to India and China, the sector has massive potential and to realise it, the visa dispensation must be overhauled.” However, after days of uncertainty about the visa issue, Museveni said in a tweet on Monday night that he had “received a goodwill message from His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, who has taken interest in resolving the unnecessary bureaucracy Ugandans are subjected to when seeking South African visas.” He said “Ugandans should get visas on entry in South Africa just as we do with them here.”