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When a Country Goes Bad

A few weeks ago I had an email exchange with a very senior immigration manager and I asked why evidence being presented by South Africans with their visa applications was being scrutinised more than ever before. He said, “because they lie”. That struck me as a bit harsh.

Iain

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When a Country Goes Bad

A few weeks ago I had an email exchange with a very senior immigration manager and I asked why evidence being presented by South Africans with their visa applications was being scrutinised more than ever before. He said, “because they lie”. That struck me as a bit harsh.

Iain

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When a Country Goes Bad

Posted by Iain on Dec. 21, 2018, 10:34 a.m. in Government

A few weeks ago I had an email exchange with a very senior immigration manager and I asked why evidence being presented by South Africans with their visa applications was being scrutinised more than ever before. He said, “because they lie”. That struck me as a bit harsh.

While part of me wanted to believe that South Africans are no more likely to lie in visa applications and present false documents than migrants in general, the evidence is starting to mount that South Africans have earned a reputation for being more likely to act fraudulently than most other migrants. I am aware that, sadly, in South Africa today, it is more than just qualifications, National identity cards and driver’s licenses that can be purchased and has extended to official documentation such as visas and even passports. Even a decade ago this sort of thing never happened, now it happens more and more. While desperate people do silly things, it is more a story about corrupt civil servants in South Africa providing sustenance to a need.

What the senior manager was really alluding to is the sad reality that the South African government itself has become so corrupt that at the Department of Home Affairs as it is known that birth certificates can be purchased, passports can be bought and SA residency can also be had for a reasonable sum.

Earlier this year we had two families each with a number of children, some of whom INZ’s ‘sources’ (meaning someone inside Home Affairs), suggested might not have genuine birth certificates. The only way we could prove who the parents were of these children was to have them DNA tested. It was no surprise to the parents that after waiting some months the children turned out to be their own but that is what it has come to. Such is the level of the New Zealand government’s paranoia at what is going on in South Africa that even birth certificates are coming under scrutiny.

On the most recent trip to South Africa one of my colleagues consulted with a Zimbabwean national who had secured a job in New Zealand and following the filing of his (own) Work Visa application received a letter from NZ’s Immigration Department questioning how he got his resident visa in South Africa. When my colleague questioned him more closely on how he secured it, it turned out that he had gone to the Visa Application Centre (VAC) which receipts applications for the South African government and basically handed over a wad of cash with his passport and 30 minutes later he had a South African residency visa in his passport. His passport it appears, didn't even make it to the Department of Home Affairs! There is no way he did not know he was buying residency and naturally we declined to represent him.

I think it fair however for INZ to view South Africa in terms of pre-1994 standards and post. Corruption on the scale that we now see in South Africa was not common before 1994 and I rather suspect it would have been virtually impossible to buy residency of the country or a birth certificate, let alone a passport. How things have changed however.

A week ago in the sort of place you might least expect to see evidence of corruption my wife and I came face to face with it. We were enjoying a few days at a game reserve before flying home to NZ. After a morning game drive, the track back to where we were staying was blocked by a white Bakkie (utility vehicle).

Two men were out of the vehicle (an absolute no-no in a game reserve) and one was frantically waving us back the way we came. Our driver was confused but it was fairly obvious that the increasingly aggressive of the two wanted us out of sight. He demanded we reverse back the way we had come. Our driver did so and we almost made it around the bend but we could still see the Bakkie parked on the road up ahead. The man who had ordered our driver had slipped a green Ranger Parks Board shirt on over his red T-shirt.

After two or three minutes they waved us forward and they reversed so we could pass. The legs of at least two dead antelope were sticking out from the tray of this vehicle. Clearly these two (white) men were poaching this protected species.

We had gone only a few metres past them when we heard another rifle shot. They felt so emboldened they kept shooting these creatures despite our not yet being out of sight. It must have been like shooting fish in a barrel given these animals are all habituated to vehicles.

It was to say the least very concerning but equally the lack of interest shown by the management of the reserve we were staying in (adjacent to the game reserve and not in it) was downright depressing.

We had taken the registration number of the vehicle and given it to them. It seems they did absolutely nothing with that information.

Thinking perhaps this was an isolated incident we became even more shocked when talking to other travelers a few days later who witnessed the same two men shooting the same species of antelope and loading them into the back of the same vehicle. They counted three dead Nyala - a species relatively common in northern game reserves in South Africa but threatened across its natural range.

There are only two public gates into and out of this game reserve and they are guarded by Park Rangers. Civil servants to be sure but ones you might hope cared for the animals they are paid to protect. There is literally no way you could get a Bakkie full of dead Antelope out of that game reserve without the gatekeepers turning a blind eye. They were clearly being paid to let these guys in and out.

The alternative was the lodge we were staying in adjacent to the national park were in on it as they have a couple of private access gates that allow access to the park. That didn’t seem the case as the second sighting of these poachers was the bakkie roaring past one of these gates which suggested they weren’t paying off the private land holders to get access. It was almost certainly the game rangers of the national park itself.

Although I sometimes find it frustrating that South Africans are treated with suspicion now with visa applications there is no doubt that the public service in South Africa is rotten to its core. The fact the National Park employees are going to allow poachers to act with impunity inside game reserves makes an already sad situation involving the country one that fills me almost with a sense of despair.

If everything is for sale in the country what hope can that be for any kind of future? I guess that’s why almost 600 families are currently engaged with our services to get them to NZ or Australia. They can leave but the animals are stuck.

I don’t often make broadcasts on behalf of the NZ Government but the word needs to get out - if you try and present false documents to the NZ Government you will very likely get caught - no matter where you come from. If you come from South Africa they are likely going to look at your evidence more closely because experience tells them they need to.  They take it seriously and you don’t get second chances.

On that rather depressing note 2018 is drawing to a rapid close and by the time you read this we will have closed for the year. We will be reopening on January 7.

To those of you who are still engaged in the process of migration, hang in there, it will all be worth it in the end.

For those of you about to enjoy your first Kiwi Christmas I hope it is enjoyable one.

 

Until next year

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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8 comments on this post
Dec. 21, 2018, 6:49 p.m. by Annelize

This is so sad but so true. For the few of us who really live a open and honest life and want to work for what we want, makes it hard to move forward in this country. We also want to leave.

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Dec. 21, 2018, 6:51 p.m. by Andre

Sadly what you are saying is true, in South Africa corruption has become the norm. The tipping point has already been reached and the country is now in a downward spiral which cannot be stopped. Best we can hope for with some intervention is to slow the decline. Sad thing is that a large part of the population has accepted corruption as inevitable and you even hear educated colleagues making comments like "if I were in that position you would do the same". The few that try to fight corruption are met with ridicule, intimidation and even violence.

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Dec. 21, 2018, 8:07 p.m. by Sandy

It's a sad truth we have to face every day, even getting pulled over by police is scary - you don't know if you are going to deal with. This past weekend I was pulled over by such a friendly policeman, he greeted me so sweetly, checked the validity of my driver's license & disk and told me to have a wonderful weekend... we drove off completely shocked.
When South Africans have a positive experience with our government departments it really is an astonishing moment. And living honestly, most of the time, is a waste of time, you always hit dead ends, the sad truth is, it's just easier to carry apples with you when you go to home affairs or the licensing department, offering an apple to the officials you need to interact with, only then are they 'efficient' and somewhat friendly.

My personality doesn't fit this country's 'ways'! It pains me to see it go to waste and as a minority, I can't voice an opinion, any opinions we make are seen as prejudice. Even in a blog post like this, I feel like I have to be PC.

Have a wonderful holidays.

Reply to this comment
Dec. 21, 2018, 8:07 p.m. by Sandy

It's a sad truth we have to face every day, even getting pulled over by police is scary - you don't know if you are going to deal with. This past weekend I was pulled over by such a friendly policeman, he greeted me so sweetly, checked the validity of my driver's license & disk and told me to have a wonderful weekend... we drove off completely shocked.
When South Africans have a positive experience with our government departments it really is an astonishing moment. And living honestly, most of the time, is a waste of time, you always hit dead ends, the sad truth is, it's just easier to carry apples with you when you go to home affairs or the licensing department, offering an apple to the officials you need to interact with, only then are they 'efficient' and somewhat friendly.

My personality doesn't fit this country's 'ways'! It pains me to see it go to waste and as a minority, I can't voice an opinion, any opinions we make are seen as prejudice. Even in a blog post like this, I feel like I have to be PC.

Have a wonderful holidays.

Reply to this comment
Dec. 21, 2018, 10:45 p.m. by Ken Nesbitt

I am 74 years old and emigrated to South Africa in 1979 with my wife and 2 children. I only came to South Africa as I had been unable to visit earlier when I decided to leave an international position in Belgium (British National). I had lived and worked in England, Wales, Netherlands and Belgium in addition to working throughout East & West Europe, USA, Africa and the Middle East.
My family & I enjoyed the work ethic in RSA, the climate and diversity of the population plus the scenic splendor. We learnt Africans and Zulu in order to better understand our environment and trained various ethnic groups and have had genuine friends, We had been very happy with out lives and our contribution to South Africa but I am now alone in RSA. My wife died 2 years ago, my daughter has move to Manhattan in USA and my son and family emigrated on a 30 month visa in September to New Zealand.
We loved this country deeply but have the impression we are unwelcome and deeply upset by the rampant corruption. This I fear may have been caused by colonization and apartheid despite the efforts of Mr Mandela and the deeper tribal traditions of which the white populous know very little. I have recently re-read and extraordinary book by Credo Mutwa called " Let Not My Country Die" which was disregarded in 1986 but indicates where we are today. I believe much of the corruption is a result from the tribal system where dishonesty and disrespect prevailed and is unfortunately embedded in the native population. This was very similar to English/Scottish border families (Clans) in the 14th/15th Centuries where total lawlessness prevailed-will it take Africa another 600 years??
It is interesting to note that a Black Member of the British Labour Party will be expelled following her attempt to avoid a car speeding prosecution. It appears that corruption and dishonesty are endemic to the entire race.

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Dec. 21, 2018, 10:45 p.m. by Ken Nesbitt

I am 74 years old and emigrated to South Africa in 1979 with my wife and 2 children. I only came to South Africa as I had been unable to visit earlier when I decided to leave an international position in Belgium (British National). I had lived and worked in England, Wales, Netherlands and Belgium in addition to working throughout East & West Europe, USA, Africa and the Middle East.
My family & I enjoyed the work ethic in RSA, the climate and diversity of the population plus the scenic splendor. We learnt Africans and Zulu in order to better understand our environment and trained various ethnic groups and have had genuine friends, We had been very happy with out lives and our contribution to South Africa but I am now alone in RSA. My wife died 2 years ago, my daughter has move to Manhattan in USA and my son and family emigrated on a 30 month visa in September to New Zealand.
We loved this country deeply but have the impression we are unwelcome and deeply upset by the rampant corruption. This I fear may have been caused by colonization and apartheid despite the efforts of Mr Mandela and the deeper tribal traditions of which the white populous know very little. I have recently re-read and extraordinary book by Credo Mutwa called " Let Not My Country Die" which was disregarded in 1986 but indicates where we are today. I believe much of the corruption is a result from the tribal system where dishonesty and disrespect prevailed and is unfortunately embedded in the native population. This was very similar to English/Scottish border families (Clans) in the 14th/15th Centuries where total lawlessness prevailed-will it take Africa another 600 years??
It is interesting to note that a Black Member of the British Labour Party will be expelled following her attempt to avoid a car speeding prosecution. It appears that corruption and dishonesty are endemic to the entire race.

Replies to this comment

Dec. 22, 2018, 1:43 a.m. by Marianne Olivier
What you say is very true although I don't think that corruption is a racial issue. There is corruption in every single Government. The impression I get is that it is much more open in South Africa than in western (1st world) countries. The prime example is probably the USA where money talks and big money talks very loudly. https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_in_the_usa_the_difference_a_year_makes
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Dec. 22, 2018, midnight by Estelle

So sorry to read about this terrible behaviour that you have witnessed, Iain. It deeply saddens me and as you say, it is not defined by colour or race. This lawlessness and corruption in SA is rife, right across the board. My heart aches for those good, honest people (of all backgrounds) who have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Best wishes for a joyous Christmas, safe travels, and a very happy 2019!

A big thank you from us all.

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Dec. 22, 2018, 2:19 a.m. by Ginny Burd

We emigrated to NZ in November 2017. We returned to South Africa in December 2017! We are realtors with 20 years experience and have written and passed (NO CHEATING!) the same exams as Oz and NZ realtors sit. I am a New Zealand citizen, married to a South African. 5 years ago, visiting family in Auckland, we were offered jobs with a top realty company in Auckland open until we could finally move to NZ. 2017 was a difficult year and we decided to bite the bullet, pack and move. Previously we were told our credentials were acceptable., In November they said we had to rewrite everything and it would be over 7 months before we qualified and could start working for the company, then another couple of months before we would list and sell homes. We were not in a position to support ourselves for that length of time, over 9 months, thus have had to return to S.A., fortunately back to the excellent company we worked for here. The authorities in Auckland said it was automatically assumed that we probably bought our qualifications in S.A! I'm a Kiwi, so does that mean because I live in S.A. I'm dishonest? What an insult and what a generalization! Also met a doctor with a young family who had just emigrated to NZ, who was told that he had to be work under a GP before he could go into practice. They have also just come back to S.A.
Perhaps NZI could judge each case a little more thoroughly.
We are so very sad that S.A. has sunk to such corrupt depths and the fact that your experience Iain, was so shocking, the response so apathetic. It's hugely discouraging. It took 10 years for the country to sink into this morass and we now expect the new president and a few honest people to rectify the mess in 1 year. I pray that someone, somewhere has the moral fibre to extricate us.

Replies to this comment

Dec. 22, 2018, 7:21 a.m. by Iain
Migration is never easy and is not a guarantee of a better life. I would add to your comment about NZ looking at each case 'more thoroughly' that equally, migrants must accept responsibility to do their research a little better....a foreign trained Doctor having to work under supervision in NZ for at least 12 months is clearly signalled in the Medical Council registration procedures and should have come as no surprise to any Doctor wishing to move here. It's the major reason I help few Doctors other than but the most committed. The registration process is a nightmare but for those that want it badly enough and have the resources to sustain themselves while they do, it is achievable. South Africans in particular, given the intensity of the 'push factors' at play in the market ('I just need to get my kids out...') are often poorly researched, poorly informed and poorly advised. I spend my life telling people to do their homework better before they buy those airline tickets. Those that don't will sadly, end up making the return journey.
Dec. 22, 2018, 7:23 a.m. by Iain
Continued from above... It is such a sad situation and as someone who loves visiting South Africa and has deep historic family connections there, to watch, over my 27 years of regular visits, this steady decay in standards, service delivery and infrastructure. I take no joy out of it despite my day job. South Africa's loss just happens to be New Zealand and Australia's gain. I am the first to say, given my love of Africa and particularly the 'bush' that if it was politically and economically stable, I'd consider moving there. Until that day, when you are raised on first world standards and ethics I just couldn't stand it - I've never known a place to turn otherwise calm and rational people (like me?) into seething, frothy angry maniacs (usually by the time I get to passport control at OR Tambo). Those raised in an environment like SA has become, just don't realise how bad it is (for the most part) but that's because they choose not to or have nothing to compare it to . When you have no chance of escape (98% of South Africans aren't going anywhere even if they wanted to), it is hard to blame people for defending the indefensible. I certainly don't. I'd suggest that unless and until a voting majority of South Africans decide that they have had enough, elect leaders that don't see public office as an invitation to feast at the tax paying trough and are willing to put in the hard yards to push back against corruption and ineptitude, the slide will continue. It is so so sad to watch a few rotten people destroy the future of so many people but therein lies the beauty of democracy. If and when the millions decide they want to change things, they have the power to do it. I just wonder why they aren't all standing up and crying 'enough!' right now.
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