Visas and air access take centre stage for BRICS ministers

Visas and air access were among the key areas up for discussion at the BRICS Tourism Ministers’ Meeting held in Cape Town this week, with direct flights between South Africa and its BRICS partners at various stages of implementation.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said: We need to work together as BRICS nations to increase air access and ease visa regimes to ensure seamless travel between our countries.” 

The post-meeting communiqué issued by all participants also highlighted “the need to raise awareness among BRICS countries to the importance of developing routes for better tourism mobility and connectivity amongst the member countries”.

Arrivals to South Africa from Brazil, India and China have still not reached pre-pandemic levels but they have shown significant growth over the past year. Russia has recorded growth from pre-pandemic levels.

In addition to giving country-specific updates, De Lille said her department had committed to “improving tourism visa and other related processes” for visitors and business events delegates from BRICS countries looking to take part in MICE events.

She also indicated that the Department of Home Affairs would be gazetting the long-awaited digital nomad visa “before the end of the year or early next year”.


Brazilian numbers for the period January to August grew by 41.2% between 2022 and 2023.

De Lille said the resumption of flights between South Africa and Brazil would bring positive benefits for both countries. LATAM will resume flights in December, while SAA will offer flights between both Cape Town and Johannesburg and São Paulo.

“Air access between the two countries will help us grow the numbers on both sides.” She added that South Africa was working with Brazil to put together a joining marketing strategy to make sure that more South African visitors went to Brazil, so that the flight didn’t go back empty.

Vice Minister of Tourism for Brazil, Ana Carla Lopes, said: “As President Lula says, ‘We are back in Africa’. It shouldn’t be a return; we should never have left.”

Brazil and Russia are both visa exempt, allowing visitors to enter the country visa free for a period of 90 days.

“Just that waiver helps us to increase the numbers coming to our country. We can see the impact of the visa waiver in the arrival numbers from Russia and Brazil.”

She added that they were working very hard to get the same provisions for India and China.


Russia is the only BRICS country to top its pre-pandemic arrivals, recording a 126.5% increase in January to August arrivals between 2022 and 2023, and over 70% growth since 2019.

De Lille said this was especially remarkable given that South Africa was a long-haul destination.

She said in engagements with Russia, direct flights between the two countries would be looked at.


While India and China do not benefit from visa exemptions, De Lille said both were among the list of 34 countries eligible to apply for e-visas to South Africa.

Of the BRICS nations, India recorded the highest number of visitors to South Africa between January and August at 54 867, an increase of 65.3% from the same period the previous year.

De Lille said there had been discussions with India to either return the SAA direct flight to Mumbai or to provide an opportunity for Air India to fly direct to South Africa.

She said discussions had started at the G20 summit in September, and they were optimistic that air access could be improved there too.


China recorded an almost 250% increase in visitor numbers between 2022 and 2023, helped along by the resumption of the direct Air China flight between China and Johannesburg in March. De Lille said they were now also working with Air China to bring a direct flight to Cape Town.

She said work was also being done with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the e-visa system worked smoothly for Chinese travellers, who typically liked to travel in groups.

A practical approach to attracting Chinese travellers

I was intrigued to read the piece in Tourism Update reporting the views of Marcus Lee, and the subsequent comments by readers. The headline was Change is needed for SA to attract more Chinese visitors but it is just as relevant to other Southern African countries.

A topic dear to my heart, for two reasons.   

Firstly, I help out at Self Drive Tours Botswana at busy times. My wife is one of the directors. Chinese travellers tend to be well educated, engaging, and intensely interested in all manner of things. We would love to have more of them.

Secondly, I’m a retired university professor. A decade ago I was involved with research looking into the experiences of Chinese fully independent travellers (FIT) in New Zealand.

Some of the research team were native Mandarin speakers. Chinese tourists use social media, and we could follow their reports to their friends and families back home on WeChat.  This was something of an eye-opener. You can interview Chinese tourists face-to-face and get useful information, but it is always filtered through a veil of good manners.  WeChat posts to friends and families are tailored to a different audience.

Asked face-to-face about the cuisine, a tourist might say, “I found it different and interesting.  I didn’t know there were so many ways to cook potatoes.” On WeChat they will tell their friends “Eaten potatoes every night for the last week. Cooked many ways, but I would give anything for a bowl of steamed rice. If you come here yourself must bring rice cooker.”

Simple posts like this highlighted some simple changes that NZ providers could make. Say you own a self-catering cottage, advertised via social media to Chinese FIT guests. They may not want or need the usual large oven, but may be really pleased to have a rice cooker and a wok. Advertise that you have them.

For sure, most tourists will want to experience the local cuisine. But when renting a self-catering apartment they may want to cook something familiar.

Watching domestic tourists in China told us a lot too. For example, Lijiang (Yunnan Province) is the fourth most popular destination for internal tourism within China. Horse trekking through the surrounding forests and hills is very popular. There are over 5 000 trekking horses kept in the villages surrounding Lashi Lake alone, attracting up to 10 000 riders per day in peak season. But horse trekking operators in NZ seldom if ever attract a Chinese tourist. Why not?

A typical horse trek in NZ involves taking full control of a big animal and following a mounted guide into the hills or along a deserted beach at a gallop. A horse trek in Yunnan involves sitting on a small Tibetan pony, one of a string of similar animals. A guide leads the string on foot. 

The trek proceeds at walking pace, and the riders are never in control of their mount. The opportunity to dress up in cowboy apparel and be photographed on horseback is an important part of the excursion. So is the opportunity to care for the pony. Tourists are invited to interact with their pony by buying it treats at each refreshment stop, brushing it at the end of the ride, and singing to it along the trail.

If tourists value the opportunity to feed, groom and sing to horses more than galloping over the horizon with the wind in the hair, surely we can deliver.

The Chinese FIT traveller market has been very important for New Zealand. The number of tourist arrivals has grown dramatically over the past two decades. So has the proportion of those tourists choosing to drive themselves around the country independently. A large part of the increase shown on both graphs is due to the Chinese.

Chinese FITs are now visiting old goldfields and historic sites in out-of-the-way places. They are photographing wildflowers and flocks of sheep; checking out locations of their favourite movies; marvelling at the stars in the dark night skies; and enjoying walking barefoot on deserted beaches. They are even finding their way to my home village of Ranfurly, population about 800.

Yes, the tourism offerings have had to change a little. But not greatly. The NZ government commissioned more research into the Chinese FIT market, which ended in the production of ten training modules for providers. You can find an overview here I suspect that the NZ government would happily share all the training materials with other Commonwealth countries if asked. Botswana Tourism Organisation, please take note!

I’m sure Marcus Lee is correct. To attract more Chinese tourists to Africa we need to make some changes. If New Zealand can do it so can we. Get the horse treats ready!

Who QUALIFIES for permanent residence in South Africa?

When do you qualify for permanent residence in South Africa? Provided certain requirements are met, here’s who can live permanently in SA.

Who qualifies for permanent residence in South Africa? Picture: File. 

Since our story on applying for a Smart ID card, we’ve received plenty of requests for information on permanent residence in South Africa. So, we consulted experts from to gain more insight.

The key to living permanently in South Africa is being able to prove you can contribute towards the country’s economic base. XPatWeb says it’s vital to understand the nuances of the procedure before applying for permanent residence in South Africa. One of the key requirements is to already be resident in the country on the basis of a valid Visa/Work Permit.


Who qualifies for permanent residence in South Africa? Picture: DHA. 

There are various categories, but the most prominent for permanent residence in South Africa are the following:

• If you hold of a Critical Skills Work Visa.

• You’ve had a valid Work Visa for five years or more.

• If you are married to a South African Citizen for five years or more.

• Should you be financially independence and/or retiremed in South Africa.

• If you have obtained a permanent job offer in South Africa.


A spouse or life partner of a South African citizen or permanent resident can apply for permanent residence in South Africa. But they will have to prove to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) they have been in a relationship for at least five years, through a legal marriage certificate or cohabitation.

Similarly, children under the age of 18 of South African citizens or permanent residents, are also eligible to apply for permanent residence in South Africa.

Children born to FOREIGN parents can qualify for SA citizenship

In a ruling by the Constitutional Court that came into effect recently, children born to foreign parents can qualify for SA citizenship. 
Children born to FOREIGN parents can qualify for SA citizenship.. 
Broadly speaking, there are three ways someone can qualify for SA citizenship. They are by birth, descent and naturalisation. This is according to the amended South African Citizenship that came into operation on 1 April 2003.
Now, latest findings by the Constitutional Court have ruled that children born in SA to foreign parents are eligible to apply and qualify for SA citizenship. If you were unaware of this, it follows the ruling in favor of Ali, Salih, Nkoloko, Masuki and Nganga. Each were born in SA to foreign parents and now qualify for SA citizenship when they are no longer minors.  
Ruling allows for children born to foreign parents to qualify for SA citizenship. Picture: File. 
Lerato Mahupela, an immigration specialist writing on says that in 2010 it was discovered that the Citizenship Act made no provisions for children born to foreign parents.
The amended act that only came into effect recently states: “A child born in the Republic of parents who are not South African citizens, or who have not been admitted into the Republic for permanent residence, DOES qualify to apply for South African citizenship upon becoming a major.
To qualify for SA citizenship the children must be born in South Africa. Picture: File. 
However, does list a series of stipulations, chief among which are the following:
• The child must have lived in South Africa from the date of birth to the date of becoming a major (18-years old).
• The child’s birth must be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992.
While the Citizenship Act was amended in 2010, it only came into operation three years later in 2013. This led to massive backlogs as applicants could not apply because there was no mechanism in place.
A judgement from February 2020 by the Constitutional Court says the act applies to those who meet the requirements irrespective of whether they were born before or after in 1 January 2013.  
You can qualify for SA citizenship by either birth and/or descent. These are legal rights for anyone who can prove the facts of their birth and parentage. SA citizenship by naturalisation, on the other hand, is not a legal right. It can be granted or refused by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), concludes Mahupela.

Bangladeshis bust after `kidnapping fellow countryman for ransom`

The hostage was rescued by the provincial kidnapping task team. 

Western Cape police arrested four Bangladeshi men for allegedly kidnapping a fellow countryman for ransom.

The 19-year-old man was abducted in Touws River on Monday. Provincial police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa said he was rescued on Wednesday.

“Following the kidnapping of a 19-year-old Bangladeshi on Monday in Touws River where, after a ransom was demanded, members of the Western Cape multidisciplinary kidnapping task team sprang into action in pursuit of vital information and descended on a location in the area where they rescued the hostage on Wednesday ,” said Potelwa.

“Four suspects, also Bangladeshi men, were subsequently arrested and are facing kidnapping and extortion charges. The rescued man was taken to a medical facility for assessment.”

The suspects will appear in court soon.