On August 22, 2010, our sister paper, The Guardian on Sunday, published a strongly worded editorial headlined, ‘South African visas: Why single out Tanzanians?’ which, among other things, criticised the move by the South African government to require all Tanzanians entering the former apartheid nation to have a visa.
Of all the countries in southern Africa only Tanzanians were required to have visa to enter South Africa while citizens from the rest of the region didn’t require a visa to travel to that country – which was very puzzling, considering the role Tanzania played during the country’s liberation struggle.
We stated clearly that in view of the role Tanzania played during the struggle against the apartheid regime, we expected a reciprocal gesture from our South African brethren but, regrettably, it wasn’t the case.
Obtaining a visa was a process fraught with red tape that involved the submission of many documents and cumbersome filling of numerous forms. This stance wouldn’t have been surprising if it was done by one of the Western governments, but coming from a country whose people we consider and love as our brothers and sisters it was more puzzling as it was painful.
A few weeks after the editorial, the South African government responded by removing the visa requirement for all Tanzanians travelling to the country and who expected to stay for up to three months. It was one of the best decisions taken by South Africa.
Following the move, it was Tanzania’s turn to reciprocate and impose a visa requirement for South Africans intending to travel to Tanzania. Nearly two years since South Africa removed a visa requirement for Tanzanians, our government is yet to scrap the requirement as South Africans wishing to travel to Tanzania still have to apply for a visa.
An opportunity for both the countries to scrap visas availed itself during a visit to Tanzania in 2006 by then South African President Thabo Mbeki. He and his host, President Jakaya Kikwete, agreed to do away with visa restrictions between their two countries.
But nearly seven years down the lane Tanzania hasn’t taken any measures to remove a visa requirement for South Africans intending to travel to our country for business or holidays. This is not only sad but quite unacceptable, given the strong ties between the two countries which date back many years.
The abolition of hurdles which curtail the movement of people between the two countries, thereby consolidating the bonds between them, is thus compulsory rather than optional.
It is in that spirit that we would wish to remind our government to make good on the joint pledge their leaders made seven years ago.
We would like to urge Home Affairs minister Emmanuel Nchimbi and Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe to act swiftly on this matter.
South Africa has made it clear that only those intending to stay there for more than three months would be required to apply for a visa, and we strongly believe that Tanzania should also do the same.
This is the spirit of the agreement reached between President Kikwete and his counterpart, Mbeki, in 2006 when the latter visited Dar es Salaam. It would also augur well for the citizens of both countries which are members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).