South African authorities have uncovered numerous cases of fraudulent visa and permit issuance in missions abroad, including Ghana. The ongoing investigations have already resulted in the suspension of an official in the South African High Commission in Ghana.
In a report presented to the Portfolio Committee on the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa in August, the investigation revealed that the Ghana mission was involved in the issuance of fraudulent visas and permits. The report stated that one official has been suspended, charged, and is currently undergoing a disciplinary hearing, with a referral to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the ‘Hawks'.
In China, two officials have been suspended due to irregular issuance of visas. The report indicated that Charge Sheets and disciplinary proceedings against these officials are in progress.
The Multi-disciplinary Task Team (MDTT) conducting the investigation discovered that 45,000 fraudulent visas were issued between 2014 and June 2021, including residence and work permits, both within and outside the country.
South African Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, raised concerns about fraudulent visas, including cases of ‘retirement visas being issued to 25-year-olds' and questionable study visas. The investigation identified thousands of irregularly issued permanent residence permits, corporate/business visas, critical skills visas, study visas, retired persons' visas, and citizenship by naturalization.
The report also indicated that 36,647 foreign nationals had false documentation in their applications, with 880 being approved. Of the applicants, 4,160 linked to fraudulent applications were successful in later applications.
The investigation is led by the Multi-disciplinary Task Team chaired by Cassius Lubisi, the former director-general in the Presidency. The MDTT was established to review all permits issued since 2004 when the South African Immigration Amendment Act came into operation.
Peter Bishop, a forensic investigator involved in the task team, highlighted the irregular issuance of visas and permits in the Ghana mission. He stated that one official was suspended and charged, with the disciplinary hearing set to continue on August 15, 2023.
Lubisi's report to Parliament revealed that retirement visas and permits were often used as a pretext to enter South Africa, after which work visas were applied for or individuals got married. The investigation also found that naturalization was granted before the required five-year period of permanent residency.
Approximately 61 South African diplomatic officials have been identified and referred for disciplinary processes, with 11 officials already undergoing disciplinary hearings.
This situation has raised concerns among Ghanaians, as some who have applied for South African visas in recent months have faced extended waiting times and difficulties in obtaining visas from the South African High Commission in Accra. VFS, the third-party visa processing company, has also faced scrutiny for its handling of applications.
The Department of Home Affairs in South Africa has been contacted for their response, but no official statement has been provided as of the time of publication. Further updates will be incorporated if their response is received.