OPINION by Dave Marsh

Ten weeks after SA Home Affairs raised hopes that travel for minors would be simplified, the Minister has now crushed optimism that changes would be made to increase family tourism.

Instead, his department is doing the opposite and entrenching the unabridged birth certificate requirement through a costly exercise to change the SA passport system to add both parents’ names into passports for minors.

That is a major and costly system change, which is borne out by the fact that it is taking so long and is 18 months behind the scheduled launch we reported in 2016. 

How will this benefit inbound tourism? Minister Malusi Gigaba told Business Day two weeks ago that the move put South Africa on the same level as most countries that already list the names of parents on a child’s passport. Travellers from foreign countries that do not list the names of parents in minors’ passports still need to provide the UBC.

We asked Tourism Update’s overseas readers who had minors to check their passports and let us know if their country provided both parents’ names.

This is the response we received from readers in our major source markets:

United States NO

United Kingdom NO

Germany NO

Netherlands NO

This is anecdotal evidence from readers but it does show that Home Affairs is once again making spurious claims that do not stand up to scrutiny, much as the original reason for UBCs, child trafficking, was shown by our investigative reporter to be a smokescreen.

There was one exception, India.

What makes this doubly ironic is that India is not a visa waiver country, so Indians, in any case, have to produce a UBC and secondly, women’s rights lobbyists persuaded the Indian government in January this year to remove the page with the parents’ names because of issues like single parents and adopted children.

India reverts to dropping parents’ names.

Unfortunately, the spokesman for Home Affairs did not return our calls or messages so we are unable to get their point of view.

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the fictional Hatter at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is characterised by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away.

Lewis Carroll could not make up the stuff of the South African government and unabridged birth certificates.

Unless, of course, this is all about a fat IT contract to develop a new SA passport system?

Who has got the contract and how much is it costing the taxpayer? That should be investigated.

The March Hare and the Hatter put the Dormouse's head in a teapot.