Business Botswana has welcomed the move by government to cease the issuance of what they term ‘un-qualifying emergency work permits’ with immediate effect. Business Botswana Acting Chief Executive Officer Dichaba Molobe said they, at Business Botswana, could not be bothered much by the move and instead welcomes it with open arms as it will likely benefit its members greatly. “We would have been worried if they were stopping the issuance of emergency work permits entirely, but since they will be only ceasing the issuance of those deemed to be un-qualifying, we don’t have a problem with it,” said Molobe.
According to Molobe, as long as the facility still remains in place, Business Botswana sees no issue with the move. He, however, noted that the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs did not notify Business Botswana prior to taking the decision. “I have just spoken to the Permanent Secretary and she assured me that the decision was taken with the best interest of all stakeholders at heart,” he said. In a press release dated the 5th of January, Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Pearl Matome stated that her ministry “will only process genuine emergency applications”.
Matome further went on to define an emergency as “a sudden, unexpected, or impending situation that may cause injury, loss of life, damage to the property, and/or interference with the normal activities of a person or firm and which, therefore, requires immediate attention and remedial action.” According to Matome, this decision follows the realisation that the majority of applicants for such permits have been abusing the dispensation by applying for emergency work permits even where there was no emergency. This, she said, has resulted in a backlog and delay in processing regular applications for work and residence permits for deserving applicants.
During a stakeholder consultative meeting last year, the Permanent Secretary also stated that there was a big problem in the Ministry especially with regard to work/residence permits and visa application as far as turnaround time was concerned. “We have from time been accused of taking too long to process Visas as well as work and residence permits on time. As we mapped the process we indeed realised that we are not able to meet the standard time of 14 days and instead exceed even 70 days, which indeed causes dissatisfaction and anxiety to our customers. So yes, there is a problem,” said Matome. She bemoaned that the inefficient process in her ministry has resulted in a lot of other leakages and bottlenecks that negatively affected the image of her Ministry, and the effectiveness of the business community. This, she said, then affects the overall performance and image of Botswana.
This vast inefficiency in her ministry, she said, has also subsequently developed into corruption. During the same consultative meeting, Matome’s deputy, Montshiwa Montshiwa dismissed reports that government is targeting individuals of certain nationalities by denying them work and residence permits whenever they apply. He absolved government and his ministry from any wrongdoing, saying that most of reports on the issue were just perceptions by certain individuals who may have felt hard done by the immigration process at some point. “The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs can only decline to issue a work/residence permit or visa to an individual who do not meet stipulated requirements,” said Montshiwa.