So a few months ago I needed to go to South Africa for my own shugulis. I was surprised to learn that they had changed the way that one has to get a visa to our brothers from down South.
Turns out that now I needed to download the Visa forms from the new portal and then apply for it. You then have to go to the West Building on Parklands Road (almost opposite Hospital Hill Primary) to the offices of VFS. For two weeks in that country you will need to supply;
A letter of invitation from a South African individual of organisation – I was going to visit my family to I asked a “close” member of the family to send me an invitation. Check.
A return airline ticket – I am a die hard member of Ethiopian airlines so I had the said ticket. Check.
Payment of Sh6,000 (I know its slightly less but all you get is Kshs150 change) – OK. It used to be free now I have to go now I have to pay. Whats that about? They claim visa is free but I still pay. Who is the the money going to I wondered? Answer: VFS. Check
Bank statement – Three months bank statement. It was here that my exorbitant bank charges came into play as to get those I have to pay about KSh9,000 to procure these from the bank. Thats because my stupid bank CFC Stanbic (Yes I am moving) charges me Kshs590 per page in the statement. At this time I am wondering whether going to SA will be worth it.
A picture – Lemme take a selfie. Check.
Now that’s me going to a building thats NOT the South African High Commission to get a visa to another part of the African continent. Sigh. I made it into the building and saw that I had two options – turn right for the VFS office to get the visa for Schengen countries or turn left to get the visa for South Africa.
The security guys gave me a number after frisking me for what people frisk for and then I sat with the rest of the watus. Interestingly the point of the number was lost on me as I had to sit in line and as people go to the counter I had to move with them.
As the line was long I opted to pull out my phone to do some work when an officious looking gentleman came through and insisted to us all. “No phones! No gadgets!”
Let me get this straight. We are sitting in a building that is not anywhere near the South Africans at a company called VFS that had been given the outsourced job of taking my money and I have to twiddling my thumbs for at least twenty minutes. Me a Kenyan with things to do and I am away from the office and have finite time and my phone is a vital part of my communication system. And I have to stop? For what? I have never felt so insulted.
Eventually I handed in my documents and was asked to come in either four of five days. My flight was on a Sunday so I picked my passport on Friday. To my surprise my passport had been only given a ten day visa while my airline flight had indicated that I had a 14 days round trip. What was the point of giving in an airline ticket you wonder? I have no idea. I asked about it and the lady said that this is how the document had come from the embassy and if I wanted to change it she could do nothing.
I made my way to SA and a few days after being there I made it to their home affairs offices in Jo’burg and asked if my visa could be extended by 4 days. Not three months or anything crazy like that. FOUR DAYS. The kind lady there told me that if I was to overstay on my visa I would be fined at point of entry.
When I was leaving the country I was fined by the gentleman at the airport; R1,000.
So lets recap.
17,000 for the visa before I have even left the country.
R1,000 (by now its like Kshs5,000 at the rate that currency is going) fine for overstaying.
That’s money I didn’t need to spend and could have spent in the economy. I guess the SA government prefers its money in fines.
What really gets my goat is that I have to go through the European VFS system to get a visa to an African country. A country which was given the mandate to run the FIFA World Cup four years on the premise that it is an “African World Cup.” This South African being the an African country must be like when Bill Clinton became US president as “first black president” until the real first black president emerged.
It has emerged that I am not the only one who was unhappy with the treatment by our brothers. The government of Kenya has also unveiled its new regulations for South Africans coming to Kenya. No longer sauntering to JKIA and getting a visa stamp after paying US$50.
Tit for Tat.