SOUTH AFRICA DENIES NIGERIANS VISAS

EXCEPT the South Africa High Commission changes its policy, thousands of Nigerians may miss watching the FIFA 2010 World, which begins on Friday, due to lack of entry visa to South Africa, the host country of the global sports fiesta.
Thousands of Nigerians had, last week, besieged the 24 Molade Okoya Thomas Street, Victoria Island, Lagos office of the High Commission, with most of them threatening to forcefully enter the premises to know why they have been refused visas, even when they met all the criteria more than two weeks before the commencement of the Mundial.
South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, JKN Mamabolo, could not be reached for comment, as he was said to be out of Nigeria.
South Africa has a reputation for visa denial, coupled with rowdy operations in its Nigerian office.
The Federal Government had, last year, expressed concern over the manner Nigerians are treated at the High Commission whenever they want to process their entry visa to the country.
The situation had forced the Nigerian government to threaten a retaliatory action as a way of expressing its disapproval over treatment of her citizens.
Most of them had already secured their accommodation and air tickets with South Africa’s accredited tour operators and travel agents, some of the important criteria for granting entry visas to genuine Nigerians.
Investigation by The Guardian revealed that majority of the teeming fans armed with original FIFA World Cup match tickets that allow them to watch the football Mundial, have been denied the “event Visa” by South African High Commission in Nigeria.
The football fans accused the consular officials of South African High Commission of “shabby treatment and issuing unclear guidelines and last-minute requirements for the “event visa.”
The understanding they had was that with purchase of original FIFA World Cup match tickets, flight tickets, accommodation and proof of sustenance in South Africa for the duration of the World Cup, an “event visa” would automatically be issued, which guarantees entry to the country.
“ We are being asked to bring proof of employment, payment slips, bank statement and other extraneous documents by consular officials under a stringent visa regime,” they grumbled.
Of particular concern is Nigerian FIFA-accredited tour operators who paid upfront to FIFA to sell all-inclusive package of match tickets, accommodation, tours, among others, to clients, who have now been asked by the SA Consular to physically come along with hundreds of their clients, who are mostly from corporate organisations to be interviewed.
South Africa is the first country in the world to introduce “event visa” to encourage and get more nationals of qualifying countries to watch the World Cup.
The fear is that Nigerian FIFA-accredited tour operators, their clients and football fans stand to lose money paid for flight tickets, match tickets, accommodation tours and other sundry expenses, if they are refused the event visa. The figure is conservatively put at over N100 million.

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