The Presidential Working Committee on the Jobs Summit, which held its monthly meeting on Monday, noted that substantial progress had been made in reforming and modernising South Africa’s visa regime, issuing water-use licences, releasing broadband spectrum, saving jobs in distressed firms and improving the certainty of electricity supply.
These were among the updates provided to government, labour, business and the community at the second committee meeting.
The committee is meant to develop specific interventions that will enable greater job creation in specific sectors and also provide detailed updates on a month-to-month basis on those interventions.
The committee comprises senior leadership of the different National Economic Development and Labour Council constituencies.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi reported that changes to South Africa’s visa regime, to make the country more accessible to visitors, investors and people with critical skills, were under way.
The Department of Home Affairs had lowered turnaround times for issuing critical work skills visas, which are now issued within four weeks in 88.5% of applications.
Business and general work visas are issued within eight weeks in 98% of applications.
In November, the department will embark on a pilot scheme for the issuing of e-visas, which applicants will be able to access online, eliminating the need for applicants to visit South African missions abroad.
The department has also located visa services within the offices of various investment facilitation agencies around the country.
In addition, visa requirements have been simplified for countries such as China and India, which are key markets for tourism to South Africa.
Recently, government also waived visas for travellers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, New Zealand, Cuba, Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe.
Meanwhile, the committee also received a report from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa on the process for the release of high-demand broadband spectrum, which is expected to be concluded in the first quarter of the 2021 financial year. Social partners urged the regulator to make every effort, within the legal prescripts, to fast-track the process of auctioning and allocating spectrum.
It was agreed that this process should be run alongside other work to reduce the cost of data.
The committee also noted that deadlines for the issuing of water-use licences had been significantly shortened.
Government is working on ensuring that these licences are issued within 60 days for agriculture, 80 to 95 days for infrastructure projects from State-owned enterprises and municipalities, and 120 days for mining.
Consultation is also ongoing with business to ensure that the conditions attached to licences are not too onerous or costly.
Additionally, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan reported that significant progress had been made in addressing operational challenges at State-owned Eskom, with the result that no load-shedding had taken place in the country in the last 200 days.
He indicated that the power utility was reinforcing management skills at power stations by returning effective power station managers to positions from which they had been removed, and through the appointment of operational engineers in spite of financial constraints.
The committee was informed that the Special Paper on Eskom and the roadmap to ensure its sustainability into the future was close to finalisation and would be announced shortly.
Social partners emphasised that both the Special Paper on Eskom and the Integrated Resources Plan were urgently needed so that long-term investment decisions could be made.
The committee also received a report on progress towards the implementation of an export tax on scrap metal. It was agreed that this work should be concluded within the next four months.
The leaders of all social partners welcomed the progress that had been made and endorsed the focus of the committee on practical interventions that can be made within particular industries to promote growth and employment.