The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is set to push forward its plans to introduce a new passport rule that would see all member countries holding a common passport.
The development community announced this pointing out that while African countries patiently await a rule that will have African citizens take up a visa-free travel to any African country of their choice, the newly announced SADC programme would allow for easy passage between bordering countries, and provide a single travel document for international travel.
The first draft Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons within SADC was, according to travel 24, introduced in 1996, but was later “replaced by a more restrictive Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons in 1997”.
Tanzania’s foreign minister Augustine Mahiga, also said these passports which would be issued to citizens in the concerned countries will be a better catalyst for ending challenges arising from movement of people between the countries and would also create a “borderless region and continent”.
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The current SADC countries include:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- South Africa
This would be made effective in a short while as Home Affairs works on the proposed visa-free travel to the EU which is still currently in the works, following a proposal by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in September 2016.
Gigaba had after meeting with European Union Ambassador Marcus Cornaro late last year, confirmed that the EU was looking at relaxing or eliminating its visa requirements for South African passport holders.
Measures being looked at include the feasibility of multiple-entry visas for SA business travellers to the EU, as well as full exemptions for South African leisure travelers, said Gigaba who quickly added that the new regulations could be introduced as early as March 2017, but the process is still ongoing.
Home affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete who has been following the EU-SA visa free proposals told news media that the visa-free travel for South Africans is still currently in the works and that the department had officially submitted its proposal for the relaxed travel regulations to the EU, and that it was awaiting feedback – expected within the coming months.
The spokesperson however, stressed that the decision was not entirely in South Africa or the EU’s hands, but would have to be dealt with on a country-by-country basis.
Meanwhile, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, Ambassador Ramadhani Mwinyi had confirmed that his department was working to ensure that an individual within the SADC only uses one passport as an international travel document across the globe.
“The current work between member states was to integrate systems to ensure an East African national who is also a member of SADC carries only one travel document,” said Mwinyi.
The African Union (AU) on its own part, looks at introducing free passport for dignitaries and officials with the ultimate to extend the travel document to all Africans at a later date.