The Gupta leaks have revealed that, unlike most people who have to wait for days for their visas to South Africa to be considered, if you’re connected to the Gupta family it can take just hours.
And if you’re a South African civil servant in India, beware turning down a request for visas to be expedited.
Ansie van Heerden, second secretary of Immigration & Civic Services at the SA High Commission in New Delhi, India, seemingly found this out after she was flayed by her boss back home on at least two occasions when she refused visa applications.
That boss appears to have been Major Kobese, the director of the foreign office coordination and support branch of the department of home affairs.
For mere mortals, a visa application’s minimum processing time for Delhi and Mumbai is five working days, and for other locations seven working days from the date the application reaches the South African High Commission.
According to the leaked Gupta e-mails, Sahara Computers chief operations officer Ashu Chawla had a powerful ally in Kobese. On December 7, 2015, at 2.39pm Chawla copied Kobese on an e-mail to the New Delhi First Secretary (Immigration & Civic Affairs) requesting “Dear Immigration Officer” for help.
“I hope you well. Can you please help me the get one visa by tomorrow which was submitted on Friday [sic],” Chawla wrote.
Van Heerden responded that the system was, regrettably, offline and could not be attended to that day. Kobese wasn’t having any of that, and told her to issue a handwritten visa before informing Port Control.
His e-mail was sent at 4.34pm, and it’s fair to say it’s out of character for any government office to be open after 4.30pm. With seemingly no choice in the matter, she responded that the application would be finalised.
The second round was at noon on February 2016, when Chawla asked her for help again.
“Can you please help me on below visas as they are flying on Monday so if you can please help me to get it resolved today. Will be highly appreciated,” Chawla wrote.
“As Mr Raj Jain applied the visa and he got single entry visa but he has to fly twice within weeks [sic] gap. So if you can give him the multiple entry visa for 3 month will be highly appreciated [sic].”
Already chastened, Van Heerden kicked it upstairs to the then minister plenipotentiary for permission “for the expedition of the under mentioned applications”, at which time Chawla’s request was turned down.
Again Kobese jumped in, his ire obvious.
“The responsibility of issuance of visas lies with yourself and not Mr Mogale,” he wrote to Van Heerden.
“It is irregular to seek Mr Mogale’s permission in doing what you have been trained and experienced in. The issuance of a visitor’s visa has to be done in maximum of 5 working days. And there is no law or training provided that prescribes that it cannot be issued the same day.”
Kobese said if she had “no tangible reason not to issue the visas as requested by Mr Ashu, this therefore seeks to authorise you to issue the visa. If you have objections, please advance them. Please do not defer decisions to the high commissioner that are in line with your work. If you lack the capacity and confidence to make sound decisions and rationale based on Immigration Act, please advise us so that we can find a solution.”
Kobese’s threat was implicit: Stop messing my friends about, or else.
Yesterday the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) laid charges of corruption and fraud against Chawla, former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Home Affairs official Gideon Christians and Gupta businessman Rajesh “Tony” Gupta. Kobese has yet to respond to the allegations. – firstname.lastname@example.org