News Column

Refugees denied basic right of banking

February 6, 2014

We write on behalf of the Rights of African Refugees SA , a project of Independent Projects Trust , in response to, and in support of, the writer who submitted the letter "Asylum seekers need services too" (The Mercury, January 29). We and other refugee-rights advocacy groups have been imploring banks and financial institutions to facilitate the opening of bank accounts for some time, clearly to no avail. Pursuant to a successful court action in 2010, the government issued a directive that was clear and emphatic: an asylum-seeker or refugee permit was sufficient to meet the requirements of Fica in terms of opening a bank account. The institution was merely obligated to verify the veracity of the asylum-seeker document. Banks initially observed the directive, but a year later the practice of refusing accounts resurfaced, claiming that the cost of opening an account was too great, given that the applicant was only temporarily resident, this despite the fact that the asylum-seeking process is a long and arduous one, often stretching beyond five years. The introduction of bar codes and verifiable Section 22 and 24 |permits in 2013 enabled this process. But it seems that banks are not prepared to put in the extra effort required to verify documents and provide a fair and adequate service to permit holders, in addition to which, Home Affairs, Durban , in particular, further frustrates the process with its incompetence. Banking for a refugee is not simple, better or faster, nor are there an abundance of financial institutions asking how they can help. The journey refugees face is not easy, as they try to put their lives together, often having fled countries ravaged by lawlessness, rape, pillage and bloodshed. A bank account is a critical process in trying to establish themselves as contributors to a society they so desperately wish to be a part of. Perhaps former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mobweni, whose son experienced xenophobic treatment from the police, when arrested for ostensibly "being too dark", may want to whisper in the ears of his former colleagues. Instead, banks remain steadfast in denying a basic fundamental right to a vulnerable group of |people, who are targeted and ostracised by a government that |you would think understands the |challenges of being denied basic rights. Makes you think, doesn't it? Glenda Caine and Anthony Sterne Rights of African Refugees The Independent Projects Trust ONE has to wonder if our ministers understand the basics of economics or is it maths literacy? Education Minister Blade Nzimande suggests that free education would solve the fund-related protests that are racking our universities (The Mercury, February 4). Surely, as a member of the cabinet, he is aware of the financial woes of the country, or was he otherwise distracted when Pravin Gordhan made his speech last year? This country has a culture of demanding everything for free. Later in the article there is confirmation that not just education is demanded for free, but also additional education, accommodation, security measures and so on - perhaps even an entertainment allowance. Then the one that takes the cake: the chief executive of Higher Education SA said universities would support free higher education - a no-brainer indeed. Tony Ball Durban THE rather tawdry affair between the DA and Agang has the hallmarks of a comic opera. It is surprising it even stumbled towards the altar, let alone succeeded in lasting a few hours, as it was always going to be a marriage of expediency. Mamphela Ramphele is undoubtedly a very intelligent woman, but with the charisma of a wet dishcloth and a record that in reality does not stand up to close scrutiny. Her tenure as a managing director of the World Bank was not a great success and her eventual resignation hardly caused a ripple. Despite her obvious academic achievements and accolades, her political acumen is one of naivete, as to have even dreamt of starting a political party so close to national elections was a folly. There was simply no way her efforts would amount to anything other than failure. Therefore, the DA represented a lifeline and a chance to portray herself as the saviour of South Africa . Her only real success out of this messy scenario is that she was able to con the entire DA leadership into believing her motivation was prompted by altruism. The DA must also shoulder blame, because once again, in a thinly disguised effort to hide the fact that the party desperately wants black faces, Ramphele represented someone with seemingly the right credentials. Gwede Mantashe was correct when he referred to the DA's actions as "renting a black", because if the DA is so desperate for black leaders then they must go out and get the best they can - individuals with gravitas, a desire to change the political landscape and the courage to call a "spade a spade". They do not need sycophants, who bask in the reflected glow of others and move up the ranks based on their melanin content. Ramphlele certainly represents the perfect example of a token black. This is the ultimate insult to all people of colour, who may find themselves moving upwards in the DA's ranks, always wondering if their elevation is because they are skilled or because they are black. Finley Dunne Glenhills I thank Thami Manyathi for his reply to my previous correspondence published in The Mercury. However, questions remain. The GO!Durban website makes mention only of Phase One, its various corridors and its planned completion date (2018). I could locate no further information regarding Phase Four, or corridor C6 (Pinetown to Durban CBD), which Manyathi mentions. Now, if Phase One is going to be completed in only four years, can one deduce that work on Phase Four is going to start many years from now? What are residents - such as I, who reside in Pinetown and work in Durban - supposed to do until then? He also states that "each route has been determined by need, based on current passenger transport statistics". Unless I am mistaken, one cannot gather such information for a route which has now been non-existent since 2009, along with Remant Alton's final demise. So, how was such a decision regarding the Pinetown- Durban route reached? If Manyathi and the rest of his ETA colleagues want a true picture of the urgent need for a service to be reinstated between the Inner West and Durban , then I suggest he speaks directly to former commuters who - like me - for 10 years or more, before the Remant Alton era, travelled on an almost filled-to-capacity bus every morning and evening . Rowan du Toit Pinetown Following on the recent letters about the uncalled-for killing of an elephant in the Kruger National Park , I write to express my alarm at the state of the KwaZulu-Natal wildlife parks. Since my last visit three years ago, the area around Hilltop Lodge at Hluhluwe is an example of wilful decimation of animals and park neglect. The few animals we saw in this park is a disgrace. Who is going to visit South Africa if they do not take care to preserve the wildlife and sea life? Good beaches and sun are ten a penny around our planet - these beautiful animals are not. Can the people of KZN do something to stop this destruction before it's too late and their heritage is lost for ever. D Scott London The Mercury

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Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)

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