March 27, 2003

Discussion on tourist visas

Mozambican Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on Thursday, March 27, said that he is personally in favour of abolishing entry visas for tourists visiting Mozambique. He was confident that the money the state would lose by not charging for visas would be more than compensated for in the increased purchases inside the country that larger numbers of tourists would make.

But Mocumbi, who was speaking at a Maputo press briefing, stressed that this was a personal opinion, and the government had taken no decision on the matter. Asked to comment on the exorbitant price of South African entry visas (currently 450 rands - over 50 US dollars - and likely to go up again in the near future), Mocumbi said this was a sovereign decision of the South African government. He declined to comment on AIM's suggestion that the South African attitude is a flagrant violation of the spirit of SADC (Southern African Development Community), and of the regional integration that SADC is supposed to bring about. Mozambique "applies reciprocity", he said. Thus there were some "no visa" deals that the country had signed, notably with Malawi. And when a country such as South Africa forced Mozambicans to pay more for visas, Mozambique could increase the price of its visas for South African visitors. But he did not think it would be wise to go down the road of retaliation. "It's not automatic", he said. "We must decide whether it is in our interest".

Mocumbi said that virtually everyone coming to Mozambique for the African Union summit in July has been exempted from visa requirements. The country would not lose from this - he expected the AU delegates to spend a lot of money in Mozambique. The best way of profiting from tourists, he added, was not to charge them for visas, but to ensure there was a wide variety of goods available for them to buy.

Asked about the recent illegal attempt by the South African Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) to prevent Mozambican buses and trucks from crossing the border, Mocumbi stressed that this agency has no power whatever to close the border. If the border was effectively closed to the Mozambican transporters for 36 hours, this was a matter of prudence: the Mozambican authorities advised the transporters not to cross for fear of what might happen to the drivers and their vehicles. Mocumbi stressed that the rules established in the transport agreements between Mozambique and South Africa include mechanisms for the two government to resolve disputes - they do not give any agency or committee the authority to close the border. He could not give cast-iron guarantees that nothing similar would happen again, but stressed that the government was in favour of continual dialogue with its South African partners, and of laying down clear rules that all must follow. (Agencia de Informaçao de Moçambique, Maputo)

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