No visas yet, but Rwanda, SA ties are ‘better,’ says minister

Tuesday April 11 2017

Rwanda and South Africa have experienced uneasy relations, which escalated in 2014, leading to the expulsion of diplomats from both Kigali and Pretoria. Kigali, however says relations have improved. TEA Graphic

Rwandans are yet to be allowed to get visas to South Africa despite the government saying diplomatic ties between the two countries “are in a better place” than they were several years ago.

Rwandans, with the exception of government officials - carrying diplomatic and service passports - have not been able to legally travel to South Africa since 2014 following a falling out over Pretoria’s offer of asylum to people Rwanda considered dissidents.

In contrast, South Africans get visas upon arrival in Rwanda.

Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said last week that political and administrative developments (in South Africa and Rwanda) could be delaying appointment of visa consuls.

“The appointing of diplomats has more to do with having officers ready to go than anything else but as it is in any relationship that has hit difficulty, things will get back to normal slowly,” said Ms Mushikiwabo. “But also depending on what is going on inside each one of our countries, domestic politics always affect our foreign policy and technical foreign affairs appointments but I think it is fair to say that the relationship between South Africa and Rwanda is in a much better place than it were a couple of years back.”

READ: Rwanda, South Africa missions to resume operations


Even though Kigali says diplomatic relations with South Africa have normalised, many Rwandans seeking to go to South Africa are turned away at the South African High Commission in Kigali.

“We can’t tell when Rwandans will begin getting visas. We are waiting for advice from our government,” an embassy official told The EastAfrican.

Aimable Mugabo, a scholar who was to go for further studies in a South African university, says he lost the opportunity because he could not obtain a visa.

Several South African companies have businesses in Rwanda and RwandAir flies to Johannesburg daily.

READ:Rwanda, South Africa mending relations
Last year, a delegation led by South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa attended the World Economic Forum for Africa in Kigali, and both countries committed to iron out outstanding issues.

The two countries have experienced uneasy relations, which escalated in 2014, leading to the expulsion of diplomats from both Kigali and Pretoria over accusations that Rwanda had violated South Africa’s sovereignty.

Nearly two years after both countries agreed to reappoint diplomats, Rwanda awaits the reinstatement of visa services for ordinary Rwandans who seek to travel to South Africa.

Prior to the expulsion of diplomats by both countries, South Africa was one of Rwanda’s biggest trading partners and the country was a favourite choice for Rwandan students and businesses, but with no functional consular services, trade and travel has dwindled.