US government shutdown affects embassy staff in SA
US embassy and consul offices in South Africa will begin to shut down their activities on Monday, unless the US Congress succeeds in a last-ditch effort to pass a budget late on Sunday night, to restart government activities. If not, all but essential US nationals working for embassy offices in South Africa will be sent home on unpaid leave, like tens of thousands of US government officials in the US and across the world. By PETER FABRICIUS.
The US government shut down at midnight on Friday when the US Senate failed to pass a budget to keep funding government activity.
But, said US embassy spokesperson Cindy Harvey on Sunday, South African nationals working in US embassies and consulates will continue working as usual.
The shutdown comes after most Democrats plus a few Republicans refused to vote for the budget because President Donald Trump declined to accept a Democrat proposal to assure the residence in the US of so called “dreamers” – illegal undocumented migrants brought to the US as children who gained legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an Obama-era policy that was rescinded by Trump in September.
Despite the general shutdown, US officials would continue to process applications for passports and visas at US consulates in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, Harvey said.
“The US Mission in South Africa has been informed by the US Office of Management and Budget that a lapse of appropriations has occurred and has been directed to begin a shutdown of activities beginning on January 22, 2018,” she said.
“All of our employees have been asked to report to work on January 22 to commence shutdown procedures. In adherence to local labour laws, South African employees will continue their duties. Certain “excepted” American employees will also continue to perform their duties throughout the lapse.
“American employees performing ‘non-excepted’ functions will be furloughed (sent on leave)” she said.
“Upon passage by Congress of an appropriations bill or continuing resolution, the US Mission will resume full operations and all employees will report back to work on their next scheduled workday.
“All scheduled passport and visa appointments and services to US citizens at our Consulates in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits. For more information about consular services, please contact ConsularJohannesburg@state.gov.”
The US Congress convened again on Saturday but the Senate was still unable to agree on a budget. Congress was due to meet again late on Sunday for another attempt, though analysts said they were unlikely to succeed. DM
Photo: News photographers capture a visual aid prior to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s press conference as the Senate continues work on ending the government shutdown in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 20 January 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE/SHAWN THEW