The reinstatement took effect on 3 October after having been removed from the list in February 2022.
Earlier this year, the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) raised concerns about the high numbers of vets leaving South Africa, which has resulted in the country facing a severe skills shortage in a profession that is critical to ensuring animal health and food safety and security.
The SAVC had been working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and also engaged extensively with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to address the critical issue.
SAVC president Dr Nandipha Ndudane said the much-needed amendment to the critical skills list would help address the dire shortage of veterinarians and veterinary nurses in South Africa.
“It is much simpler to apply for a critical skills permit than a work permit, making it easier for foreign vets to work in South Africa. This will also assist with food safety and security in South Africa, as more veterinarians will be available to help farmers keep livestock healthy.
“The continuous collaborative efforts by the SAVC, the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) and the DALRRD to lobby to the DHA for veterinarians and veterinary nurses to be put back on the critical skills list have finally paid off.”
The SAVC is now ready to issue the required ‘scarce skills’ letters to the DHA on request when qualifying foreign veterinarians and veterinary nurses apply to work in South Africa.
The reinstatement also means that veterinarians from the UK and Australasia who are permitted to practise in South Africa without having to write SAVC exams (due to mutual recognition agreements) will more easily be granted permits to work in the country.
Ndudane said these veterinarians would have to perform a year’s compulsory community service through the DALRRD once they have registered with the SAVC.
The reinstatement will also help foreign students studying veterinary science at the University of Pretoria to complete their one-year compulsory community service, allowing them to remain and practise in the country.
According to SAVC, South Africa has 60 to 70 vets per million citizens, far below the international norm of 200 to 400 vets per million.
SAVC’s records show that about 150 veterinarians are leaving the country annually while only about 160 qualify each year from the University of Pretoria’s Onderstepoort campus, the only faculty in South Africa that offers studies in veterinary science.
“While work is being done to motivate for the establishment of additional faculties offering veterinary science qualifications and to implement strategies to retain veterinary professionals, the SAVC believes this positive step taken by the DHA will go a long way in mitigating South Africa’s veterinary skills deficit,” concluded Ndudane.