The climactic scene of the latest Marvel noise-fest, Avengers II: Age of Ultron, is set in the fictional city of Sarkovia. Artificial Intelligence bot Ultron, an innovation designed by Tony Stark in order to ring-fence Earth against the threat of alien invasion, has instead gone rogue, and decided that the biggest threat to humanity’s peaceful existence is humanity itself. In order to destroy the planet, Ultron’s big play is to rip Sarkovia from terra firma, send it skywards, and then drop it so the resulting impact kills us all. A complicated scheme. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, if he has seen the movie, must have taken it as a revelation. He must have gazed upon Sarkovia suspended in the sky, unreachable except by computer-generated special- effects-enhanced superheroes, and thought—perfect! Up there in the clouds, Sarkovia could not be fouled by outsiders or brigands or Mozambican spaza shop owners. It was not a country, but an entity.
In fairness to Minister Gigaba, his own scheme to ring-fence South Africa from aliens is no less complicated, and predates the latest Marvel blockbuster. But in fairness to the latest Marvel blockbuster, it’s not unreasonable to assume that at least someone in Home Affairs was able to crib Ulton’s plans long before the movie’s release. That’s because the noisiest, most incoherent scene in this over-stuffed, quarter-of-a-billion-dollar globalised cultural product was shot right here in Johannesburg. Gigaba’s ministry approved the visas and work permits for dozens of highly paid Hollywood technicians, who threw fake cars around the streets of the City of Gold in order to simulate a battle between The Hulk and Iron Man. That’s how it’s supposed to work—in an increasingly connected world, networks of money and people move through countries with ease in order to maximise profit for multinationals.
But it doesn’t work like this, largely because like Tony Stark, Malusi Gigaba will now greet all foreign visitors like they’re belligerent beings from another planet. As of June 1, it will be incumbent on foreign national travelling with children to provide customs officials with an unabridged birth certificate. And all minors travelling with only one parent or guardian will need to be accompanied by an affidavit signed by a second. The various players in the travel industry have been agog at this news, in part because the rules were only published in full a week ago, and also because the responsibility of explaining these new regulations to travellers falls entirely on the airlines. Should a kid arrive on a flight without his or her full birth certificate, back they go to America or Germany or South Korea. “It’s absolute shock and horror,” Virgin Atlantic country manager Liezl Gericke told EWN. “There is no country in the world that is going to implement this particular process.” Ah, but Ms. Gericke, there is no country in