Minister of Home Affairs Budget Speech & Responses by ANC, DA and IFP
15 Jul 2014
Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Malusi Gigaba, gave his Budget Vote Speech on the 15 July 2014
Introduction –The National Development Plan is our guide
We are honoured to present to this EPC today our Budget Vote for 2014 / 2015 on this, the 20th Anniversary of our freedom. Home Affairs carries the responsibility of ensuring that all South Africans have an identity and status, and to maintain a credible and secure National Population Register (NPR).
The past 20 years have also seen our young democracy become full part of the international community of nations, requiring the Department of GDHA effectively to manage the entry and exit of persons to and from South Africa.
This carries with it immense development benefits for our country, but it also has serious risk implications that need to be mitigated. It is this evolution that informs our three departmental outcomes.
In pursuit of these objectives, the budget of the Department of Home Affairs is set at R6.6 billion for 2014/15:
- Departmental programmes receive R4,9 billion,
- The Film and Publication Board will receive R79 million,
- The Electoral Commission will receive R1,6 billion, and
- The Government Printing Works is now fully self-funding.
In this regard, I have delegated to the Deputy Minister the responsibility for Front-Office Improvement, Asylum-Seeker Management and Legal Services about which she shall later elaborate during her speech.
A secured South African citizenship and identity
One of our top priorities is to clean up the National Population Register, the NPR, which continues, for historical reasons, to contain significant inaccuracies.
One of the main methods to clean up the NPR has been the on-going National Population Registration campaign, a key target of which has been to persuade all parents to register their children within 30 days of birth.
This remains a daunting challenge in our country where late registrations of birth, for historical reasons, remain a significant feature, resulting in significant breaches in and pollution of our NPR. During the past financial year, 64 of all births were registered within 30 days, which constituted an improvement of 5% on the prior financial year.
We have thus far inaugurated live birth registration 391 hospitals and health facilities across the country and intend enhancing our partnership with the Departments of Health and Basic Education in support of birth registration.
I would like to make this important announcement that I intend ending all late registration of birth (LRB) by end of December 2015, after which all applications for late registration of birth would go through an appeal and adjudication process. Timely registration of birth must, and will soon be, the only way in to the National Population Register.
This calls for a national effort involving all patriotic South Africans keen to ensure we have a clean NPR to get involved in the final mopping up stages of the LRB campaign. In this regard, the 264 Stakeholder Forums that have been formed can play an important coordinating role.
One of the most tangible elements of our efforts to build a National Identity System is the Smart-ID Card which we began rolling out in October 2013 in 70 designated Smart-ID Card offices countrywide.
Thus far, over 300 000 cards have been issued and an additional 70 offices will have Smart-ID Card application capability by the end of this financial year, to support our rollout target of 1.5 million cards. 30 of the 70 offices will be ready for Smart-ID Card issue within 100 days.
We are investigating ways to leverage partnerships with the Post Office and the banks in the Smart-Card rollout, the details of which we will announce when they are ready. The dramatic improvements of recent years in the issuing of ID books and passports have also been sustained with 92% of first-issue ID books issued in 54 days, and 96% of passports applied for through live-capture being issued within 13 working days.
People aged 60 and above, as well 16-year olds, are the only group currently invited to replace their ID books with Smart-ID cards free of charge. When we reach the target of 140 Smart-ID Card offices, we will then completely stop issuing green IDs to 16-year olds.
The Smart-ID card is also an example of technological innovation, with advanced technology, including biometric data, which has ensured that it has not been breached in the 10 months it has been in circulation.
The South African Smart-ID Card was awarded the ‘Regional ID Document of the Year Award’ in 2013 from the Asian, Middle East and African Security Printing Conference.
This is a world class, South African-developed, product which will have an enormous positive impact on our security and economy, with significant potential applications in financial services, governance, retail and ICT.
The opportunity is there for local technology entrepreneurs and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to develop commercial solutions which take advantage of the card’s functionality.
A secured and responsive immigration system
We must manage immigration securely and effectively in a way which benefits our economy and society, heeds our international obligations and manages risks to national security.
Cabinet has assigned DHA lead responsibility to establish the Border Management Agency (BMA) which will be central to securing all land, air and maritime ports of entry and support the efforts of the South African National Defence Force to address the threats posed to, and the porousness of, our borderline.
We are currently undertaking a feasibility study to determine all the practicalities of a future BMA, the findings and proposals of which will guide the legislative process. All relevant government departments are being engaged in an inter-governmental consultative process through a Project Management Office we have established. By the end of 2016 we hope to have the BMA established.
We have upgraded infrastructure at 11 high-volume points of entry, including Beit Bridge and Maseru Bridge, and expanded the Enhanced Movement Control System (EMCS) to 13 additional points of entry.
During the previous year, we facilitated the movement of 39 million travellers in and out of the Republic demonstrating that our ability to manage the flow of people in and out of the country is becoming increasingly efficient and robust.
In this regard, we draw attention to the new immigration regulations which took effect on May 26th, 2014, following amendments to the immigration legislation, which had grown out-dated in the context of new complex challenges.
As well as facilitating the streamlining of our permitting regime, improving the administration of our visa-issuance, and regulating human movement into and out of South Africa, the new regulations enhance our security by addressing areas of weakness, risk and abuse.
Opportunistically, South Africa is being advised to drop or relax visa requirements in a world where they are required of South Africans when travelling abroad and where security has become a matter of global concern. We reject with contempt any suggestion that these regulations are part of an Afrophobic agenda to keep Africans or any nationality for that matter out of South Africa.
After all, South Africa cannot be separated from Africa and hence we can neither shut ourselves off Africa nor can we shut our eyes to the enormous risks that the new world possesses in abundance. Our commitment to African unity and development is resolute, and our track record in this regard speaks for itself.
We value the contribution of fellow Africans from across the continent living in South Africa and that is why we have continued to support the AU and SADC initiatives to free human movement; but this cannot happen haphazardly, unilaterally or to the exclusion of security concerns; and neither can it happen without standardising population registration and immigration legislation and addressing development challenges everywhere.
Risks to any country on our continent have a direct impact on our own country. After all, we have not unilaterally removed existing visa waiver agreements we have with fellow African countries and are keen to enter into more such agreements as we are satisfied that more African countries are conduction civic registration of their nationals.
At this point, I wish to announce that we are in the final stages of deliberations about the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation, which will expire in December this year. I am mindful of the anxiety among the Zimbabwean nationals in possession of this special permit issued in 2010, but I shall announce my decision in August this year.
Future policy development will focus, among other issues, on a framework the better to deal with economic migration many of whom have tended to pose as asylum seekers. We are actively seeking a solution on how best to separate asylum-seekers and refugees from economic migrants.
In this regard, work is under way to introduce a nation-wide discussion on a new international migration policy framework that shall take into consideration current realities and future management perspectives.
DHA contributing to economic development and tourism
The DHA contributes to economic development in several ways and our contribution as an enabler of tourism is irrefutable. Our Identity Documents help create the platform of trust and accountability which underpins our competitive and sophisticated financial system.
Our ability efficiently to facilitate large numbers of international visitors across ports of entry has enabled our positioning as a trusted host for major international events. Our immigration management enables us to bring in workers and investors who contribute to economic growth. Our staff have done well to eliminate visa and permit backlogs, and proactively assist businesses with immigration issues.
The new immigration regulations will make it easier to source critical skills from overseas. Foreign nationals possessing critical skills can now apply for and be granted a critical skills visa, even without a job, allowing them to enter the country and seek work for a period of up to 12 months.
For some time now, business stakeholders have been asking for families of workers to be considered as a unit, an international best practice which the new regulations now include.
These specific improvements, and our commitment to responsiveness to business needs in general, will make it easier for South Africa to attract the critical skills and investment our economy needs.
I am further proud to announce that all the eleven (11) Visa Facilitation Centres are now operational throughout South Africa and results have begun to show in the sense that 4000 applications were received in June alone and the turnaround time for adjudication has already been reduced.
Modernising Home Affairs
DHA currently uses inefficient, out-dated manual systems which both hamper our ability to offer a speedy service to customers and are vulnerable to fraud and corruption. We have thus embarked on a modernisation programme to secure, integrate and automate all our systems and create a paperless data environment.
Customers will benefit from greater efficiency, convenience and security.
Working together with SARS, we have successfully implemented the enhanced movement control system (eMCS) in 58 ports of entry (POEs) and automated the Live-Capture for Smart ID Card and Passports in 70 offices nation-wide.
We have upgraded infrastructure in physical offices and technology at the Government Printing Works (GPW) and in all the offices with live-capture and Smart-ID Card. We have also conducted training and change management in all 70 offices for front and back office officials on new automated processes.
Key in the Modernisation Project is the development of,
- the National Identification System which will replace the current NPR and Refugee systems,
- an integrated Border Management Solution which will include the Trusted Traveller programme, e-Visa and e-Permit system,
- data clean-up of key immigration and civics systems, and
- further roll out of live capture Smart-ID Card to the remaining identified offices.
We will further design dedicated Smart-ID Card offices in each province rather than implement the Smart-ID Card system in all offices.
Developing a cadre of professional, committed officials through learning and development
I am convinced that the leadership demonstrated by each and every one of our employees is a critical ingredient to our success. Leadership development, therefore, will be a consistent theme over the next term right into the future.
It is critical that our staff be service-oriented, professional, competent, committed, ethical and incorruptible. High standards and accountability are no longer negotiable at Home Affairs. On-going challenges include fighting corruption and overburdened staff due to understaffing amid resource constraints.
Inconsistent customer service is also a challenge and we are committed to ensuring our customers consistently experience excellent customer service. Our progress in developing a new cadre of Home Affairs official includes the establishment of a Learning Academy offering our officials, high quality, accredited courses in partnership with universities.
Our commitment to youth employment is demonstrated through our internship and cadet programmes. These young colleagues have had great impact already, having been immensely instrumental in the reduction of permit backlogs.
We have undergone a branding campaign to ensure all frontline staff wear an updated uniform and name tags to ensure they are easily identifiable, pleasant and approachable. Other key priorities this year are the employment and development of women, and talent enhancement initiatives.
Entities overseen by the Department of Home Affairs
Government Printing Works (GPW)
In the past 8 months, GPW has produced over 300 000 smart ID cards for DHA.
Since 2009, it has seen its revenue double to R757 million, with an envisaged two or three-fold increase in revenue over the next 5 years. GPW is midway through a five-year, R300 million programme to upgrade all printing machines to state of the art technology, as well as a multi-year renovation and relocation project.
Thus far, the Passport and Smart ID Card Factory, and High Security Printing Division are operational with the Passport, Smart ID Card and Examination Papers Dispatch Centre coming on stream in 2015.
Over the coming few years GPW plans to complete its transition from a Government Component into a State-Owned Enterprise. By 2017, GPW will have consolidated its position as the leading security printer in Africa, and one of the leaders in the field worldwide.
Film and Publications Board (FPB)
The FPB has found innovative ways to discharge its mandate, particularly of protecting children from premature exposure to potentially harmful and explicit content. It now uses FPB Online, an online application system which enables them to release classification decisions within well under 24 hours.
To adapt to the growth of digital media, it is exploring online distribution agreements with major content distributors enabling the companies to classify on its behalf in accordance with its regulatory guidelines.
Furthermore, the FPB also strategically engages internationally and within SADC on initiatives to prevent child pornography and child trafficking. The FPB continues to work with the DHA, SARS and SAPS and has recently conducted a destruction of more than 8 000 illegally distributed material in Komatipoort.
During the past 20 years, we have, from a painful legacy of discrimination, exclusion, neglect, and indignity, we have toiled hard to forge a department committed and equal to the tasks of restoring dignity to all South Africans and playing a critical role in the socio-economic development as well as security of our nation.
Over the next five years and towards Vision 2030, with your support, we can do even more to establish and maintain a secure National Identity System, and facilitate the secure, efficient movement of people.
I have outlined the work that our department is doing to ensure all South Africans can access their rights.
I close my remarks by requesting all South Africans to also carry out the responsibilities that come with those rights.
On behalf of the Department of Home Affairs, and as part of this national effort, I ask the following five things of every citizen:
Firstly, prize South African citizenship. Citizenship is our precious birth-right, and deserves our protection and respect.
Participating in illegal schemes to extend citizenship to people who do not deserve it devalues our hard-won citizenship, undermining our national development, security and social cohesion.
The DHA, in conjunction with the police and other security agencies, will continue to combat identity fraud and identity-related corruption, fighting both fraudsters and colluders alike with the same tenacity.
Secondly, register the birth of all children before you leave the hospital, within 30 days of birth, in order to ensure your child’s identity and status is recognised and safeguarded, and help us secure our National Population Register.
Thirdly, apply for your identity document at 16 years of age to enhance your ability to access government services and participate in the economy and capturing your fingerprints will prevent the stealing of your identity.
Fourthly, safeguard your documents to help combat identity theft and fraud. An alarming number of IDs are reissued every year, due to loss or theft, and many of these documents subsequently lie unclaimed for years at Home Affairs offices, increasing identity theft and inviting fraud and corruption.
Finally, register death immediately, to prevent theft of the deceased’s identity. In closing, I wish to thank the Deputy Minister for her collegiality, commitment, hard work and caring.
I thank the DG and his team for welcoming me back into the department and for their hard work and support, as well as for embracing the challenges before them.
I am grateful for the advice of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Honourable Buoang Mashile, and members of the Committee who provide critical oversight over the work of the Department.
I hope all members will support our budget for the 2014/15 financial year.
Working together we will move South Africa forward.
It is my privilege, Chairperson, to table this, the Budget Vote Number 4, of the Department of Home Affairs before the Extended Public Committee for discussion and support.
I thank you.
Responses by ANC, DA and IFP
Budget speech on the Department of Home Affairs Hon. D. M. Gumede (ANC)
Honourable Chairperson, Hon. Members and esteemed ladies and gentlemen,
The ANC in its twenty years in government has brought about a lot of changes for the better and it is continuing to deliver to improve the quality of life particularly for the poor and marginalized.
In that process there have been many lessons in government that have brought about new ideas, concepts and a new way of doing things.
Among these has been the realization that for better governance the government has to be in partnership with different organs of civil society that includes the private sector and develop an inclusive approach in planning as well as in implementation.
This has resulted in the National Development which was a product of a situational analysis they called the National Diagnostic Report.
This long term plan had been adopted by all parties of Parliament in 2012 thereby becoming the blueprint of the nation. We therefore expect every plan of government to be aligned to the NDP.
This plan was intended to take us to 2030 and thus help to lift us from a situation of poverty and inequality to where we have a more prosperous society that is more equitable. This is a journey with a number of steps like reducing unemployment, expanding and improving infrastructure, improving efficiency in the use of available resources, to move towards an inclusive planning approach, to improve the quality of education, to build a more capable state, to fight and eliminate corruption and to unite the nation and build a coherent society.
Coming back to the Department of Home affairs then the question arises:
Is the Department laying a foundation for the NDP? If so what steps have they taken?
Does their MTSF talk to the NDP? If so what are the relevant facts? This is done to check whether the short to medium term strategies of the Department are aligned to the National Development plan.
From what the Department said about its contribution to the NDP was inclusion of all citizens in democracy and development that was enabled by:
providing them identity documents and a security system has helped the poor and reduced corruption;
increased its efficiency in issuing identity documents to the poor especially in the rural areas,
increasing its capability and efficiency in the management of immigration,
IT modernization Programme for more efficiency and security;
Promotion of nation building by providing the same services to all residents in over 400 service points.
We consider these to be the building blocks to the bigger picture in our journey to 2030 NDP.
Similarly the MTSF focus on the BMA feasibility is a matter of interest as it looks forward to better capability in border management and control.
The improvements in the NIS backed by training and capacity building gives us hope that in future our identification documents based on biometric data will not fall easily to the hands of criminals and the corrupt.
It is evident that the Department has aligned many of its plans with the NDP.
The lessons of the past 20 years in government have been taken into account as noted by the governing party the ANC in its 53rd Conference that:
The presence of undocumented migrants pose an economic as well as a security threat to our beautiful country;
The many asylum seekers that do not qualify for refugee status or protection;
Some weaknesses in cross border management.
Challenges relating to legislation regulating access to citizens by foreign nationals;
The need to balance the inward flow of low skilled labour to curtail the negative impact it has on domestic employment; and
Fraudulent acquisition of ID`s
The Department has largely responded to these either by action, legislation and some are at a feasibility study stage.
Viewing the Annual Performance plan 2013/14 it is evident that in responding to the above, a significant shift in new ideas and concepts has started i.e. the shift to modernization in developing the national identity system that requires an applicant for an identification present herself personally, to take a photo and use a fingerprint for identification among others.
The positive identification of children that accompany immigrants to South Africa using an unabridged certificate so as to have proof that indeed a family immigrates with its own children, to combat child trafficking.
Chairperson, we shall continue to closely monitor the priorities of the Dept viz.:
Effective management of immigration to contribute to security and development, including the establishment of a BMA;
Design a secure NIS
Modernise Home Affairs through investing in people, processes and technology;
Improve services delivery and promote good governance and administration;
Develop officials that are ethical, patriotic and professional;
Visible and firm action in the fight against corruption.
Developing a system to monitor these should be worked out by the committee moving forward as we start our five years as a committee.
We congratulate the Ministry and Department of Home Affairs for a number of gains made like the strides that resulted in registration of births within 30 days which has exceeded their targets and is continuing to improve, the issuance of smart cards, 125 000 of them that went far beyond the 100 000 target;
We realize that unlike in the decades ago there is a rapid shift to move toward a caring public servant that is patriotic, ethical, professional and caring; a consciousness to have a front that is professionally managed in all offices where the department deals with clients, a smart card ID system that is world class among others.
We welcome the open door policy of the Minister of Home Affairs and his team where there are problems - it demonstrates that they care.
Moving forward to 2030 let us all assist in moving to a safer South Africa, to faster nation building and promote a coherent society that reduces poverty and inequality and move into a prosperous, free and fair 2030.
For that a safer South Africa is not negotiable.
The ANC moves for the adoption of this Budget Vote.
Parliamentary Budget Vote Debate 4 - Home Affairs by Ms SJ Nkomo (IFP)
Let me begin by saying that the Inkatha Freedom Party supports this vote.
This is a portfolio that remains very close to our hearts and the heart of our leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and as such we keep an extra keen eye on it as well as its various entities. No department is without its challenges and it is in this regard that we wish to raise the following points of concern:
The Department, in a presentation to the portfolio committee in July produced a budget analysis which reflected substantial amounts as "savings" which in fact are a 'sugar coated' way of saying "we underspent", and this is by millions. In 2013/14 we see underspending equivalent to 2.7% less than the budget allocated. Which is similar to the 2.6% departmental underspend in 2011/2012. This equates to a consistent underspend of approximately 3%, which is above the 1% usually considered acceptable by treasury. The IFP is therefore not at all surprised that Treasury has just reduced the departmental budget as money 'unspent' only hinders our country's development in other areas. Qualified Auditor-General reports do not help either. We also note that this will all in likelihood hamper the department's plans for its 'New Vision.
Are our 72 ports of entry being managed as they should be? We have heard reports of the porosity of some of our entry ports, particularly those on our border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Such porosity through mismanagement must be addressed.
Departmental efficacy in the issue of identity documents and passports still leaves a great deal to be desired. Just last week, I had a gentlemen attend at my offices who has been waiting since October for the issue of an identity document. 9 Months! This delay, which has been acknowledged by the department, has caused him serious distress in that and amongst other issues; he has been unable to register the birth of his last child, born on the 9th January 2014.
These past National and Provincial Elections went by rather smoothly although we have serious concerns over the security of the VEC4 form voting format. We have received a large number of reports over alleged VEC 4 voting fraud. We accordingly ask that the Minister appoint a task team and conduct a thorough investigation of all VEC 4 votes for the last elections, identify the weak spots in the process and make it impossible for fraud to occur via the VEC 4 voting format in future elections.
Regarding Departmental 'entities' we also note with concern, the fact that they were not invited to the portfolio committee to provide this portfolio committee with inputs in preparation for this budget vote debate. It was then recommended by opposition members that if departmental entities, for whatever reason, could not attend that they should still submit their inputs in writing to portfolio committee members. We trust this will occur in the future.
I thank you.
Archibold Figlan, Shadow Deputy Minister of Home Affairs (DA)
Honourable Minister Malusi Gigaba,
Honourable Deputy Minister Chohan,
Chairpersons of the entities,
Ladies and gentlemen
Allow me to congratulate the Minister into his new post. Sir, we are here to work with you to better South Africa.
My colleague, Honourable Hoosen has dealt with most of the issues. I will focus on the departmental entities, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Government Printing Works (GPW) and the Film and Publication Board (FPB).
On the IEC, Honourable Chairperson, please allow me to congratulate the IEC chairperson Advocate Pansy Tlakula and all other commissioners and the CEO for delivering credible, free and fair elections. We pride ourselves on your success. Keep on doing the good work.
However, we are concerned with the continued negative publicity around the Chairperson and her involvement in the tender debacle; the DA hopes this matter will be concluded timeously.
Honourable Chairperson, I am also compelled to emphasise the need for the appointment of credible employees to this body. This is with particular reference to the presiding officers who are responsible for ensuring free and fair elections, which is arguably the single most important feature of participation in a democracy. Whilst we congratulate your performance, in this respect, there are some who don't know the difference between their party affiliation and the work they do for the IEC during elections and that has the potential to derail democracy.
Government Printing Works (GPW) has been an example of a well-run state entity. It is efficient, effective and sustainable. It has a long history of manufacturing security printed matter, such as passports and visas, and related publishing, production and dissemination services of the highest quality for government institutions. Today, it ranks as one of the most progressive security printing specialists in Africa. It boasts a high-tech production plant with world leading equipment. However, we need to find a model that will help them retain and attract more qualified and experienced personnel to continue with the great work that the GPW has been doing.
Honourable chairperson, the budget allocated to the Smart ID Card must be spent properly on the intended cause. We also appeal that this project should be delivered within the prescribed time period and ensure that all South Africans hold a Smart ID Card in hand. In addition, there has been some controversy surrounding the Smart ID Card project, many do not understand its value and the important information regarding this project. It would be of great significance to create awareness and increase the understanding of this project among South Africans. This can be done through mobile awareness campaigns and advertisement, such as pamphlets and posters in the different communities.
The Film and Publications Board, needs to devise a plan to create a strong branding and public awareness campaign in ensuring that every citizen understands their role and the kind of programmes the organisation is offering. The FPB deals with films, games and publications industries.
Remarkable technological developments are noticeable in all three industries. The volume and ability of the FPB needs to reflect these developments in order to better position itself to efficiently regulate this growing and technologically advanced industry. The FPB needs to be protected as a vital institution in South Africa. As with the case regarding Brett Murray’s painting, The Spear, the FPB’s duties were at times undermined by political interference which inhibited the institutions purpose. The FPB’s role in South Africa is still vital to protect our children from unsuitable and potentially harmful content in programming, and its purpose should be preserved and upheld.
Honourable Minister I want to assure you that if the executive, the department and the portfolio committee all work together; we will do our part to deliver successful services to all people of our country. However, we will not shy away from holding you to account for any failure to deliver on this clear mandate.
Haniff Hoosen, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs (DA)
We meet at a time just 20 years since the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, planted the first seeds of hope - when in his in his first sentence spoken in this parliament, he said:
“The time will come when our nation will honour the memory of all the sons, the daughters, the mothers, the fathers, the youth and the children who, by their thoughts and deeds, gave us the right to assert with pride that we are South Africans, that we are Africans and that we are citizens of the world.”
Honourable Chair, the responsibility to deliver on this right, rests with this department. It is the work that this department does that proves we are South African; that proves that we are African; and that proves that we are citizens of the world. The work of this department impacts on the lives of every South African and foreigner that enters our country.
This is why, Honourable Chair, all of us have a responsibility to make certain that this department delivers on its responsibilities in a manner that helps us change the lives of all South Africans and which breathes life into the hope and vision that Nelson Mandela had for us 20 years ago.
Lest I be accused of only criticizing, we must recognise that since 1994, this department has made many positive advances. We can document the many millions of South Africans whose rights and dignity, previously denied by the apartheid government, have been restored. The reduction in the time it takes to process and deliver passports is another example of the many successes of this department.
We must continue to make advances in changing the lives of our people, and we have a long road yet to walk.
Millions of South Africans still walk our streets everyday without the dignity of a decent job, and this department is not excluded from the responsibility of contributing towards job creation.
Take for example the advice of the National Development Plan where it promotes the migration of scarce skills into the country, a key contributor towards the development of a competitive commercial and industrial environment.
We all know that SA has a critical skills shortage. This is without a doubt a legacy of apartheid. It is imperative that we urgently address this problem in a positive manner. But the new immigration regulations set us on a path to achieve the complete opposite. This is probably one of the worst pieces of legislation that I have come across in a very long time. Nothing that this department has done before, will contribute more towards job losses in our country than the new immigration regulations.
Honourable Minister, if you are serious about building our skills base, you will reduce the barriers of entry for scarce skills instead of fortifying them. If you are serious about increasing our skills base then you will offer incentives to attract scarce-skilled people, such as offering fee-free visas.
Instead you’ve now added a further surcharge of R1350 which VFS, the UK Based private company that now handles all visa applications, charges for their fees.
There are also huge backlogs in the issuing of permanent and temporary permits, and further requirements for permits only complicate the situation.
Honourable Minister, the solution is glaringly obvious. Open up our borders and lay down the red carpet for those who have the skills we require to build this country. Instead, Honourable Minister, you are doing the complete opposite.
The new regulations will undeniably make it more difficult for skilled foreigners who legally apply to enter South Africa. In an environment where our borders are so porous, and millions of illegal foreigners who are already in SA are slipping through the net because of a weak Immigration Inspectorate Division, we will end up with a situation where skilled foreigners will look elsewhere for work whilst unskilled illegal foreigners roam free in South Africa.
This approach only promotes a breeding ground for more xenophobic attacks in South Africa and does little to promote economic growth and job creation.
Let me illustrate another reason why your regulations are a bad idea:
In future, anyone travelling with a minor abroad will require an unabridged birth certificate. Now anyone who has recently applied for an unabridged birth certificate will tell you that the experience is a nightmare. In fact, it’s probably easier and faster to get a divorce.
Although the department promises delivery in weeks, in many instances it takes months. The main reason why it takes so long is because someone up there in Pretoria, has to manually verify the details of the parents before they can issue the certificate. Just picture in your mind what a primitive system we have when someone up there is probably running between hundreds of boxes trying to find documents to prove a child’s parenthood.
We urgently need to digitize the system in order to ensure faster turnaround times. This impediment will no doubt impact on the number of children who will travel abroad with their parents and in turn will impact on the revenue that is generated for the broader benefit of our country. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that in and outbound travel in South Africa was worth R24 billion last year. A quarter of this came from people travelling with children. This means that we place at risk, a potential R5bn in revenue, because of the introduction of just this one new requirement.
Honourable Minister, I completely understand your attempts to reduce child trafficking, but please sir, explain to this house why you introduced such a stringent requirement when you know that the Department of Home Affairs cannot deliver these documents in time for people to travel. It just simply does not make sense.
Let me give you another reason, Honourable Minister, why these regulations are going to destroy more jobs.
The introduction of VFS to facilitate the handling of all Visa applications will now render the hundreds of private immigration companies completely redundant. All these private practitioners employ thousands of South Africans who will now join their jobless counterparts on the streets. Explain again to the nation, Honourable Minister, where you expect these thousands of people to go, when finding a job in our country is becoming nearly impossible.
Let me give you yet another reason, Honourable Minister, why the regulations are bad for our country.
The tourism sector currently employs about 600 000 people. The National Development Plan suggests that the sector has the potential to add a further 225 000 jobs by 2020 and that this sector can contribute about R500bn to the economy.
The new regulations are causing havoc to thousands of tourists wanting to travel to South Africa. Already Chinese and Indian travel agents are advising their clients to seriously consider other destinations in Africa. I have no doubt this will have a huge impact on our tourism sector and I am sure that it will lead to further job losses.
Honourable Chair, I can give the Minister another 20 reasons why these regulations are bad for our economy and bad for job creation, but let me now focus on why it is bad for our image as a country.
Honourable Chair, the Value Statement of the Home Affairs Department is: “Committed to being people centred, caring, professional and having integrity.”
As a consequence of the new regulations, hundreds of foreigners who are forced to leave the country because the department does not have the capacity to grant them extensions in time are now being marked “undesirable”, and are banned from returning to the country for 5 years. Many of these foreigners have families and sometimes children who are South African citizens. It simply does not make sense why the Minister is hell-bent on punishing innocent foreigners for something they have absolutely no control over. This is tantamount to punishing innocent people for the department’s incapacity. This just does not make sense, and these hurried regulations are now tearing innocent families apart.
It also does not make sense, to expect thousands of foreigners in the country to use only 9 newly established visa centres when previously this service was being offered at hundreds of Department of Home Affairs offices countrywide.
Let me also tell you that if you want to apply for a visa through VFS in Johannesburg, the next available appointment is somewhere in the middle of August. This office can only accommodate a certain number of interviews in a day and the diaries are filling up fast. Soon one will have to wait months for an interview and this will have a knock-on effect on the number of people who travel in and out of the country.
Honourable Chair, I want to tell this house the story of a Pakistani citizen who recently had to be interviewed by a home affairs official for a residency permit. The new regulations require that the husband and wife are interviewed separately on the same day and time to determine the authenticity of their relationship. This young man had to suffer the indignity of describing the type, the colour and style of his wife’s underwear that she wore to bed the night before the interview. He also had to answer other similar questions that invaded his wife’s right to privacy. I ask you sir, is this the caring, professional and people-centred service that we should be delivering?
Honourable Minister, I appeal to your sense of reason. Please withdraw these regulations. They are tearing innocent families apart, they will destroy the creation of desperately needed jobs in our country, and they will kill our tourism sector. Furthermore, the regulations have been prematurely implemented without the use of a Regulatory Impact Assessment. Even the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hannekom, agrees, so maybe this will count for something.
Honourable Chair, for years now the Immigration Services Branch in this department consistently underperformed. Granted, the reasoning for this is often beyond the Department’s control, but one of the main contributors over the years has been the historical under-funding of this department. It is particularly concerning that this year’s budget once again shows a 14% reduction in budget allocation for Immigration Services. We should not, therefore, expect many surprises in turn-around strategies if we fail to back this Department up with more financial support.
Honourable Chair, I would like to congratulate the DG and the DDGs for making available their cellphone numbers at Home Affairs offices and on the Departmental website. This proves that senior management is serious about the quality of service delivery and we must give recognition for this.
We congratulate you too, Honourable Minister, on your recent appointment, but when you inherit a department that has declining performance targets, a department that has received yet another qualified audit and a department with increased legal challenges, you have your work cut out for you.
I thank you.
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