The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) told the Committee that South Africa (SA) had 72 designated ports of entry, six of which were shared with other countries. The country grappled with managing movement of people at many of the ports of entry, and had not understood their role. These were not only important for the country but for the region. This was one complex area that had been neglected for a while. The standard of quality of service to travellers coming to the country was poor. South Africa was challenged with congestion at ports of entry around the festive season and the Easter weekend. There was a problem of illegal entry in large numbers by foreigners. The current state of port facilities also was not at a required level and certainly not in a good condition. This was an aspect the country could improve on.
The Committee heard that legislation facilitated the movement of people but could be improved on. The issue was lack of capacity to implement the Immigration Act; the Department operated far below what was acceptable in order to run an efficient service. This included both the horizontal and vertical co-ordination with other departments. Challenges posing the risk to national security included people travelling with documents illegally acquired. There was no better training technique on issues like the detection of fraudulent documents. Some people were caught but this was generally challenging. These documents were used to facilitate trafficking of children and women, smuggling of drugs, dangerous weapons, and other illicit activities. The country was highly vulnerable in the harbours with respect to some of the issues.
Ports infrastructure was a challenge, especially as it related to facilitation of movement of goods as well as travellers. Ports infrastructure was designed to meet the requirement of the previous regime. Roads leading up to land ports were too narrow and this impacted on trade. Rail infrastructure was not used adequately. There were operational challenges on information technology (IT) that relied on two systems – Movement Control System (MCS) and the Advance Profiling Passenger (APP). The APP was only operated on airlines, and was more of an alert system for foreign countries to those who were prohibited or wanted in SA. The system allowed officials at foreign airports to make a determination on whether a person would be allowed into SA. The MCS was supposed to be the heartbeat of national security but it had some weaknesses. DHA was currently discussing introduction of biometrics. Currently the Department relied on paperwork, and people were able to manipulate the system.
Members voiced concerns on the relationship of stakeholder departments currently involved in the function of overseeing ports of entry. It was agreed that something had to be done by improving the borderlines and security checks at ports of entry. The country should invest in its borders; money spent in the country was not channelled correctly. The budget had to be revised in such a way that DHA was able to improve the borderlines. Controls were needed to guard against the influx of people who did not subsequently exit the country. Members appreciated the information on the Border Management Agency (BMA), but said further information on how such an agency would be structured should be provided. Beyond management functions, what would be the agencies legislative functions?
DHA replied that it was still in the process of conceptualising the BMA, and was looking at all issues relating to the legislative framework. That process was still at infancy but a Cabinet memorandum was being compiled on the matter. The Agency should be responsible not only for the ports of entry but also for certain parts of the borderline and maritime borders.
The Chairperson said there was an apology from the Minister and the Director General. They were both involved in the BRICS Conference (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa group of countries) currently underway in Durban.
Department of Home Affairs (DHA) Presentation
Mr Jacob Mamabolo, DHA Chief Director: Port Control, said that South Africa had 72 designated ports of entry - 10 airports; nine sea ports; and 53 land ports - these also included Waterkloof Air Force base, mainly used to receive heads of states. Six of the ports were shared with six other countries located within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The country grappled with managing movement of people at many of the ports of entry, and had not understood the role of ports of entry. These were not only important for the country but for the region. This was one complex area that had been neglected for a while. The standard of quality of service to travellers coming to South Africa was poor. The country was challenged with congestion at ports of entry around the festive season and the Easter weekend.
There was a problem of illegal entry in large numbers by foreigners. The current state of port facilities also was not at a required level and certainly not in a good condition. This was an aspect the country could improve on.
He explained that ports of entry were declared by the Minister and covered in the Immigration Act. Legislation that facilitated the movement of people in and out of the country was adequate but could be made better. The issue was lack capacity to implement the Act; the Department operated far below what was acceptable in order to run an efficient service. This included both the horizontal and vertical co-ordination with other departments, and internally in the immigration unit at DHA. If there could be capacity to implement the Act, that would assist.
Challenges posing the risk to national security included people travelling with documents illegally acquired like passports and visas. Some people were caught but this was a challenge. The documents were used to facilitate trafficking of children and women; smuggling of drugs; dangerous weapons and other illicit activities. The country was highly vulnerable in the harbours with respects of some of the issues. All these posed a serious threat to national security.
Ports infrastructure was a challenge, especially as it related to facilitation of movement of goods as well as travellers. Ports infrastructure was designed to meet the requirement of the previous regime; there had been no investment on port infrastructure to meet the needs of post 1994 administration with regard to trade. Roads leading up to land ports were too narrow and this impacted on trade. Rail infrastructure was not used adequately.
There was a big potential in the region for labour and skills but ports of entry and rail did not help the process. The demand for port services reflected sources and trends relating to ports services. The Department used the 2012 festive season and the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to trial certain practices that were efficient for the management of ports. DHA had introduced statistical methods to manage ports. In the past there was no appropriate use of the data that was generated; statistical data management would help with proper planning.
DHA had completed the design and was looking at how to use the method for planning effectively. Managers at the ports of entry did not have tools to deal with productivity of each employee. The information technology (IT) unit was engaged with a view to developing software and better technology to manage data. It was noticeable that airports and land ports were busy during the day and not that much around midnight. As to the kind of information gathered through the statistical method, data would be availed to all ports managers for proper planning and management.
Mr Mamabolo said that the Department had started managing the “hits”, where top ten ports of entry, by volume of travellers accessing them, were closely monitored (see table, slide 9). He explained that “a hit” would be generated when a security risk traveller was picked up on arrival or departure. The traveller could have overstayed or could be a wanted criminal. An immigration officer would attend to the person and do an investigation. Names of such people were listed on the movement control system (MCS) – this was technology to record travellers.
OR Tambo International Airport was leading in the number of “hit” cases recorded as it had the highest number of travellers. A “hit” was a big security issue that could be handled for an hour, but somehow these were running a little longer at check in points. The Department was investigating why managers were not managing the “hits” effectively. DHA wanted to ensure hits were speedily resolved to enhance national security.
The countries that kept DHA most busy at ports of entry, and, as a result, put a strain on resources were mostly from the SADC region. (See pie chart, slide 12) Travellers were also attracted from the highly industrialised countries, particularly the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (US), and Germany (See pie, chart slide 10). Lesotho and Zimbabwe led the SADC pack in terms of arrivals. (See slide 12). These were the people who came in and did not leave the country. The information helped the country to know where to focus resources and its capacity to plan.
DHA had capacity to even tell the performance of officials as it pertained to people they registered on daily basis. Data was being collected on each of the ports of entry in this regard, and it would be availed to managers for use when doing performance monitoring. (See slides 17-18). There were also concerns to highest performers; the highest figures recorded of people coming in did not always signal good performance. There could be a risk of being bribed; if an official was registering high numbers that could be reason for investigation.
An assumption had often been made that staff at busy ports of entry were the busiest or hardworking. This was not the case; it showed officials in smaller ports were overworked, as they were few. Resources were allocated to the biggest ports and the officials in the isolated ports were at a disadvantage. The information would also help on resource allocation, and improve management and better understanding of ports.
Capacity allocated to ports of entry had not been scientifically determined. DHA functioned far below capacity and was not providing standardised services. Controls at ports of entry were also not done at a satisfactory level. Exit and entry points at ports of entry were supposed to be managed by immigration officers. Currently checking entries and exits was done by the South African Police Service (SAPS). In-sitting at ports was sometimes not done, or in some instances was done very casually. This resulted in people literally walking into the country without being properly documented. Illegal entry did not only occur through people jumping the fence.
The function of port monitoring was not properly defined. Traffic control within the ports of entry was another challenge. The function had not been allocated to anyone. The traffic department officials looked at normal violations like speed and licences. Unmonitored traffic control function at the port of entry could cause chaos. Pedestrian facilities were not properly checked; and proper controls at commercial clearance facilities were also challenged.
These were functions that the immigration unit, administered by DHA, should be doing. Definition of functions at ports of entry was a grey area and caused serious risk. Other functions that were not always performed adequately as a result of lack of capacity included those requiring the specialist skills and attributes of an immigration officer. The Department did not have traveller-profiling capacity at these ports. One should have capacity to detect, for an example, the kind of relationships when a traveller came with children.
Other tasks that were not done included port patrols, searching of cars, and ensuring people disembarked on incoming flights. These functions required an active immigration unit.
There was no better training technique on issues like the detection of fraudulent documents, facial recognition skills, management of asylum seekers and searching of conveyances. There was a unit in the Department that dealt with asylum seekers but the co-ordination of that function was not at the level it should be. The ports of entry tended to be overwhelmed during the Easter weekend and one could not just employ for the period. The co-sharing of the function with SAPS was indeed a challenge, because training, application of the law, and methods of work were not the same.
There was a pilot project at OR Tambo done with the Cubans to try and improve security at the Airport. A report on how to move forward was compiled and submitted to the Department. At OR Tambo, a new management team recruited from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed in December. The soldiers were trained on proper security checks and not just processing of people. There were challenges, like uniform, owing to the procurement issues at DHA.
There were operational challenges on information technology (IT) that relied on two systems – Movement Control System (MCS) and the Advance Passenger Processing (APP) system. The MCS recorded the movement of a person as at when a person exited and departed. All travellers’ details were supposed to be on the system.
The APP was only operated on airlines, and was more of an alert system for foreign countries on those who were prohibited or wanted in SA. The system allowed officials at foreign airports to make a determination on whether a person boarding would be allowed into SA. This was a border extended to a foreign country, and all airlines had the technology. It was used during the World Cup to detect some of the known soccer hooligans. This was very expensive and the Department did not have funds to maintain the system and discussions were ongoing on whether to keep it.
The MCS was supposed to be the heartbeat of national security but it had some weaknesses. DHA was currently discussing introduction of biometrics. Currently the Department relied on paperwork, and people were able to manipulate the system. A briefing could be arranged for the Committee to better understand the specifics of this system. There were a lot of other interventions that the Department was engaged on in improving the situation, and if Members so wished a detailed presentation could be entered into.
Best practices and lessons learnt indicated that stakeholders did not work well with each other and also did not co-ordinate efforts. The BCOC (border co-ordinating committee), set up to improve co-ordination at ports of entry was not working. The single command at ports of entry was a challenge.
DHA was looking to install cameras at ports of entry. Currently there were CCTV cameras controlled by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Discussions were ongoing to ensure DHA had access to those cameras, so it could monitor ports of entry. For the 2013 Easter weekend, DHA had recruited about 284 reservists from the South African National Defence Force to be immigration officers. The model of using SANDF recruits would be followed in the future. Instead of employing people full time, soldiers would be trained as immigration officers, and used during the busy times. They would go back to the SANDF once the period had passed.
In 2009, the President announced the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA). (See slide 34). The body would have legislated powers and was intended to replace the current BOCC; it was expected that it would administer all the functions at ports of entry. Integration of all the functions under one roof was crucial and the ANC Conference in Mangaung (December 2012) took a decision that DHA was better placed to administer the functions.
It was then confirmed that state security should hand over the entire process of establishing the Border Management Agency to DHA. The Department was in the process of drafting a cabinet memo, for Cabinet to approve that DHA should take effective responsibility for a single authority to manage border affairs.
Mr Jackie McKay, DHA Deputy Director-General: Immigration Services, explained that the APP was a system that was implemented during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The system extended SA borders in that when a traveller checked in at a foreign airport, SA officials were warned in advance that her or she was coming. (See slides 22-23).
The system could then check the databases and verify information. It could therefore be determined if one was listed with any of the world security agencies like the International police (Interpol). The system was linked to the database of wanted persons in the world, and undesirable people in SA. Should someone be on any of the lists, such a person would not be allowed to board a flight to SA.
A lot of undesirable people flocked at OR Tambo in the past, and when they were denied entry, attorneys lay in wait with interdicts that demanded entry for such individuals. The APP system had curbed this habit to a low number. The system was costly but necessary in the risk and immigration management. It was envisaged APP would be self-funding, but National Treasury (NT) was against getting passengers to pay for the service. NT therefore promised to avail funding for the system but later bailed out. DHA did not have money to pay for the system, but was in talks with service providers to look at alternative funding.
Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) congratulated the Department for being honest with how ports of entry were being managed. The interventions that DHA envisaged to address challenges should have been elaborated even if not to the extent of revealing everything. The Committee would have preferred if an indication could be made on how it could help improve the situation about APP funding. DHA should put pressure on NT, and the Committee would gladly support such a move during budget reviews. But also the Department should consider if it was not possible to rearrange its own budget to move money to the function.
Mr McKay replied DHA deliberately spent a bit of time on challenges so the House was clear on the kind of work the Department was confronted with. Interventions were contained in the presentation and that information could be elaborated on. The 8 Apex projects as contained in the presentation (see slides 27-30)) proposed a whole lot of strategic interventions the Department hoped would address the challenge. DHA did not only bring challenges to the Committee, but had also proposed solutions on how to deal with them.
He thanked Members for the support on the APP and said the Committee’s intervention would be required. Surely, a solution would be found on continuing to use the APP.
Ms Mncube sought clarity on the challenges faced as they pertained to stakeholder working relationships in the function. It appeared that the question of legislative mandate had to be addressed. The Committee could therefore push for legislation that could decide on who to co-ordinate the function.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) commented the presentation was concerning. The University of Pretoria researchers had indicated SA’s borderline was in a state of collapse. The country was exposed to issues as diseases, livestock theft, and smuggling of illegal drugs and weapons. The borderline was non-existent. The country needed to copy how a country like Mexico, for example, managed its borderline. The technology Mexico had was so advanced because Mexicans understood the importance of border security.
Mr Faber said apartheid SA had controls that ensured safety of job security, theft and generally the people. The country should invest in its borders; money spent in the country was not channelled correctly. The budget had to be revised in such a way that DHA was able to improve the borderlines. Controls were needed to guard against the influx of people who did not exit the country.
He said that R100 million worth of cigarettes was seized last year, and 330 rhinos killed, 146 of whom were at Kruger National Park. This was so because the borderlines were not protected. Funding was needed to sort this out; nothing could be done without funding. He asked what plans were there to address the challenge, and if Government understood such challenges.
Mr McKay replied the Department was not responsible for the borderline, and had no such mandate as that rested with the Department of Defence (DoD). He said DoD would be better placed to say what interventions were there to manage the borderline currently. The Agency should be able to deal with all the challenges that existed. It was modelled around the UK and Australia border management agencies. DHA would do benchmarking and come up with something unique to the country.
Ms Z Rantho (ANC Eastern Cape) sought clarity on whether the APP system functioned the same way as the one used in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. The system could determine every movement in the Metro, and was monitored in a single room. Such a system could help the country counter all illegal activities; including those corrupt officials in the system. She supported the idea that the Department lobby NT in an attempt to get funding for the APP.
Mr Mckay replied the surveillance system in Port Elizabeth (PE) was similar with the one used by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and the Department was in talks to have unlimited access to that. This needed not be confused with the APP system. The system was linked to net joints with other security agencies; DHA was requesting to get access to that system so that it could deal with corrupt activities at the ports of entry, and management of the team.
Ms Rantho asked how the system dealt with those individuals who were wanted in the country for their misdemeanours. Was it possible that it could detect them and give an indication either to effecting arrest or denying them entry? She asked whether countries of origin financially assisted DHA when it deported illegal immigrants.
Mr McKay replied that the DHA carried all the cost of deporting illegal immigrants. This was a huge budget. But it should be noted that people coming in to SA should pay repatriation deposit, part of which should go to the deportation cost.
Ms Rantho asked if there was a system that monitored immigrants and their movement especially as it pertained to the statement that more people came into the country and refused going back. She asked if the Department had trained any of the SAPS officers involved in the immigration functions at ports of entry. Also she sought clarity on those ports of entry where there were no Home Affairs officials.
Mr McKay replied there was a tracing system, but capacity was a challenge on that system. There were only 600 inspectorate officials nationally, while the city of London alone had over 3 500. Trying to do this function was a big task. DHA was using technology to get information on foreign nationals staying at hotels. The Minister had prioritised the recruitment of inspectorate officials as well.
Mr McKay replied there was a crash course for SAPS officials but there was not formal training. An academy had been established and the Department had undertaken to train all the officials at immigration centres.
Mr R de Villiers (DA, Western Cape) said improvements on traffic controls needed not only focus closer to ports of entry but also further outside of the operations environment. If SA failed to control the borders, there would be challenges with creation of jobs, food security and money in the country. The situation could result in conflicts among people, not only with foreigners but also among South Africans themselves, as was the case in De Doorns. Government should speed up controls and effective planning in the ports of entry. He said he understood the approach of being lenient to those foreign nationals coming to find jobs, but it should not be to the extent of putting pressure on resources of the country.
Mr McKay replied there were discussions around the traffic control aspects where the Department looked to improvement of infrastructure way farther from the ports of entry.
Mr H Plaatjie (Cope NW) asked if the Department was addressing the capacity challenges. He asked if the Department could give an indication of how much were the immigration officials paid. This could help in understanding reasons why the officials were so easily bribed at the borders.
Mr Plaatjie said he liked the BMA concept, but further information on how such an agency would be structured should be availed. Above management functions, what would be the agencies legislative functions, as that would indicate clearly if the agency could deport or refuse entry once people were found to be illegal.
Legislative mandate would help address challenges that might be imposed by lawyers in the process of carrying out responsibilities. He sought clarity on how the agency would be financed. Since 2009 departments had claimed they did not have enough financial structure; was there any external institution financing the agency?
Mr McKay replied DHA was still in the process of conceptualising the Border Management Agency. The Department was looking at all issues relating to the legislative framework. That process was still in its infancy; the Department was compiling a Cabinet memo that would solidify the agreement made in Mangaung that the agency be the responsibility of DHA. This should be an agency with a legislative framework, be responsible not only for the ports of entry but also a certain parts of the borderline and maritime borders. This was a high level of conceptualisation of what the BMA should be like.
Mr T Makunyane (ANC, Limpopo) asked if training for immigration officials was standard. He commented that people from the SADC region were treated unfairly by officials compared to people from the developed countries. The attitude of staff in smaller ports of entry was not satisfactory, whilst those at bigger ports of entry were polite.
Mr McKay replied he agreed there was a challenge with attitude. DHA was in the process of re-training all officials and they would be trained on all issues including values. This was linked to corruption; it was not how much one paid people. Patriotic people with good values and morals would not be open to corruption and corrupt activities. The kind of programmes that the Department was involved in included creating cadres who would frown upon corruption. If the Department were to transform, it had to start with the officials within the system. Once that had occurred it would change how the Department functioned.
The Chairperson asked what plans were there to fight corruption and fraud at many of the ports of entry. She also asked if the Department knew anything about gangs operating in Beit Bridge border post. Was DHA aware of such gangs, and what was it doing about such situations?
Comments on some of the proposed interventions
Mr Mamabolo replied that interventions had already been initiated since 2011. The previous Minister had entered into an agreement with Cuba, a consequence of which was the OR Tambo pilot project to look at who could be employed at ports of entry. A study was done and a report on how the Department would move forward was under consideration of the new Minister. Once this was clarified it would help the Department move forward. About 30 officials were trained by the Cubans, and would in return train other immigration officials nationally. The Cuban initiative was one major intervention and if taken forward would address a lot of other issues.
He said the reason he dwelled on the challenges was because the ports of entry were neglected and were complex to manage. The Cuban initiative should be taken forward and would go a long way in resolving a whole range of issues. It could also be extended to the BMA, in order to deal with the border management. Second pocket of interventions came from the 8 Apex projects. Among the 8 was the Baseline Research Project, where the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was commissioned to look at how the Department could start closing some of the ports, as they were too many.
A report on the baseline research had been finalised and was passed on to the Minister last week. The report outlined ways in which the Department would close ports without prejudicing people or being accused of being unfair. The second intervention was the Infrastructure Standards Projects. This was initiated because the Department of Public Works (DPW), as custodian of all government properties, did not have standards to use when constructing ports of entry. This mainly addressed specifics of infrastructure around ports of entry. A study was commissioned in this regard to determine how infrastructure around ports should look like.
He said with regards to corruption the Department had a de-cash project. There was too much money flowing at ports of entry; foreigners had a lot of money. De-cash meant doing away with hard cash at ports of entry. DHA had started to engaging banks, in trying to introduce credit cards as opposed to cash at ports of entry.
The fight against corruption would further be dealt with through the biometrics system, where personal information as fingerprints was verified against the population register. There were too many people with the South African passports that were acquired illegally. The system that used fingerprints to verify personal information had already been installed at OR Tambo, but only in one terminal. He said there were challenges with the system. There was one project in Maseru as well. DHA also looked at a new maritime operating model designed by the Cubans. SA had started with recruitment but had to consider the calibre of the kind of a person recruited.
BMA would have legislation; it should have an Act that brought services under one roof because government officials followed Acts of law that regulated their functions. The agency should be established in a year’s time but that had been extended with one year up to the end of 2015. Once that had happened all activities in a port would be co-ordinated under one authority. He cited an example of where departments were in conflict when there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Nigeria. The Department of Health (DoH) was opposed to Nigerians coming into the country as they posed risk; DHA and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) thought such an action would embarrass the country. There was a big debate on relationship between ports and borderlines. The issue needed to be speedily resolved.
Ms Mncube commented legislation should be clear on who administered the functions of the BMA. Legislation needed to spell it out that the agency was an entity of DHA to avoid confusion.
The Chairperson commented something needed to be done with those South African communities who resided next to the borderlines and in the process having relationships with foreigners living next to them.
Mr McKay replied that studies on communities along all the borders were being conducted and so far indications were that a lot of foreign nationals were residing within the borders of SA. Some even had relatives just across the border; in Botswana there was a chief who lived on the SA side of the fence. The Department tried to understand how it could better manage those, but it firstly needed to understand the extent of challenges.
Some of the challenges were policy matters, and some just needed to be understood better in order to regulate in a co-ordinated manner. These were the kind of border relations that were exploited by criminals as well; they knew they could just cross the border undetected. This was an issue that the study on the borderlines would address. Free access to the country was the challenge. People always found ways to come into the country but that could be minimised through good policies.
Committee minutes: adoption
The Committee adopted its minutes of 05 March 2013.
The meeting was adjourned.
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