National Development Plan implementation: Department of Home Affairs briefing

Home Affairs

20 May 2013
Chairperson: Mr A Gaum (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs likened its mandate to the backbone of government, because the Department supplied enabling documents, it dealt with citizens as well as non-citizens and the documentation that they carried enabled them to transact with the State.

The Department played a crucial role in South Africa’s integration into the global community by enabling citizens to travel abroad and by regulating and facilitating immigration.

- Only the Department was mandated to authorise the entry or exit of persons into South Africa. It was responsible for asylum seekers and refugees, enforcement of the immigration laws, and for the consulate function in foreign missions.

- The National Development Plan emphasised the importance of immigration in domestic and regional development and the role of the Department in facilitating immigration and the movement of persons across borders.

The identity, civil registration and immigration systems of the Department were key enablers of access to rights and services and the efficient and secure functioning of the state and civil society.

With regard to the objective to facilitate faster and more inclusive economic growth, there was a need for immigration and refugee policies, legislation and systems / processes to address national priorities and maximise benefits and reduce risks to the country. An example was a permit to enable labour flows within the Southern African Development Community to be managed.

Some of the issues proposed in the National Development Plan were:

- Improving data collection, coordination and analysis as a matter of urgency; easing the entry of skilled migrants; countering xenophobia by conducting sustained campaigns; effectively addressing the rights and vulnerabilities of migrants and addressing their specific needs; introducing support programmes to regularise migrant residence; ensuring better and more consistent law enforcement (by protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators); and strengthening transnational infrastructure (transport, electronic communications, and banking services).

There was also a need to ensure the secure, effective and efficient mass transit of people and goods across land, sea and air borders to contribute towards the security and development of South Africa.

- Efficient and secure ports of entry were necessary to reduce the cost of doing business, encourage trade and enable regional development. This would be one of the main goals of the Border Management Agency.

- The National Development Plan called for a Southern African Development Community visa to boost tourism, and this required secure and well-managed borders.

- The modernisation programme of the Department provided for trusted traveller programmes to attract visitors and facilitate their secure entry and rapid exit.

Questions were asked on how the Department saw its role in increasing employment, the Advanced Passenger Processing system, and the Department’s modernisation programme. Much discussion centred on attracting skilled migrants to the country.  An ANC Member was concerned that, if a migrant had excellent skills, why his or her country was not using these skills. At the dawn of democracy it had been agreed to share with our own brothers and sisters the task of acquiring those skills, yet South Africa still did not have those skills. There had to be something to force people to transfer their skills. The Department should ensure that policies were developed that would make people develop skills for our own country.

The Department responded that skilled migrants who came to South Africa created employment in South Africa as well because they came with their families and required people to assist them. Government had not looked at the positive effects and benefits of migration into South Africa. That would link directly to the National Development Plan. Currently when people came to South Africa their wives were not able to work. Usually the wives of the skilled migrants were also skilled and the requirements should be relaxed to allow them to work.

In its review of the policy for foreign graduates in South Africa the Department was looking at giving them work permits or job seeker permits while they were in South Africa, rather than to lose them when returning to their home country. The Department was also looking at conferring permanent residence on some highly skilled people rather than their having to go through the work permit route, which would also attract skills to the country and also ensure that it had them on a permanent basis. All those were part of the review of the immigration policy in order to attract skills to South Africa.
 

Meeting report

Introduction
The Chairperson, Ms M Maunye (ANC) was not able to attend the meeting. Mr Gaum was elected to chair the meeting in her absence.

Apologies were received from the Director-General, Department of Home Affairs, who had a pressing engagement with the auditors.

The Acting Chairperson said it was an important presentation. Members were pressed for time because there were various meeting clashes, including the Extended Public Committees that was currently ongoing.

National Development Plan (NDP) implementation - emphasising reliable, realistic and measurable strategic targets: Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefing
Mr Jackson McKay, DHA DDG: Immigration Services, said that the Department’s strategic plan was linked to the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030. Key strategic thrusts of the NDP were eliminating poverty by creating employment through robust growth in the economy; and reducing inequality, mainly through improving the quality of education and training, especially for Black people.

The Department’s approach to implementation of the NDP:

- Integration of NDP proposals in the Department’s implementation plans. The NPC working with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), through existing channels would advise departments, provinces and local government on integrating the NDP proposals into their implementation plans. Proposals would also be included in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) (five-year plan) from 2014 onwards.

- Private sector and civil society to identify aspects to get involved in. The private sector, corporate foundations, labour movement, non-governmental organisation (NGOs), the media and religious bodies would be mobilised to play an active role in the implementation of the NDP.

- Piloting of new proposals and feeding lessons into the policy process. Working with government and other social partners, the NPC would undertake piloting to test proposals, demonstrate effect and feedback into the policy process.

Those three areas were known as the transformation zone, which was the interaction between government implementation, contribution of social partners, and lessons from pilots that would bring about change. Growing this would build trust between key players and increase investor confidence.

Mr McKay likened the mandate of the DHA to the backbone of government. Without the DHA there would be no structure ‘to affix’ other departments because the Department supplied the enabling documents. It dealt with citizens as well as non-citizens and the documentation that they carried enabled them to transact with the State.

Through its core mandate the DHA was connected to every citizen and to all foreign nationals that entered South Africa or applied to enter.

Through its civil registration and status determination mandate the Department conferred citizenship and hence status and rights; it captured critical events in our lives and protected the unique identity of every individual.

The DHA played a crucial role in South Africa’s integration into the global community by enabling citizens to travel abroad and by regulating and facilitating immigration.

- Only the DHA was mandated to authorise the entry or exit of persons into South Africa. It was responsible for asylum seekers and refugees, the enforcement of the immigration laws, and for the consulate function in foreign missions.

- The NDP emphasised the importance of immigration in domestic and regional development and the role of the DHA in facilitating immigration and the movement of persons across borders.

Build a capable and developmental state:
The identity, civil registration and immigration systems of the DHA were key enablers of access to rights and services and the efficient and secure functioning of the state and civil society.

The DHA contributed to a professional public service through effective human resource management and the Learning Academy supported by the various leadership and development courses offered to all staff; recruiting the right calibre of management and staff with the right values, skills and capabilities; the creation of an adequate pool of managers for a single public service; and effective performance management.

The Department minimised the scope for fraud and corruption by ensuring that financial systems (such as procurement related) were in place and managed properly, as well as secure business processes and systems.

Facilitate faster and more inclusive economic growth:
There was a need for immigration and refugee policies, legislation and systems / processes to address national priorities and maximise benefits and reduce risks to the country. An example was a permit to enable labour flows within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to be managed.

Some of the issues proposed in the NDP were:

- Improving data collection, coordination and analysis as a matter of urgency;

- Easing the entry of skilled migrants;

- Countering xenophobia by conducting sustained campaigns;

- Effectively addressing the rights and vulnerabilities of migrants and addressing their specific needs;

- Introducing support programmes to regularise migrant residence;

- Ensuring better and more consistent law enforcement (by protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators); and

- Strengthening transnational infrastructure (transport, electronic communications, and banking services).

There was also a need to ensure the secure, effective and efficient mass transit of people and goods across land, sea and air borders to contribute towards the security and development of South Africa.

- Efficient and secure ports of entry to reduce the cost of doing business, encourage trade and enable regional development. This would be one of the main goals of the Border Management Agency.

- The NDP called for a SADC visa to boost tourism, and this required secure and well-managed borders.

- The modernisation programme of the DHA provided for trusted traveller programmes to attract visitors and facilitate their secure entry and exit rapidly. This could be linked to SADC and relations with key international partners such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICS). The DHA would thus contribute to security, stability and reducing levels of corruption.

- Focus on trade presentation and diplomatic presence in fast growing markets (Asia, Brazil and Africa); as well as implementing a focused regional integration strategy with emphasis on reducing red tape, corruption and delays.

Fighting corruption and enhancing accountability:
The Department

- Implemented the DHA Counter Corruption strategy with specific emphasis on deterrence, prevention, analysis and education.

- Strengthened the role of the DHA in the multi-agency anti corruption system

- Dealt efficiently and effectively with cases of misconduct and ill discipline to ensure high ethical standards and a zero tolerance towards corruption

- Strengthened accountability and responsibility of public servants by enhancing accountability for actions taken, particularly in matters involving public resources

- Improved oversight over public entities.

Transforming society and uniting the nation:
- The DHA’s identity and immigration systems were critical enablers of nation-building development, stability, cheaper government, lower costs of doing business, and access to rights. All of these were linked to the DHA Modernisation programme, and professionalisation of the public service.

- The identity systems were a key element of reducing poverty, ensuring access to basic rights and growing the economy.

- The National Population Register (NPR) was key to securing the identity and citizenship of citizens.

- The management of immigration was dependent on a whole government approach and the level of management as a whole at the levels of policy, strategy and operationally.

- The Department needed to modernise its systems through the use of information technology in order to overcome its service delivery and security challenges and fully deliver against its mandate.

- Initiatives implemented by the Department contributed significantly to support equity issues.

- The Department would make use of campaigns to deliver effectively against its mandate, both for the civics and immigration environment.

The Annual Performance Plan was aligned to the objectives of the NDP.

The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr McKay for the presentation.

Discussion
Mr M de Freitas (DA) presumed that there was a detailed action plan in each case and milestones and monitoring and tracking at regular intervals to ensure the objectives were being met.

Mr John Cameson, DHA Chief Director: Policy and Strategic Management, responded that monitoring was taken seriously. All plans that were linked to a budget had to be developed according to National Treasury regulations, they had to be SMART - specific, measurable, time bound, achievable and so on. They had to have indicators that were measurable and were audited against those. The Department would not have targets that could not be measured.

Mr McKay commented, but inaudibly. 

Mr M Mnqasela (DA) referred to reducing inequality. He noted the emphasis was on black people, which he thought should state black African people, but he did not think that was the only race group that needed to be empowered. While the majority of black African people remained victims of the historic challenges of the past, the Committee should not lose focus. On a recent visit to Pretoria he was shocked to see the high degree of poverty amongst white South Africans. Government should not reverse what happened in the past. He liked what the President had said that poverty was no longer reserved for a particular race group but was expanding across all people with different backgrounds.

Mr McKay said the Department took note of those comments.

Mr Mnqasela noted the increased target for employment from 13 million in 2010 to 24 million in 2030, how did the Department see its contribution to that?

Mr McKay responded that the role the Department played was related to the issue raised as to how to create conducive conditions for companies to do business in South Africa, because by doing business in South Africa they were creating employment. The Department was looking at its immigration regime with regard to its policy in terms of lessening the red tape burden that people had, as well as how much money was required to set up business in South Africa, whether it excluded certain businesses from doing business in South Africa, and whether it grew small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in South Africa. In that way the Department could play a positive role in creating jobs. The Department was in the process of reviewing the requirements for such permits in South Africa.

Mr Mnqasela asked whether it was possible to know, through the advanced processing system, who was aboard our flights, domestic or international, and the risk that they might pose to the country?

Mr McKay responded that the Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) gave the name and passport details of all the passengers on the flight. The second part of the APP, called the Name Passenger Record, which was not yet implemented, gave more detailed information to enable a profile, and a risk profile, of every passenger coming into South Africa. In the case of risk the Department worked in conjunction with other departments such as Intelligence Services and the Police Intelligence.

The Acting Chairperson asked what the Department currently did with that information?

Mr McKay responded that the system was used effectively during the 2010 World Cup and helped to stop soccer hooligans coming into South Africa. The system was a live one, linked to the Department’s risk engine. On the risk engine was linked the lost and stolen passports. It was linked to the stop list – undesirable people not allowed into the country. It was linked to the police wanted list and the Interpol list of wanted persons, and to a UN list of people barred from travelling. The APP ran against the risk engine and if there were a ‘hit’ between the person carrying the document and the person listed the travel was stopped immediately. Many South Africans applied for new passports because they could not find their old passports. Although the person did not report it to the police the Department linked it to the lost and stolen passports. South Africans could not use that old passport to fly out or come back to South Africa; in those cases on calling the Department they would be allowed to continue travelling.

Mr Mnqasela asked the Department to simplify the statement that “the DHA has embarked on a large-scale modernisation programame that will put in place secure, integrated identity and immigration systems”.

Mr McKay said that was the renamed “xxx on line” [as denoted in slide 35], which was an ambitious modernisation programme to make the DHA paperless.

Mr Mnqasela asked for clarity on the new permit the Department wished to use within SADC to manage the inflows and outflows of labour, and when did the Department intend implementing it?

Mr McKay clarified that the Department was in the process of finalising the matter and would be making an announcement soon and would bring it to the Committee when reporting on policy processes with regard to immigration.

Mr Mnqasela asked how the Department intended to ease the entry of skilled migrants into the country?

Mr McKay explained that cutting the red tape would attract skilled migrants to the country. Skilled migrants who came to South Africa created employment in South Africa as well because they came with their families and required people to assist them in their homes and were job creation in themselves. Government had not looked at the positive effects and benefits of migration into South Africa. That would link directly to the NDP.

Currently when people came to South Africa their wives were not able to work. Usually the wives of the skilled migrants were also skilled and the requirements should be relaxed to allow them to work. The policy for foreign graduates in South Africa was looking at giving them work permits or job seeker permits while they were in South Africa, rather than to lose them when returning to their home country.

Mr Mnqasela asked Mr McKay to expand on his response in terms of other forms of permits.

The Department was also looking at conferring permanent residence on some highly skilled people rather than having to go through the work permit route, which would also be attracting skills to the country and also ensure had it on a permanent basis. All those were part of the review of the immigration policy in order to attract skills to South Africa.

Mr Mnqasela asked whether the campaigns to counter xenophobia would include the suggestion by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a recent conference in Gauteng that there needed to be an Act of Parliament that criminalised xenophobia. Would the Department support that proposal?

Mr McKay believed the Department would support such a proposal. Xenophobia was already viewed as a criminal activity, which was why it was now the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Police to look into those matters.

Mr Mnqasela said his question specifically asked whether the Department would go with the route that said that independent legislation against xenophobia was needed, making xenophobia a crime, or support the sentiments of the UNHCR?

Mr McKay said the Department supported the sentiment but had not seen or studied the document.

The Acting Chairperson said that every year in the budget debate mention was made of the lengthy processes and red tape, and, in order to attract skilled migrants, simplified systems were needed. Did the Department have something specific in mind to ensure that happened to attract the skilled migrants, for whom 50 000 permits for scarce skills had been made available, within a reasonable period of time or was it only a question of trying to ensure that the officials did their job properly?

Ms D Mathebe (ANC) commented that there were still challenges about the skills shortage. Which skills were referred to when speaking of immigration?

Mr McKay said the Department took note of those comments and would link it to the skills issue mentioned by Ms Bothma (see below).

Ms Mathebe referred to corruption, especially at ports of entry where officials looked for bribes. There must be a strategy to eliminate that.

Ms G Bothma (ANC) referred to the issue of skills development as indicated in the NDP. She expressed concern not to deviate from what had been said for years on the critical skills shortage. In having foreign national skills coming into the country through a spouse or a relative, the country would also have to look at that spouse, which was an issue for the ambassadors, as people could take advantage of any loophole.

Each year the Department mentioned its strategy to attract skills, of which the 50 000 permits made available for scarce skills were part, as opposed to building skills within the country: the two must run concurrently. South Africa should have a pool of those particular skills.

Mr McKay thanked Ms Bothma for valuable comments that would guide the Department. When speaking of skills shortage, one referred to the critical skills such as engineers and the skills needed by industry to grow but which South Africa did not have in the country. Those high-end skills would not be attracted if we did not deal with the whole package. An engineer travelling with his family would require schooling for the children, a study permit, and most likely a job for his wife. In most cases of high skills, the spouses also had high skills.

The issue of creating employment and of creating conducive conditions for companies to set up shop in South Africa needed to be linked to skills transfer processes to ensure that, in getting the high skills into South Africa, those skills were transferred to South Africans to build up South Africa’s skills base.

The Acting Chairperson said that it was important to know that, if South Africa wanted to attract an engineer or someone skilled in an area where it had a lack of expertise, if the engineer’s wife worked he would not come if she were not allowed to work here, because she would be unhappy. It was about attracting the package to get the skill needed. These people would not be in competition with South Africans. They had critical skills which South Africa needed and did not have. Of course South Africa should develop skills and skills transfer should be taking place, but the direct role for that was the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The Acting Chairperson thanked Members and the Department, Issues such as permits would have to be dealt with through legislation and the Committee was in anticipation of it coming to the Committee. He asked the Department to keep the Committee informed in terms of systems that were not directly related to legislation.

Ms Bothma was concerned that if a person had excellent skills why was his or her country not using those skills? At the take over of democracy it had been agreed to share with our own brothers and sisters to get those skills, yet South Africa still did not have those skills. There had to be something to force people to transfer their skills. The DHA should ensure that policies were developed that would make people develop skills for South Africa.

The Acting Chairperson said that was noted.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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