The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefed the Committee on the new immigration regulations regarding the travel of children in and out of South Africa. Regulations were initially to come into effect on 26 May 2014, but in order to enable travellers to prepare for the implementation of the regulation dealing with minors travelling, its implementation had been postponed to 1 June 2015.
It was estimated that 30 000 minors were trafficked through South African borders every year and 50% of these minors were under the age of 14 years. As from 1 June 2015, the immigration regulations required that parents (married, single or divorced) travelling with their children (minors under the age of 18 years) must, in addition to their passport, produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) of the child, reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child or any other document with similar details, when exiting and entering South African ports of entry.
The Department outlined the requirements for the travel of children in other countries as a point of reference for the South African regulations, aiming to demonstrate that this was not an unusually stringent requirement.
There were around 2.7 million children travelling in and out of the country each year. 1.1 million children had been born between 1996 and March 2013 and had passports, and these were the children that would reasonably be expected to be affected by the law. Any children born after this point would receive their UBC on the spot, when they applied.
Members were deeply divided over the new regulations. Some were concerned that the regulations would result in real losses to the tourism industry, which accounted for 9 % of GDP and 1.5 million jobs. A drop in foreign arrivals from key markets was expected. The number of children being trafficked was disputed, and Members argued that if there were in fact very few cases of child trafficking, it did not make sense to address the problem of child trafficking by burdening the tourism industry. Other Members were concerned that people living in rural areas would not be made aware of the new regulations and asked what outreach programmes were planned to reach the deep rural areas.
The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) briefed the Committee on the preparations for the 2016 local government elections. The ward process in some municipalities had been discontinued in order to attend to the Minister’s request for re-determination of boundaries for some municipalities. The wards could be delimited only once the outer boundaries had been finalised.
For those wards not affected by the Minister’s request, public meetings had been conducted and finalised and the wards would be finalised in August 2015 and handed over to the IEC. The ward determination for those municipalities determined or re-determined following the Minister’s request would be finalised in November 2015. The Board was concerned about possible delays emanating from litigation by the Baviaans Local Municipality and protests in some areas, particularly Dipaleseng in Mpumalanga. Another challenge was for MECs to publish the number of councillors timeously and correctly. The timelines agreed upon were extremely tight due to the delays caused by the Minister’s request.
Members asked for more detail on issues that had arisen in Malamulele, Dipaleseng, Matatiele and Baviaans municipalities. They asked how the Board chose which newspapers it published notices in, and urged them to consider this carefully so that all relevant communities were included. They asked how the Board provided feedback to the communities about the decisions they had taken. The Committee was very concerned about the tight timelines. The Board undertook to work extremely hard to get through the process as quickly as possible so that the local municipal elections and the work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would not be affected.
In the absence of the Mr B Mashile (ANC), Mr D Gumede (ANC) was elected to serve as the Chairperson. He welcomed the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Social Development and the Portfolio Committee on Tourism.
Department of Home Affairs briefing
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director-General, Department of Home Affairs (DHA), briefed the Committee on the new immigration regulations regarding the travel of children in and out of South Africa. The regulations were initially to come into effect on 26 May 2014, and the DHA had introduced a number of changes in relation to the travelling of minors in and out of the Republic of South Africa. These changes were in line with South Africa’s international obligation to curb child trafficking, and also in line with the provisions of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005). It was estimated that 30 000 minors were trafficked through South African borders every year, and 50% of these minors were under the age of 14 years. In order to enable travellers to prepare for the implementation of the regulation dealing with minors travelling, its implementation had been postponed to 1 June 2015.
As from 1 June 2015, the immigration regulations required that parents (married, single or divorced) travelling with their children (minors under the age of 18 years) must, in addition to their passport, produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) of the child reflecting the particulars of the parents of the child, or any other document with similar details, when exiting and entering South African ports of entry.
In terms of the Travel Documents Act, both parents had to provide consent in as far as the issuance of a travel document was concerned. In the case of single parents where the other parent, at the time of birth registration, did not acknowledge paternity, such consent would not be required for the purposes of travelling with a minor.
Single parents who by virtue of agreement at the time of birth registration, had an acknowledgement of paternity from the other party, had to produce consent from such party for the purposes of travelling with a minor. In the case of divorcees, the parents where custody of a child / children was shared, had to produce consent from the other parent for the purposes of travelling with a minor.
Where a person was travelling with a child who was not his or her biological child, he or she must amongst others, produce a copy of the UBC of the child and an affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child, confirming that he or she had permission to travel with the child.
At a previous meeting, the Committee had recommended that the Department produce a leaflet to explain these details to the public. This was being produced, and a draft copy was circulated.
Standard Operating Procedures for the above had been approved for implementation to ensure uniformity at all ports of entry. The Department had presented these requirements during the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Conference that had taken place in Cote d’Ivoire in February 2015, and there had been no objections.
Mr Apleni outlined the requirements for the travel of children as a point of reference for the South African regulations. The United Kingdom required biometrics and the UBC was a mandated document if minors were applying for a visa and traveling with a guardian or one parent. Canada required a consent form signed by both parents. The United States of America required biometrics, a birth certificate and a consent form signed by both parents. Australia required biometrics and a consent form. For a Schengen Visa, which is required to travel to some European countries, it was mandatory to enrol for biometrics and a UBC.
Therefore the South African regulations were not out of the ordinary when compared to these countries.
The movement of persons was recorded on the Department’s Movement Control System. In 2014, a total of 940 000 citizens under the age of 18, and a total of 1.8 million foreign children moved through South Africa’s ports of entry. This amounted to 2.7 million children travelling in and out of the country. This presented a risk for the Department, because the children qualified for support from the state. If the 2.7 million was not controlled, then the system was open to child trafficking and children being used for labour on farms. These regulations sought to curb that.
South African children born from 3 March 2013 onwards and whose births were registered would be issued with a UBC on the spot. Close to 60% of parents were registering their children within 60 days of birth, so there was a need to push for compliance.
Therefore, the population of children / minors that would be required to apply for unabridged certificates in line with the regulations would be children born between 1996 and February 2013. On 1 August 2014, the DHA Minister’s management meeting took the decision that Civic Services should develop a project plan that would improve citizen’s ability to obtain an UBC in support of the new immigration regulation requirements -- regulation 6(12)(a)(b)(c) -- which would be implemented with effect from 1 June 2015.
The UBC project team had been established to address the population of children / minors born between 1996 and February 2013 that were envisaged to apply for a UBC, hence already in possession of a passport.
Approximately 17 million children were born between 1996 and February 2013. Out of this population, approximately 1.1 million children had been issued with valid South African passports. Out of the above population, 86 387 children were born in 1996 with passports, but no longer required UBCs due to the fact that they had turned 18 years of age.
The UBC pre-modification project therefore focused on preparing the UBC for the 1.1 million travellers that would be immediately affected by the implementation of Immigration Regulation 6 (12)(a)(b)(c), while the existing backlog on UBC applications had to be eradicated.
In order to accelerate the issuance of UBCs, the following interventions and initiatives had been undertaken through the project. A function had been developed that allowed the insertion of parent particulars prior to their applying for a UBC (this was the pre-modification function). A UBC pre-modification team had been established and was currently pre-modifying birth records. Therefore children whose UBC had been pre-modified would receive their UBCs on the spot upon application.
The records indexing system had been enhanced to validate all data inputs against the National Population Register (NPR) before acceptance thereof, eased record locating, thereby significantly reducing the time and resources required to locate a record, and simplified the indexing of new records by changing it from manual capturing of the National Population Register, to scanning of the barcode on the registration form, which had already been linked to the IDN.
An instruction had been issued to all front offices to encourage all parents applying for passports in respect of children under the age of 18 years to also apply for the UBC (Passport Control Instruction). In order to deal with capacity demands, trainees (cadets) from the Learning Academy had been trained and deployed to assist with the UBC project. In addition, officials from the respective provinces had been seconded to the project.
An analysis had been done of all UBC applications lodged to date, and it had been revealed that 26 098 of the 1.1 million children with passports had already applied for UBCs which had not been modified yet. These applications had been prioritised and finalised. Among these applications there were 9 112 children who were below 18 years of age. These applications were currently being fast-tracked with the purpose of having it finalised before 1 June 2015.
The balance of the volume of UBC applications on hand -- the applications that were still within the 6 – 8 week turnaround time -- amounted to 5 674 as at 18 May 2015. In order to ensure that the backlog would be eradicated and to avoid the creation of a cumulative backlog, work streams for both these categories had been established.
Except for instances where records could not be located, all new UBC applications had been immediately modified to avoid a cumulative backlog. An amount of R10 million had been allocated to digitize records for easy retrieval. This could expedite the modification of records.
There were 1.1 million children born between 1996 and March 2013 with passports. Of these, 5 288 children were already in possession of UBCs, 26 098 children had an application logged (this formed the backlog), 86 387 children born in 1996 had turned 18 and therefore no longer required a UBC, and 12 631 children born in 1997 had turned 18 and therefore no longer required a UBC. Pre-modified records existed for 389 002 children. This meant that there were a total of 551 739 children in possession of passports without a UBC. These were the children that could reasonably be expected to want to travel.
Activity plan to clear backlog
There were 9 112 outstanding UBC applications for children who were 18 years of age and below and who had applied for passports. The number of current UBC applications was 5 674. These applications were being prioritised and a project team had been set up to clear the outstanding UBCs by the end of May 2015. The Department had matched all UBC applications against available records in batches. More than 14 000 records had already been requested from the records team. The modification of records had increased its norm from 120, to a minimum of 150 per day. Finalisation of outstanding UBC applications was under way, and would be ready for issuance on or before 1 June 2015.
There had been an increase in the number of births registered within 30 days since 2010, and a further increase was expected as a result of heightened awareness programmes aimed at encouraging birth registration within 30 days.
Challenges and mitigations
In some cases, there were no records or missing records. This would be mitigated by sending an SMS to the client. Some clients were non-responsive when requested to submit the required documents. In this case, a reminder was sent.
The benefits of acquiring a UBC, beyond the protection of children from child trafficking, included the ability to travel with children across South African borders, access to government socio-economic benefits, and access to elementary schools and medical schemes. A UBC was also required for permanent residence and visa applications for other countries.
The new immigration regulations would be implemented from 1 June 2015. Every year, the number of requests for UBCs would decrease as affected minors reached the age of majority. A passport control instruction had been issued, that parents applying for a passport for their child / children would have to simultaneously apply for a UBC. A hotline would be put in place to address emergency cases, and R10 million had been allocated for the digitisation of records project.
Ms R Capa (ANC), Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, felt that the joint sitting was helpful. In rural areas, teenagers were giving birth and were often unwilling to put the father’s name on the documents. How would the Department deal with such cases? Unidentified minors caused costs to the State, as they had rights of protection equal to those of South African children, and their basic needs therefore had to be provided for.
The Legal Advisor, Department of Home Affairs, said that the Department had struggled with false registration when grandparents tried to register as parents. Children should instead be registered under the ID of the mother, and the grandparent should assist the teenage mother with filing of the forms and signatures. The father could be registered at another stage, or did not have to be registered at all, if this was the choice of the parents.
Mr Apleni responded that the cost of social services for foreign children was an important issue and this was what the regulations were attempting to manage.
Ms B Ngcobo (ANC), Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Tourism, said that the Department was undertaking a mammoth task, and asked if there was enough capacity across the country to manage it expediently. She said that arrivals outweighed departures in the movement statistics for foreigners, but were about the same for citizens. Was this of concern?
Mr Apleni responded that the Department did have the capacity to implement the new regulations. South Africans currently required a passport to travel, and the Department had never failed to provide citizens with one, even though this was a more complicated process than processing a UBC. It used to take 680 days to process a passport application, but now it took only 13, or even three, days. The process had been automated. A Smart Card took seven days, including courier, to process.
The discrepancy between the numbers of foreigners arriving and departing had been created by the number of foreigners remaining in South Africa. These children were attending South African schools and claiming social grants. This was a cost to the state.
Mr J Vos (DA), from the Portfolio Committee on Tourism, said that the joint sitting had been long overdue, and it was a great pity that it was occurring a week before implementation of the new regulations. He predicted alarming consequences arising from the regulations, as reports from the tourism industry indicated that it would result in real losses to the industry. A drop in foreign arrivals from key markets was expected. The joint sitting should have been convened earlier, as there had been many opportunities to do so and the DA had called for such a meeting. Key stakeholders such as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa should be consulted. The Minister had committed to convening a meeting in October 2014 with these stakeholders, but this had not happened. There had been no consultation to date with key tourism stakeholders.
Tourism accounted for 9 % of GDP and 1.5 million jobs. The DA was mindful of the need to protect and safeguard borders, and child trafficking was of great concern. There was a need to curb this, but not through travel regulations which would affect the prospects of such an important industry. While a pamphlet on the regulations was now being produced, information should already have been shared with the industry, South Africans and travel agencies. Airlines had been requesting this information to share with their passengers. It was disappointing that a year since the regulations should have been introduced, not much had been done in terms of communicating them.
Mr Vos said that before passing new regulations, an impact assessment should have been done. He asked what studies or analysis had been conducted to determine the scale of the problem and the prevalence of child trafficking in South Africa. The DA argued that there were not 30 000 children being trafficked. This figure had been produced by a non-government organisation (NGO) which later said it had been misquoted. The number of children reported missing to the South African Police Service (SAPS) was less than 2% of this number. The Department was relying on inaccurate data and anecdotal evidence to justify heavy-handed regulations.
He asked what would happen to children who had already left the country without their UBCs. If 2.7 million children were travelling to South Africa as tourists and there were so few cases of child trafficking, it did not make sense to address the problem of child trafficking by burdening the tourism industry.
A recent report had ranked South Africa in 67th place as a tourist destination in terms of their visa policy out of 114 countries. This would diminish the tourists’ willingness to visit. While the world was moving towards less restrictive policies, South Africa was doing the opposite.
He outlined some possible alternative solutions to child trafficking that would not affect tourism, arguing that it should be addressed through implementation of Chapter 18 of the Children’s Act. There was a need for better policing to eradicate syndicates. People convicted of human trafficking in other countries should be banned from South Africa, and there were databases available to do this reliably.
The data of children entering or leaving the country could be captured and linked to the adults they were travelling with. This would enable the movements to be traced if the child was reported missing. Child trafficking hotspots could be identified and measures to monitor children could be targeted at those travelling to and from those countries, rather than at all travellers.
In his State of the Nation Address, the President had made mention of travel regulations and alluded to a review being instituted to balance the safety of the country with the economic impact of such regulations, but this had not been instituted. The travel and tourism industry had not been made part of any deliberations. This was a lost opportunity, and he asked that implementation be suspended until such time that review teams could be convened. Much as the security of the country and the need to address child trafficking was crucial, Mr Vos felt it was important that measures to address this be designed not to hinder what was an important industry for South Africa.
The Chairperson thanked him for his proposals and suggested that these should be a written submission to the Department so that they could be fully considered. If they had been submitted earlier, they could have been more effective. However, South Africa was a country of dialogue and he was sure they would be fully considered if given to the Department.
Mr Apleni responded that the Department had to make a choice between conflicting interests. There was no way to have the best of both worlds. While there was a dispute about the number of children being trafficked, there was no dispute as to whether or not it was occurring. For the Department, even one child lost was enough.
There had been meetings between the Minister of Home Affairs and representatives of the tourism industry regarding these regulations, which the Department could provide proof of.
Some reports may say that South Africa was not appealing as a tourism destination because of its visa requirements, but this was subjective. Business Day had two weeks previously published an article saying that South Africa had improved the state of its tourism. There were various opinions, so the Department had to take decisions according to what it felt was in the best interests of the country.
Mr Apleni disagreed that the visa requirements were lessening as a global trend. He did not see how Kenya, or Nigeria with its problems with Boko Haram, could be relaxing their visa requirements. People were drowning in their efforts to reach Europe. People could not visit the USA without personal interviews.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) was implementing Chapter 8, and the Department of Home Affairs was part of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster and was trying to assist with this process.
The Department did intend to capture biometrics -- this would be rolled out in January. A photograph and biometrics would be taken at all ports of entry.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) recalled incidents in the 1990s of young white girls who had been lost and had still not been found. The DA should consider this.
The Chairperson said that South Africa could continue to have dialogue about the regulations, but they would be implemented on 1 June nonetheless. Proposals had to be listened to equally. The country had not been built by not taking consultation seriously. The objective must be to make South Africa the best country it could be.
Ms O Maxon (EFF) echoed the comments of Ms Capa, emphasising that the Department should not take for granted that those in rural areas had the same benefits as those in urban areas. She asked what was being done to bring to book those found to be trafficking children. She pointed out that divorce took a long time to be resolved -- how would the Department manage in unclear cases? What did the pre-modification team do? If a child already had a passport, did they need to also apply for a UBC?
Mr Apleni responded that when child trafficking was identified, prosecutions were followed up by SAPS.
The pre-modification process linked the father, mother and child in the National Population Register (NPR), so that by the time citizens applied their details already came up on the system.
Children would need both their passport and the UBC to travel. The Department were also looking at a potential additional improvement, as implemented in India, in which the UBC was included in the passport.
Mr B Nesi (ANC) asked how the Director-General would manage the quantity of applications if they were to come directly to him. What would happen if the father of a child was in prison or could not be found?
The presentation had focused on the movement in and out of South Africa, but how was the Department addressing situations where children were trafficked from rural areas to urban areas.
Mr Apleni responded that applications would only be made directly to the DG in the case of the parents having died, or had been declared mentally incapacitated. These special cases would be managed by staff and ultimately approved by the DG. If the father could not be found, then the courts would have to take a decision.
The DHA was responsible for movement in and out of the country, and was not responsible for domestic trafficking, although it was part of the JCPS cluster.
Ms Raphuti said it would help to ask nurses to educate pregnant girls about what they needed to do regarding birth certification.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked what outreach programmes were planned to reach the deep rural areas. She was concerned about foreigners moving to and from South African villages near the borders to collect grants. It seemed unlikely that the Department would meet the target of finalising the applications on hand by 1 June. What measures were in place if this target was not met?
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) commended the Department for coming up with these regulations, given the alarming number of children being trafficked. She asked if parents could correct any incorrect information on the spot, or would they have to make another application.
Mr Apleni responded that changes to incorrect information on a UBC could be corrected within a seven day window, and pre-modification was assisting with this.
Briefing by Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) on preparations for 2016 local government elections
Mr Mlulami Manjezi, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB), briefed the Committee on the preparations for the 2016 local government elections.
The MDB’s mandate included the determination of municipal outer boundaries, the delimitation of municipal ward boundaries, assessment of municipal capacity and rendering of advisory services to stakeholders.
Mr Manjezi explained the legal process, which began with the determination and redetermination of municipal boundaries. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) then divided the national common voters roll into municipal segments, and the Minister determined the formulae for the number of councillors per municipality. The Members of the Executive Committees (MECs) determined the number of councillors and could deviate from the formula. The MDB delimited the wards for half of the number of councillors. Finally, the IEC finalised voting districts in wards and prepared for the elections.
The redetermination of municipal boundaries ran from 2011 to 2013, which had then been followed by the delimitation of the municipal wards from 2014 to 2015, and finally the preparation for the 2016 local elections in 2015 and 2016. The IEC process ran from December 2015 to August 2016.
The ward process in some municipalities had been discontinued, in order to attend to the Minister’s request for re-determination of boundaries for some municipalities. The wards could be delimited only once the outer boundaries had been finalised.
From the initial 180 postponed wards’ consultation meetings, only 56 would be postponed until the Board’s decision on the re-determination.
The ward delimitation process had been split into two processes -- one for wards in municipalities affected by the Minister’s request in terms of Section 22, and one for those not affected. For those wards not affected by the Minister’s request, public meetings had been conducted and finalised. The closing date for written inputs had been 23 March and 10 April 2015. Meetings had been convened after the end of March and there had been a ten-day window after the meeting in which submissions could be made. All submissions received at the public meetings would be mapped, analysed and submitted to the Board for consideration.
The consideration of written and verbal submissions took place in April and May 2015, and the publication and gazetting of wards for objections took place in May and would continue into June. The wards would be finalised in August 2015 and handed over to the IEC.
The MDB had closed the re-determination of municipal boundaries in 2013, to commence with the ward delimitation process in 2014. A request had then been received from the Minister in terms of Section 22 of the Demarcation Act, 1998, to re-determine certain municipal boundaries, which required a review of the MDB’s ward delimitation process and timeframes.
Section 26 notices had been published to invite views and representations from members of the public. The Board had considered all views and representations on 20 March 2015. Notices had been published in different newspapers depending on the area, including Isolezwe, The Herald, The Sowetan, Die Burger, and others.
Progress on re-determination of municipal boundaries following Minister’s request
In the Eastern Cape, the Board had received six re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published all in terms of Section 26, had received 58 submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on four re-determination proposals.
In the Free State, the Board had received two re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published one in terms of Section 26, had received one submission and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on one re-determination proposal.
In Gauteng, the Board had received one re-determination proposal.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the Board had received eleven re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published all in terms of Section 26, had received 27 submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on one re-determination proposal.
In Limpopo, the Board had received five re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published all in terms of Section 26, had received 78 submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on five re-determination proposals.
In Mpumalanga, the Board had received five re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published all in terms of Section 26, had received 30 submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on five re-determination proposals.
In the North West Province, the Board had received four re-determination proposals in terms of Section 22, had published all in terms of Section 26, had received 18 submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on four re-determination proposals, with one proposal having been withdrawn by the Minister.
In the Northern Cape, the Board had received one re-determination proposal in terms of Section 22, had published one in terms of Section 26, had received no submissions and resolved to conduct public meetings and investigations on one re-determination proposal.
Looking at the timeframes, the consideration of Section 26 views and representations was complete. Investigations and public hearings were being held over April and May, and reports from public meetings and investigations and determinations had been considered in May. In June, Section 21 notices would be published in provincial Gazettes, and in July the final determination of Section 21(5) notices would be published in the provincial Gazettes.
The ward determination for those municipalities determined or re-determined following the Minister’s request would be finalised in November 2015. Mr Manjezi presented a detailed breakdown of the processes that needed to be followed in order to achieve this, and when each step would be completed. He emphasised that the timelines were extremely tight.
Challenges and concerns
The Board was concerned about possible delays emanating from litigation by the Baviaans Local Municipality and protests in some areas, particularly Dipaleseng in Mpumalanga. Another challenge was for MECs to publish the number of councillors timeously and correctly.
The MDB would be conducting investigations to ensure that sufficient information was gathered. This required cooperation from stakeholders and municipalities. Unforeseen matters such as threats to challenge the process, court applications and protests could delay both the re-determination process and the ward delimitation process, which were inter-dependent.
The timelines agreed upon by both the Minister of Finance and the IEC would require that the election date be set towards the end of the 90-day window period in which it was required to be held.
Cooperation would be paramount between key stakeholders in terms of Section 23 of the Municipal Demarcation Act (MDA) and Section 20 of the Municipal Structures Act (MSA), particularly towards and during August 2015.
The Chairperson asked about the service delivery protests that had happened in Malamulele, in which residents had demanded a separate municipality.
Mr Manjezi responded that the MDB had conducted a study on the matter, which indicated that Malamulele was not viable as a stand-alone municipality. It also highlighted other issues that the Department might want to consider regarding development of the area. The Minister had invoked Section 22 for the area, and the MDB was now in the process of reviewing this.
The Chairperson said that learning lessons from Malamulele could help in avoiding similar problems in the future.
Mr Aluwani Ramagaza, Executive Manager, MDB, said that the Board had considered the matter legally a number of times and had decided that the area would not be viable. Because the matter kept arising, the Board had recently conducted another study. This had informed everyone about the area, but the Board had not re-initiated the legal process because the study had advised it was not viable. The process the Minister had asked for was looking at the whole area of Vhembe and the configuration of the whole district. The idea was to assess whether a better configuration would provide a solution for the problems that the communities were having.
An IEC representative said that conversations between the MDB and the IEC happened both at a technical level and with the commissioners at the Board. Whatever happened with the MDB would have implications for the elections. The intention had been to finalise determinations by June, but due to the challenges raised this had not been possible and the IEC had therefore had to shift its time frames. The intention now was to hand over by August, with some remaining municipalities to come only in November. This was an extremely tight timeline for the IEC, but they would manage if the majority came by August so that IEC processes could begin.
There was no agreement with the Minister to have the elections as close as possible to end of the 90-day window, contrary to what had been said in the presentation. Although it was no longer possible to have elections within the start of the 90 days, the IEC had to prepare as though the elections would be called for within 90 days of the date of the previous year’s election. This period would begin 18 May and end 16 August 2016. The IEC would not want to push the election date too far to the end of the 90 days, because if there were any unforeseen problem, then it would not be within the time frame set out in the Constitution.
Ms Mnisi said the issue of demarcation was very sensitive in the municipalities. Would the postponed boundaries affect the election dates? When were they expected to be completed? What was the final decision of the board regarding Dipaleseng?
Mr Ramagaza said that the Board had not been able to hold consultations in Dipaleseng because of a court order. The public meetings had therefore been suspended. Immediately after the Board received the proposal from the Minister they had been told that there were unresolved issues there with the provincial boundaries. As soon as the matter was resolved in court, they would be able to proceed with the process. The Board could always take a decision without the public meeting. The only problem would be getting the buy-in of the communities.
Ms Kenye asked what was happening in Matatiele, and expressed concern about the tight timelines.
Mr Ramagaza said that the problem in Matatiele was that the community wanted to be included in Gauteng Province. To change the borders of a province was a Constitutional process, not a mandate of the MDB. When the cross-boundary municipalities had been done away with, Matatiele had ended up in Mpumalanga. People usually brought their complaints about this to the MDB, but it was the responsibility of Parliament to amend the Constitution. In this round of consultations, the issue had not come up yet. People were still concerned, but they were starting to understand that the MDB could not change provincial borders.
Mr Nesi asked if the Baviaans Local Municipality issue had gone to court. He was interested because the municipality was under the ANC. (This was later corrected -- the municipality was under the DA).
Mr Manjezi responded that Baviaans was affected by the Minister’s request, along with its neighbouring municipalities, Ikwezi and Camdeboo. As soon as notices had been published on radio and in the newspapers, the municipality had gone to court to stop even the process of consultation on which the decisions of the Board would be based. The Board had got a court order that they should not hold meetings within the municipality. They had had consultations with Ikwezi and Camdeboo so that they could at least move forward. The Board did not expect the court to prevent them from doing their work, although the outcome was still pending.
The consultations that had been held in Ikwezi and Camdeboo were attended by a large contingency of people with diverse views, and there had also been a big contingency from Baviaans. Camdeboo had now joined the MDB in opposing the Baviaans matter.
Ms Maxon asked if the Board waited for the Minister to advise them, or if it advised the Minister. She was sure that everyone would agree that the situation in Malamulele should not be repeated elsewhere in the country. She asked how the Board decided which newspapers to publish notices in and whether they took language into consideration, as she felt the newspaper used in KwaZulu-Natal excluded non-Zulu speakers. Consultation should not be for the sake of consultation but should take into consideration what people were saying. How did the Board provide feedback to the communities about the decisions they had taken?
Mr Manjezi responded that one of the lessons learned from the previous Board involved feedback to the communities about the decisions that had been reached and how they had been reached. This had been discussed and the Board was determined to go back and explain what the basis of the decision had been. A clear example of this was the Malamulele case. The Board had gone back, despite the security risks in doing this.
The MDB consulted with the municipalities in order to decide in which newspapers to publish notices. Their budget was a limiting factor when it came to communications such as this.
The Chairperson asked if there was a Plan B in case the timelines proved too tight. Areas should be zoned green, amber or red. Following on from Ms Maxon’s point about consultation, he asked if there was consultation at a senior level with political parties. Sometimes the dynamics on the ground were because of the self-interest of those people and not because of the actual reality or because of the national interest, or the interest of a free and fair election.
Mr Manjezi responded that the IEC had generously included the MDB in their platforms, which included political parties. The MDB was in the process of developing the stakeholder management and communications sector. The Board was committed to communication, to creating platforms and to using existing ones, and to informing communities of the decisions that had been made.
In response to the Committee’s concern about the tight timelines, Mr Manjezi explained that this was the first time that the Minister had utilised Section 22. This Section allowed the Minister to request the MDB to look at municipal boundaries and to realign its work accordingly. This had not been experienced by the Board before. The Minister had embarked on the “Back to Basics” programme. They had been looking at municipalities across the country and identified weak municipalities. One of the options for dealing with this was the reconfiguration of the boundaries. The Board was not obliged to follow the Minister’s requests after consideration. In some instances, the Board had published notices to consult with communities, but the decision had ultimately been not to reconfigure.
The complication of the request was that the Minister was asking for them to reconsider the outer boundaries of the municipalities. They could not deal with wards before the outer boundaries were set. In some of the municipalities that the Minister had requested, they had already started consultations and were now receiving studies.
Realising that the time frames were now very tight, he had mentioned in the presentation that those wards that were not affected would be handed over to the IEC in August. Those wards that were affected would be handed over in November. This was because the processes had to be restarted. The Board did not want to skimp with regard to consultation.
In an effort to meet the tight timeframes, wards would be handed over to the IEC as soon as the quality assessments of proposals that had come in, were done. The Board had assured the IEC that they were working around the clock to meet the dates. They recognised the problems that would be caused if they did not meet the dates.
Ms Maxon was relieved that the MDB had the power to do things without waiting for the Minister. This would help with the 90 days. She suggested they review which newspapers they were using.
Mr Majezi thanked Ms Maxon for her contribution regarding the publications and said that the Board was learning as they went along. He would suggest broader consultation on this matter in future.
Mr Ramagaza said that it was very important to select the right newspaper. The Board went all out to ensure that the newspaper they chose was circulated in the affected area.
Ms Raphuti was concerned about communities that did not understand the issue of demarcation. There was a need for increased awareness in this regard. Where was the re-determination in Gauteng?
Mr Manjezi responded that the re-determination in Gauteng was in West Rand. Creating better awareness of the processes amongst communities was a priority for the Board.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.