The Departments of Home Affairs and Transport, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), and Fireblade Aviation gave an update on the agreement for Fireblade Aviation to operate at OR Tambo International Airport. Lanseria International Airport gave a briefing on its operations. The Minister of Home Affairs and the Acting Director-General spoke about the uncollected IDs in light of the upcoming election.
The Department of Home Affairs said that the agreement for Fireblade Aviation to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport was undertaken in the correct manner. Fireblade Aviation had secured the relevant approvals from government entities, including the lease agreement with Denel and ACSA, port of entry coordination authorities and immigration services, meaning the agreement was above board. Fireblade Aviation had signed a 10-year lease agreement with Denel in 2014, with a 10-year extension option.
In light of the briefings, the Committee urged the formulation of a more robust regulatory framework for the intersection between private entities and the South African government in operations of private terminals at international ports of entry in the country. This was in light of the serious deficiencies in the legislative framework regulating Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) as made apparent by the briefings. The Committee said this jeopardised its ability to effectively fulfil its parliamentary oversight role due to the lack of clarity, as well as increasing risks to South Africa’s national security. The Committee urged the severity of the matter to be realised by and communicated to other departments, and to seek engagement with high-level stakeholders such as Directors-General and Ministers in order to give the matter adequate momentum to be remedied.
It emerged from the meeting that key legislation in solving this was the Border Management Authority Bill which remained stuck in the National Council of Provinces. The BMA Bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2018 in order to formulate an effective and coordinate regulatory framework for management of South Africa’s borders.
After hearing from the Minister and Home Affairs about its mobile truck connectivity constraints and the inadequate infrastructure at Home Affairs offices, the Committee resolved to increase efforts to reduce the number of uncollected ID documents. It resolved that efforts would be increased to strengthen collaboration efforts with stakeholders to increase collections across municipalities, while ensuring necessary security protocols were adhered to.
Mr D Gumede (ANC), acting Chairperson, emphasised that Committee operations were always to be for the purpose of the national interest. He noted apologies from the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. Mpumalanga International Airport had sent a presentation but was unable to attend so this agenda item would be skipped.
Fireblade Aviation agreement to operate at OR Tambo International Airport
The Minister of Home Affairs, Siyabonga Cwele, stated that the Department of Home Affairs was looking to improve the regulatory framework surrounding operating agreements with private actors at ports-of-entry. The role was limited to national port of entry, and work was being done with stakeholders to implement operations. As a relatively new Minister, Mr Cwele was still in the process of examining the regulatory framework. The Acting Director General would give a progress report on implementation on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs and stakeholders involved.
The Home Affairs Acting Director General, Thulani Mavuso, said that as indicated by Minister Cwele, a lot of work has been done since the 27 November 2018 Committee meeting. He provided a status report on the request for the conclusion of an agreement between the Department of Home Affairs and Fireblade Aviation.
By way of background, Mr Mavuso indicated that on 17 January 2019, Home Affairs was requested by the Chairperson to provide a status report on the conclusion of an agreement between it and Fireblade Aviation in order to regularise the operations, requiring engagement with all other stakeholders in the port of entry. It was Home Affairs’ view that an agreement could not be concluded where it pertained to the mandate of another department. The status report also constituted a response to a parliamentary question from 6 November 2018, where Minister Cwele had indicated that Home Affairs had initiated the consultation process which would culminate in the agreement of a policy framework.
In order to regularise Home Affairs’ presence at the fixed base facility, clarity was sought about the legal and policy framework of the stakeholder departments, as well as which department should be the lead department for this policy framework. Since the Department of Transport had responsibility for licensing of airdromes, clarity was sought on specific licensing conditions of the facility at a meeting held between the departments on 29 November 2018. Indications were that the Fixed Base Operations (FBO) facility was covered by the airdrome licence granted to ACSA to operate OR Tambo International.
The Department of Transport then had undertaken the approval process, scope of the licence extended to ACSA at OR Tambo International (whether it was, by extension, relevant to third parties). Another meeting took place on 12 December 2018 with the Department of Transport as well as SARS, where the Department of Transport confirmed it would be the leading department in the matter.
On 25 January 2019, Mr Mavuso had met with Fireblade Aviation representatives where it was indicated that the Department of Home Affairs would continue to render services to Fireblade Aviation at OR Tambo International, as per the court order. Additionally, a proposal had been made that Fireblade Aviation conclude an agreement between the Port Management Committee (PMC) and ACSA.
The Department of Home Affairs currently had a disagreement with Fireblade Aviation about where they ‘pick up the tab’ for the presence of the Department of Home Affairs at private terminals. It was felt that when the Border Management Committee concluded an agreement to allow ACSA to operate an international terminal which was a Fireblade Aviation terminal, all stakeholders would have reached an agreement about operations of that particular terminal.
At a meeting on 7 February 2019 with the DoT and ACSA the following was confirmed and agreed:
- The Fireblade FBO facility does not require a separate designation as a port of entry by the Minister of Home Affairs and other competent ministers since it falls within the ORTIA precinct and hence it is covered by the ACSA license and designation;
- The agreement for the rendering of immigration and other border control services will be concluded between ACSA and Fireblade FBO if legally possible;
- The Fireblade Aviation lease agreement was with Denel. Denel had sublet the facility from ACSA. ACSA will obtain a legal opinion on the implications of the sub-lease by the end of February 2019.
The Department of Home Affairs recommended that the Committee note the outcomes of the terms of the stakeholder engagement and the way forward agreed to by the parties involved.
Fireblade Aviation, ACSA, and the Department of Transport were present and were requested to confirm their agreement/support.
The Acting Chairperson invited the stakeholders to do so.
The Chairperson of Fireblade Aviation, Nicky Oppenheimer, confirmed that this was agreed to by the parties to be the way forward. Fireblade Aviation looked forward to engaging with ACSA and the Department of Transport on the logical way forward.
The Department of Transport confirmed that what Mr Mavuso had presented was the “honourable truth”.
The ACSA COO, Ms Fundi Sithebe, confirmed that Mr Mavuso was accurate in his presentation and correct. ACSA had been part of the meeting and the agreement concluded had been agreed to by all parties.
The Acting Chairperson emphasised that the role of the Committee was to ensure that the resources of the state were properly managed, that national security was retained, and environmental and health requirements were adhered to in line with government policy.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) asked why an agreement on immigration had to be signed between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Transport (DoT), when the matter was of national security and ultimately should fall under the authority of the security cluster. The presence (or lack thereof) of staff at the facility was another issue. Again, this jeopardised national security. Clarity was needed on the nature of the levies Fireblade Aviation was contributing to the Department of Home Affairs. The operational issues had been covered in the presentation at the expense of national security concerns posed by the matter.
Mr M Hoosen (DA) asked about the terms of the agreement the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) was intending to reach – what was the length of the contract for Fireblade Aviation to operate at OR Tambo International and the implications this would have for other entities to compete for the opportunity to operate? DHA had previously made a comment challenging the constitutionality of whether it could enter into such agreements surrounding points of entry. What was the status of the accompanying Constitutional Court application?
Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked about a timeframe for the implementation process. The Committee had given a clear mandate to DHA to provide this clarity. What had been done to give this clarity in the presentation? Fireblade Aviation had been operating on its own. As Ms Dambuza had emphasised, this independence was a security risk. How far had DHA gone to resolve this? The Committee required more answers on the specifics of Fireblade Aviation’s operations to avoid compromising issues of immigration.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) said the presentation did not cover how goods and passengers were processed by Fireblade Aviation. The presentation’s recommendations required substantiation – when would conclusive agreements and outcomes of the stakeholder engagements be determined?
Mr A Figlan (DA) was concerned about the conclusion reached between stakeholders. Could the minutes of the 7 February meeting in which the conclusion was reached, be provided to the Committee?
Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked if the current fees and lease agreements between government and Fireblade Aviation were competitive. She requested an affidavit of the 7 February meeting.
The Acting Chairperson emphasised that questions on stakeholder involvement ran into the problem of confusing matters and asked that these be dealt with separately. For example, Lanseria’s operations were being introduced prematurely.
The Chairperson, Mr H Chauke (ANC), apologised for arriving late and affirmed Mr Gumede’s point of not confusing the roles of various stakeholders. The need for clarifying the role of the state at South Africa’s airports was necessary. The security of the country was at risk if private operations’ services were not be reconciled with various state departments.
At what level was DHA engaging with other departments such as SARS and DoT to clarify the roles of departments within the state? The role of ACSA in managing a national key point needed to be properly regulated for national security within the airport. On the contract between ACSA and Fireblade Aviation – who owned the facility? This would allow clarity on the constitutional arrangement of the lease which would clarify the role of the state when it needed to intervene. ACSA needed to provide details of their operations in terms of it being a national key point issue. These were necessary to provide solid recommendations for the incoming Parliament.
Mr Mavuso asked about the duration of Fireblade Aviation’s contract. Responsibility for immigration was not being relegated to anybody else, national security surrounding ports of entry must be reconciled with the Port Management Authority. Goods and diseases coming into the country must be regulated for health and safety purposes as well as customs. The management of facilities such as international airports mostly fell to ACSA under the authority of DoT. In terms of OR Tambo International specifically, it was not a new point of entry, it was an established terminal. As such, ACSA should clarify its role to DHA how it was operated as a new terminal.
The Chairperson asked DoT to clarify this.
The DoT Director of Strategy Services in the Office of the Director General explained DoT’s mandate relative to its various agencies (such as ACSA). DoT was directly responsible for policy development and ACSA was responsible for infrastructure management. In terms of the operations, responsibility sat with ACSA, while the other standard roles of airport operation (such as air traffic control and pilot licensing) sat with the relevant bodies (such as the Air Traffic Control Centre and the Civil Aviation Authority).
The Chairperson asked Mr Mavuso which other Directors General had been engaged.
Mr Mavuso replied that the DoT DG had been reached out to but had been unable to attend the previous parliamentary meeting and had sent a representative. Mr Mavuso had been engaging directly with the SARS Commissioner. In addition to these two key departments, the Civil Aviation Authority, as well as ACSA chief executives had been engaged.
The Chairperson asked if additional departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, had been contacted.
Mr Mavuso replied that the Department of Agriculture had been contacted only at the level of officials, not the Department’s DG.
The Chairperson stressed the need for such outreach to ensure accountability for contracts and policy. He asked Minister Cwele to elaborate in order to ensure clarity for the Committee to make accurate recommendations.
Minister Cwele responded that the process was not complete and remained at an operational level; recommendations were still to follow for relevant clusters. On behalf of DHA, the need was to clarify the regulatory framework under which DHA operated at international points of entry into South Africa. Old regulations required updating. The clarification process also required engagement with other relevant stakeholders.
Minister Cwele said the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill was important to this process yet remained stuck in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). He had engaged the Minister of Finance in an effort to finalise and pass this Bill which would provide clarity on issues such as enforcements, security measures, and responsibility. National point of entry responsibility rested ultimately with DHA on most issues, excluding those such as defence (Department of Defence) and air traffic (DoT). All these additional departments needed to coordinate at the BMA level to ensure national security.
The Chairperson noted that from the high-level perspective, the matter was about clarity of client compliance. If the Border Management Authority Bill was central to the legislative process in this matter, why was it yet to be passed by the NCOP? He asked Lanseria International Airport to clarify its agreements surrounding the involvement of the state in operations.
Lanseria International Airport briefing on its operations
Mr Rampa Rammopo, the airport’s CEO, stated that one agreement with government agencies had been signed with the Department of Public Works over control of the territory for Lanseria’s airport facility. There was no specific agreement over immigration control with DHA. Lanseria International Airport had been licenced as an international airport since 1974. It was privatised in 1991 and sold in 2013 to an investment consortium that had included the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund, and a BEE investment fund in 2013. Mr Rammopo had been involved with Lanseria International Airport since 2011. In terms of its relationship with government, Lanseria was a dedicated point of entry, and had operated under a master lease agreement with the Department of Public Works and had no specific agreements with other relevant departments. The government agencies that operated under the master lease agreement included DHA, South African Police Service, Border Police, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Crime Intelligence, the State Security Agency and SARS.
The Chairperson asked for specific ownership stakes in Lanseria International Airport.
Mr Rammopo responded that the PIC owned 37.5%, Infrastructure Development Fund 37.5%, and a consortium of four 4 BEE entities owned the remainder.
Ms Dambuza asked why an active immigration unit was not operating at Lanseria Airport. As DHA was the custodian of immigration services which fell within the Department’s mandate. Immigration had to do with national security. Was the role of DHA only to process passengers? Further engagement was required to understand the DHA role and mandate at national points of entry, as well as ensuring due diligence of DHA as its mandate extended beyond processing.
The Chairperson commented that there were serious gaps needing clear legislative processes. He stressed the need to ensure clarity at state level in order to agree on coordination between departments. The Committee had to ensure proper policies and accountability.
Mr Oppenheimer commented that the ‘Gupta package’ matter had occurred before Fireblade Aviation had offered international movement. Had it been an international airport at that time, the Gupta suitcase would have been seized due to the different security conditions in international airports.
Mr Rammopo clarified that the services offered by government departments at Lanseria International Airport were full suite services.
Ms Bongiwe Mbomvu, ACSA Acting CEO, responded about ACSA’s role at a national key point and its regulation. Lanseria International Airport fixed base operation (FBO) was governed by the ACSA Minimum Standards for Operating (approved 20 March 2014), premised on a lease agreement signed between ACSA and Denel. The ACSA COO would clarify the management of security at Lanseria.
Ms Sithebe, ACSA COO, replied that Fireblade Aviation was one of many FBOs running through ACSA airport networks, but was distinguished as the first international operator. Operations were guided by the National Key Points Act derived from the National Aviation Security Programme, as well as the Civil Aviation Authority legislation which guides ACSA’s licence to operate. ACSA held a security oversight role, which consisted of ad hoc and audited inspections of various FBOs throughout ACSA’s network.
Mr Mavuso responded to the concern about gaps in operations due to the nature of multiple departments being involved, as well as legislative issues such as the BMA Bill delay.
Mr Hoosen asked for the term of the contract entered into with Fireblade Aviation. Would the pending Constitutional Court review application by the previous Home Affairs Minister be abandoned?
Mr Mavuso replied that the term of the agreement with Fireblade Aviation had not been determined. A 10-year lease between Denel and Fireblade Aviation had been signed.
Mr Oppenheimer interjected that a 10-year lease with the option for renewal for a further 10 years was in place.
The Chairperson asked the date that the lease began.
Mr Oppenheimer said it had been signed in January 2014.
Mr Mavuso said that the Constitutional Court challenge had not yet been raised with Minister Cwele so further time would be needed before a decision could be taken.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had specific interest in the matter because it had supported the decision of the previous Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, to raise the court challenge based on the information he had provided to the Committee. The interest of the Committee therefore meant that once the Minister Cwele had been briefed, the matter would need to be returned to.
Mr Mavuso replied to the concern about staff not being present during Fireblade Aviation operations, saying that when international activity was scheduled, the relevant staff would have been deployed. Once an agreement had been concluded with ACSA, the model would be different. Whether this meant deployment on a permanent basis or not would be determined in the agreement. The fees Fireblade Aviation paid were based on Fireblade Aviation fulfilling staffing and infrastructure deficiencies. There was an expectation that there would be movement on a daily basis, therefore requiring permanent staff. Once the proposed model had been concluded, the agreement document would be provided to the Committee. The minutes requested by the Committee could be provided. The Committee had raised an important concern about the BMA Bill and its importance to DHA which would be working towards end-to-end immigration beyond arrival and departure of passengers over borders.
Ms D Raphuti expressed concern about finalising the BMA Bill. The security of South Africa and porous borders were at stake. She committed support for finalisation of the BMA Bill.
Ms S Nkomo (IFP) stated that the Committee took seriously the matter of collaboration voiced by Minister Cwele. She thanked Mr Mavuso for the information and she was committed to working together with DHA.
Ms Mkhaliphi said the Committee’s interests were on immigration and security oversight. Many legislative gaps needed to be filled by DHA. The Committee needed to be updated on the legislation matter once Mr Mavuso had briefed the Minister of Home Affairs.
Mr Hoosen sought to expand the issue of security breaches to more than the single lost Gupta parcel to the broader porous nature of goods controls.
Home Affairs Minister Cwele responded that due to the many issues faced in the Department of Home Affairs, the inherited assets and liabilities would take time to be dealt with and understood, but it endeavoured to do so swiftly. The government was committed to closing the borders and fixing the defects. The Minister would engage with colleagues and would return to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the stakeholders. The BMA Bill, currently stuck in the NCOP, would be helpful once it was in place. The interim arrangement with DHA and Fireblade Aviation would need Minister Cwele’s assistance in speeding up the process to allow government oversight and involvement in such matters. Governing legislation needed to be put in place to clarify the role of the state to provide adequate accountability. Oversight could not be done without a clear legislative framework in place.
Uncollected IDs for the purpose of the elections
Minister Cwele noted that coordination with local stakeholders, such as parliamentary constituency offices and traditional leaders, had worked well as a strategy to remedy the matter. Drawing on all stakeholders was to be an important strategy.
Mr Mavuso noted DHA’s responsibility for population registration, determination of citizenship, issuing of enabling documents including IDs, passports, birth, marriage and death certificates. DHA was responsible for ID documents for all South African citizens and management of the National Population Register. Uncollected Smart ID cards as of 6 February 2019 totalled 374 000. These were mostly Smart ID Cards intended to replace Green ID books. The regions with the most uncollected documents were Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
The strategic approach to distribution of IDs was to identify areas with high numbers of uncollected documents. Thereafter, provinces would engage with stakeholders to increase collection through DHA relationships with local authorities developed over the years. Lists of scheduled collection visits would be compiled, as well as door-to-door distribution and awareness campaigns in the areas with the highest number of uncollected documents, as well as on social media.
Outreach programmes in rural communities would be increased. Campaigns to distribute IDs in prisons and re-introduction of SMS notification efforts would be undertaken. Some Home Affairs offices lacked facilities to provide Smart ID Cards. This was the reason for inviting the Department of Public Works to engage with the Committee and for continuing to issue Green ID books in areas that cannot offer Smart Cards. The staffing and offices were overwhelmed by servicing demands. Resourcing challenges were therefore seen as critical. The Home Affairs footprint in provinces was inhibited by the low number of offices, particularly small offices that are unable to modernise. This is particularly an issue that can be categorised by the urban/rural split. 284 offices countrywide were able to issue Smart ID Cards. Partnership with banks to provide Smart ID Cards would be pursued to expand infrastructure. New generation mobile units were in the final stage of having the connectivity challenges solved to provide Smart ID Cards. The Department’s 2019 elections communication plan spanned a number of activities to raise collection awareness. The challenges were connectivity and inadequate infrastructure. The Department recommendations were assistance in encouraging collection, lobby for an expanded budget, as well as developing compelling measures for collection of IDs.
The Chairperson identified challenges with staff, budget concerns, and infrastructure deficiencies and theft.
Ms Kenye asked what could be done via ministerial engagement to remedy the uncollected ID cards, particularly with the coming election. She suggested offices staying open for longer periods two days prior to elections. What time would DHA branches close so that it may be communicated to constituents?
Mr Figlan asked which stakeholders Home Affairs was working with in the provinces and reemphasised the importance of speaking to communities to inspire more ID collections. Studies needed to be done on the effectiveness of pamphlet distribution and SMSes. Wrong information was often provided in these dispatches.
Ms N Shabalala (ANC) asked for the details of those who had not collected IDs. The demographic details were important to create a strategy to solve this. What is being done to strengthen information distribution? Had DHA considered making use of community halls and other such venues at no cost in order to distribute. High school matriculants needed to be targeted as a key group to address as IDs were needed to write final exams. Local engagement was very important for communication and preparedness purposes.
Ms Raphuti asked for specific offices within provinces with large numbers of uncollected ID documents so these can be targeted. She committed herself to help and asked DHA to ‘choose’ the ministers to undertake work on the ground such as visiting schools and taxi ranks.
Ms Nkomo identified three areas of importance from the presentation. The budget was important to increase the effectiveness of the mobile unit. Police needed to be increased to ensure minimal identity and infrastructure theft. The offices where large numbers of collections had not been made needed to be identified in each province. Clients needed to be encouraged to collect by political party mobilisation. This was particularly important in light of the coming election.
Mr Hoosen expressed concern about the staffing deficiencies at Home Affairs offices. The Committee needed to raise the dire need for funding via Minister Cwele to take the matter to Treasury. The Public Sector wage bill reductions cannot be used to defer this matter as this is a serious issue clear across all Home Affairs offices. The Home Affairs experience needed to be improved to increase collection incentives. What was Minister Cwele’s plan to reduce queuing in the short term before more frontline staff can be added? Former Minister Gigaba launched a ‘War on Queues’ which has fallen away.
Mr Hoosen asked when the connectivity challenges of mobile units would be solved to make them fully operational. When encouraging engagement with community organisations and stakeholders to aid distribution, would only Home Affairs officials handle the actual handover and distribution of documents?
Ms Dambuza emphasised staffing. Home Affairs office closing times were another hindrance. Schoolchildren are constrained by these closing times for example. Treasury must be contacted to deal with matters of understaffing in particular. Parliamentary constituency offices must be incorporated into the awareness programme; party whips must be notified to ensure the matter can be budgeted for. The media information programme was important. GCIS had a slot for the Portfolio Committee Chairperson which can reach sixty community radios, which should be an avenue for Minister Cwele to raise awareness.
Mr Gumede re-emphasised the complaints about Home Affairs offices closing early. ID document collectors were being turned away while citizenship applications are continued later in the day. This was contradictory practice as collections should be a quicker process than applications. He voiced concern about bribery. The security of ID documents was also important. Adequate supervision was needed to avoid identity theft.
The Chairperson emphasised that these were simply daily operational issues which needed serious action.
Ms Raphuti requested ongoing involvement in supervising a level of urgency on the matter. Weekly updates were requested if possible.
The Chairperson asked that information and direction be provided to MPs in the distribution of information. Technology needed to be used to remedy the situation. Where there were personnel gaps, technology could be used to ease the burden.
Mr Mavuso replied that the South African Post Office CEO had been contacted. Home Affairs offices would be used as enrolment facilities, while post offices could be used as collection points. This would assist in alleviating the inadequate infrastructure facilities. DHA would ensure that ID documents were handled by Home Affairs officials and the stakeholder forums would solely play a role in the awareness and mobilisation campaigns. The live capture facilities at banks were being increased in lagging provinces such as Kwa-Zulu Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. While physical posters were mostly only inside Home Affairs offices, social media campaign were intended to reach a wider audience. The budget issue was crucial.
Minister Cwele thanked the Committee for the suggestions, some of which were already being implemented. The most important role for the Committee members was to facilitate engagement with municipalities and Parliament to raise awareness levels. Security could not be compromised in the process. For this reason, the ability of mobile trucks to do live capture was very important. This would enable bio capture in rural areas in particular. When lists of uncollected documents were circulated, the sensitive information would be removed before being provided to ward councillors and other stakeholders. Moreover, transport of documents made use of police escorts. The concern about Gauteng’s large number of uncollected ID documents was not as serious as it seemed. Gauteng had the highest production value which resulted in higher numbers of applicants. Most important was the point raised about age analysis of those who were not collecting ID documents. Reaching clients by SMS became an issue when phone numbers were changed. The details of applicants needed to be tracked by address rather. Live capture needed to operate with responsive databases, meaning a budget reprioritisation in order to provide a capable network to ensure facilities can remain online and handle the high volume of data. DHA was working with the Minister of Public Services and Administration towards increased network and processing capabilities. Ministers were urged to raise these issues with party speakers and to communicate to party members and the general public.
The Chairperson urged efforts to move towards an efficient, paperless department. Technology would be key. Encouragement could be found in the experienced Minister and Director General. These concerns needed to be carried over to the incoming Parliament to continue to handle. The security of the information of members of the public and the state needed to be ensured regarding private companies handling DHA network systems. An update on the ID documents was requested from Minister on an ongoing basis.
The Committee was thanked for its engagement, and the meeting was adjourned.