In the presence of the Deputy Minister, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefed the Committee on recommendations made by High Level Panel Report on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change on changes to the electoral system. In addition, the Department of Home Affairs updated the Committee on the Fireblade facility and the EOH Mthombo contracts.
The IEC stated that the High Level Panel has recommended that Parliament amend the Electoral Act to provide for a new electoral system that made Members of Parliament accountable to defined constituencies in national elections. Proposals in this regard were developed by the Van Zyl Slabbert committee on Electoral Reform that was appointed by Cabinet in 2002. The IEC stated that Parliament, as a representative body of the people, was imminently placed to determine an electoral system. It cautioned, however, that the adoption of a new electoral system that is fundamentally dissimilar to the present system has huge financial, systems and change management costs for the election management body and for political parties.
Members sought clarity on the financial cost of the implementation of the new electoral system and on whether the elections on all three spheres of government could be held at the same time. They asked who had appointed the members of the committee in 2002 and who the members were. The Committee discussed the advantages of accountability of representatives to a defined constituency and were of the view that these matters should be discussed further when both the IEC and Municipal Demarcation Board were present.
Prior to the Department’s formal presentations, the Deputy Minister updated the Committee on refugees who staged protests in Cape Town and Pretoria. The plea of protesters was to be relocated to other countries. They preferred to be relocated to Canada or European countries and refused to engage with the Department. The Deputy Minister said, however, that South Africa could not order other countries to take in refugees. He stressed that refugees should respect South Africans laws and that they would be punished if they broke the law. The Chairperson said that the Committee condemned in the strongest terms the violence in dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers.
The Department said it was rendering immigration and other border control services at the Fireblade Fixed Base Operator facility at OR Tambo International Airport because of a court instruction. The Fireblade facility was covered by the aerodrome license granted to Airports Company South Africa by the Department of Transport. Home Affairs had an agreement with Fireblade to recover the costs of the four personnel deployed there.
The current contractual arrangements between the Department and EOH Mthombo comprised two contracts. One dealt with support and maintenance of data centre/server rooms for all ports of entry as well as all Home Affairs offices. The second dealt with the integrated automated biometric identification system. The Department had reported to the Committee on the procurement challenges in respect of this contract on 5 November 2019.
Members asked for clarity on the challenges Home Affairs was facing and discussed that they would conduct an oversight visit to Fireblade in order to appreciate the situation. With regard to the EOH Mthombo contracts, Members felt that the Department was not giving a proper narrative surrounding the contracts, especially irregular expenditure connected therewith. The Committee stressed that it would like to know what happened. The Department said the issues around irregular expenditure had been fully explained at the previous meeting on 5 November 2019. The Department revealed that the biometric identification system project was a year behind schedule and it was trying to find alternatives to ensure that its system did not collapse. It will make a presentation to the Committee on this issue as soon as it is given the opportunity.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming Mr Njabulo Nzuza, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, and the delegations from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). He commented that it was unfortunate the meeting was taking place shortly after the incident involving refugees and asylum-seekers in Cape Town. There was serious scuffle between refugees/asylum-seekers and authorities of the country. The Committee had expressed the view that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) should come to the party. Despite the fact that disgruntled refugees and asylum-seekers did not want to meet the DHA, the DHA ought to make sure that it came into the picture and assisted in finding a solution. This had to be done. South Africa was hailed – all over the world – as a reservoir of human rights. A majority of people wanted to be refugees in South Africa because of South Africa’s good record in upholding and advocating for human rights. In their attempts of claiming their rights, refugees and asylum-seekers found themselves breaking the laws of the country. All relevant parties should come into the picture and speedily solve the problem. He heard that some refugees and asylum-seekers were in police cells whereas others were taken to the Lindela facility. In attempts to resolve the problem, refugees/asylum-seekers found themselves fighting with the police. Because South Africa was governed on the basis of the rule of law and because South Africa was a signatory to various international conventions, disgruntled refugees and asylum-seekers should be dealt with in accord to these legal frameworks. The Committee therefore condemned in the strongest terms the violence in dealing with them.
The Chairperson noted and accepted apologies from Ms T Legwase (ANC), Mr M Lekota (COPE), Mr A Shaik-Emam (NFP) for their absence and Ms A Khanyile (DA) and Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) for their late arrival. He further accepted an apology from the Minister of Home Affairs.
Mr J McGluwa (DA) welcomed the Chairperson’s comments and reminded him that disgruntled refugees and asylum-seekers made it clear that they did not want to meet with DHA. In October, there was a meeting in which could have been attended by various clusters. This did not happen. They could have given the police instruction on how the police could have dealt with refugees. If DHA could have deployed enough immigration officers, this problem could have been resolved.
Briefing by IEC
Mr Sy Mamabolo, Chief Executive Officer: IEC, took the Committee through presentation. He stated that the report of the High Level Panel on the assessment of key legislation recommended that Parliament should amend the Electoral Act to provide for an electoral system that made members of Parliament accountable to defined constituencies on a proportional representation and constituency system for national elections. The recommendation extensively referenced the report of the Electoral Task Team (ETT) chaired by Dr F van Zyl Slabbert. The ETT was established by Cabinet in 2002 to draft the new electoral legislation required by the Constitution. In terms of reference, the ETT had to undertake the following functions:
• Identify the controlling constitutional parameters implicating electoral system reforms;
• Identify salient and relevant aspects of South African context
• Identify the list of options available within South African context
• Canvas the views and preferences of the role players especially political parties on identified options
• Formulate a draft bill for submission to the Minister of Home Affairs
Mr Mamabolo stated that the ETT accepted fairness, inclusiveness, simplicity and accountability as core values that ought to underpin any electoral system.
Mr Mamabolo stated that two schools of thought had crystallized out of the deliberations of the ETT and that no consensus could be reached. The ETT agreed that readers of the report should not be denied the benefits of either of the views. Accordingly, the report contained both majority and minority recommendations. The two schools of thought were that (i) the existing electoral system should be retained (minority recommendation) and (ii) a multi-member constituency system be introduced with overall proportionality being restored from national closed lists (majority recommendation).
In his conclusion, Mr Mamabolo stated that Parliament as a representative body of the people was imminently placed to determine the electoral system. The Electoral Commission had a natural interest in the policy discussion on the electoral system as this implicated its statutory mandate. The IEC as an electoral management body was at the disposal of Parliament to contribute to policy evolution on the electoral system. It could offer advice on the technical nuisances and the implications of whatever electoral system was being contemplated. Adoption of a new electoral system that was fundamentally dissimilar to the existing system had huge financial, systems and change management costs for an election management body and for political parties. The IEC held a firm view that an electoral system ought to be practical from an electoral administration perspective. At the same time it had to be simple and accessible to all electoral stakeholders.
The Chairperson asked whether there were financial implications to the implementation of proposed electoral system.
Mr A Roos (DA) welcomed the presentation. He sought clarity on financial cost in the implementation of the system, on whether there could be elections in all three spheres of government, and on the potential of combined local and national elections and what would be the savings if elections were to be combined. He further asked what could happen if one person resigned and who was accountable in the team of seven people?
Mr McGluwa sought clarity on the ETT and said that he had a problem on how it was constituted. He did not want to see referees and players constituting the same task team. He sought clarity on who formed part of the ETT. It was also important to know members of ETT so as to know who formed part of majority and minority recommendations. He further remarked that the presentation lacked the supporting documents and did not speak to the timeframe of elections. In the presentation, there was no comparison in terms of accountability. With regard to accountability, the word enforced should be used in lieu of encouraged. Accountability should be enforced and not encouraged. He further commented that there were some noises out there that South Africa needed less provinces and sought clarity on whether there was a consideration of reducing the number of provinces. This could involve the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB). The new electoral system introduced constituency representation in the provincial legislatures and he sought clarity on why there were no further details. He felt that this was causing confusion.
Mr M Chabane (ANC) said that he was covered on various issues and sought clarity on whether IEC established its own research in line with the Panel’s recommendations. What was the position of IEC on recommendations of the MDB and the Panel? He commented that there should be an engagement of the Committee with both IEC and MDB.
The Chairperson said that the presentation should not have talked about minority and majority recommendations because these were confusing and asked the IEC to elaborate on the court case.
Ms Janet Love, Chairperson: IEC, explained that majority and minority opinions were usually expressed by courts of law. She reminded the Committee that they were fundamentally dealing with policy and that a policy decision was needed to take matter forward. The Committee consisted of members who were representing people. The IEC understood that the Committee was not willing to commit itself unless they received all details and thus could be able to decide. The IEC was willing to support the Committee with information required to take an informed decision. This was the reason why the reason why both minority and majority recommendations were presented to the Committee. The same applied to the information provided to the court.
Mr Mamabolo explained that the owner of the ETT report was the Cabinet, which appointed the ETT in 2002. The members of ETT were:
• Dr F van Zyl Slabbert (Chairperson)
• Zamindlela Titus (Special Ministerial Adviser, Department of Provincial and Local Government)
• Adv Pansy Tlakula (Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Commission)
• S S van der Merwe (Commissioner, Electoral Commission)
• Norman du Plessis (Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Commission)
• Adv Rufus Malatji (Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Home Affairs)
• Professor Jørgen Elklit (Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark)
• Professor Glenda Fick (School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand)
• Nicholas Haysom (Attorney in private practice)
• Dr Wilmot James (Human Sciences Research Council)
• Dren Nupen (Director, Electoral Institute of Southern Africa)
• Tefo Raditapole (Attorney in private practice)
They were appointed by Cabinet. They did their work and submitted the report to Cabinet. The Cabinet had not yet made a determination on the report as to what they accepted. The IEC did not want to be presumptuous on how the country should go. The Executive and Legislature should decide, but with the support of IEC.
On research, Mr Mamabolo responded that it was easy to use new data. New data could be submitted to the Committee. Data could inform the debate.
On the timeframes, Mr Mamabolo responded that there was a need for a political decision. Once a political decision had been taken, the IEC could deal with timeframes.
On the question of seven members within a constituency, Mr Mamabolo responded that it was a practical question. A constituency might have three people or seven members and this would not give rise to accountability. Rather, there was a need of other modalities around that constituency to have a better chance of constitutional benefits. In the modalities supporting constituency, there should be complaints mechanisms to receive complaints from the public. If there were three members, one member could come from the ruling party and two from opposing parties. Within accountability framework, there ought to be mechanism of filing complaints and responding to them. The constituency was not a panacea of accountability.
On the MDB, Mr Mamabolo said that the IEC was of the view that its mandate should be expanded to include these aspects. There was a meeting between IEC and the MDB. They were aware that their mandate should be expanded to include this work.
On the combined elections, Mr Mamabolo responded that the ETT did not elaborate much on what could be the benefit if the elections were combined. IEC did not deal with the issue on the formal level. It was something that IEC could reflect on and was a policy matter.
On the court case referenced by the Chairperson, Mr Mamabolo responded that IEC was before the Constitutional Court for the arguments against the contention that the current electoral system was unconstitutional because it did not provide independent candidates in provincial and national legislature. About two weeks ago, the Deputy Chief Justice issued a direction to say that all parties on the dispute should write submissions on whether section 157 of the Constitution conferred the right on the people to stand for public office and whether section 157(2) of the Constitution allowed Parliament to decide on electoral system or whether there were internal contradictions. By the end of the year, the IEC hoped that the decision would be handed down. He further said that there should be a debate on the electoral system needed.
Ms Love commented that there was no system that could guarantee accountability. There could be other mechanisms that would ensure accountability. Accountability was usually associated with open or closed lists. People were saying that they wanted to express their view on people who should be in the list of their political party. That was a line of research that was conducted.
Dr Nomsa Masuku, IEC Commissioner, responded that, if there was a combined election, costs could be saved. If combined, one should not only think about saving in financial terms; rather one should look at the broad spectrum of elections. The IEC would put on table the pros and cons that Members should think about.
Ms Love said that if the system was to be changed, the system had to be understood, especially, how it would operate. This would give one an idea of its costs.
The Chairperson said that they should work on the report and improve it. The Committee would wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court. He permitted the IEC delegation to excuse itself.
Briefing by the DHA: Immigration and other border control services
The Deputy Minister stated that the Department was present to brief the Committee on EOH contracts and to update it on rendering immigration and other border control services at the Fireblade Fixed Base Operator at OR Tambo International Airport. He further said that he thought it was proper to provide the Committee with a brief overview on the development of refugees’ protests in Cape Town and Pretoria. There had been some requests of refugees who established camps near the offices of UNHCR. The plea of protesters was to be relocated to other countries. The DHA made several attempts to engage with them but they made it loud and clear that they did not want to engage with the DHA, because they thought they would be moved to what they called “better countries.” When he listened to rumblings, refugees preferred to be relocated to the so called better countries. These included Canada and other European countries. He said that he was making these remarks to stress that it was not South Africa’s responsibility to impose refugees on other countries. South Africa could not order other countries to take refugees in. The residents in the areas where refugees were sitting-in opted to go to court because they were not happy with the conditions they were imposed to live in by refugees. In Pretoria, refugees occupied residential areas. When residents went to court, the court ordered refugees to vacate that area. What happened was that there were those refugees who trespassed on the building of UNHCR and the trespassing was against the law. It ought to be made clear to the Committee that it did not matter whether a person was a refugee or asylum-seeker as no one should transgress South African laws. No one had a right to violate the law. The claim that refugees and asylum-seekers were not documented was unjustified as majority of them had documents. The truth was that the documentation was not an issue. The major issue was to be relocated to the so called better countries. Refugees had to follow the normal refugee application process. First, they were required to apply for asylum-seeker permit and then they would sit for an interview to determine whether they were qualified for refugee status. Those who transgressed the law were arrested and detained simply because they broke the law. Upon completion of their jail terms, they would be deported unless there were reasons to believe that they were genuine refugees. Genuine refugees were treated like South Africans and could not be deported after their jail terms. The UNHCR had made it clear that South Africa’s refugee regime was progressive and was amongst the best regimes in the world if one considered what South Africa offered to refugees. South Africa did not send refugees to a refugee camp because it believed in local integration. The refugees enjoyed basic rights. In resolving the matter, some operations were jointly carried out and refugees reacted by threatening to trek to Mozambique and towards Namibia. They had indicated that they would require the police to escort them to the Namibian borders. The Namibian government had communicated to South African authorities that they would be unhappy if South African government actually dropped refugees on their borders. However, should they be arriving at their borders, Namibian authorities would deal with them on a case by case basis to determine whether they were genuinely refugees and whether they qualified for refugee status in Namibia. He then called for the Director General to take the Committee through the presentations.
The Chairperson said that the DG should take the Committee through both brief presentations.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DG: DHA, stated that the purpose of the first presentation was to provide the Committee with an update on rendering immigration and other border control services at the Fireblade Fixed Base Operator (FBO) facility at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA).
Mr Mavuso stated that on 27 December 2017, DHA implemented a court instruction that the DHA should immediately implement operations at the Fireblade facility. In order to operationalize the Fireblade facility, DHA conducted on-site inspections and a technical feasibility study to assess what would be required in order for full immigration operations and systems functionality to take effect. This was supported by other stakeholder departments or entities such as the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the SA Police Services (SAPS) which also completed similar assessments. The rendering of border control services at the Fireblade facility commenced on 12 February 2018 to ensure that DHA abided by the court instruction. The DHA initiated a consultation process in December 2018 to confirm the relevant policy frameworks of stakeholder department/entities and agree on the leadership of DHA. The Department of Transport (DoT), as the department responsible for licensing of aerodromes and coordinating requests for international status by airports, confirmed that they would be the lead department in this matter. The DoT indicated that the Fireblade facility was covered by the aerodrome license granted to Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) to operate ORTIA.
Mr Mavuso took the Committee through the role each entity or department played as per legal or regulatory frameworks. These included DHA, DoT, SAPS, SARS, ACSA, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He further took the Committee through general public policing, law enforcement and crime prevention at ORTIA.
On the operations, Mr Mavuso stated that ACSA, as the landlord, took account of the entire airport. This included the Fireblade Facility as a facility or terminal for domestic and international flights. Therefore, border law enforcement functions pertaining to international flights could not be executed in isolation but required the participation of all border law enforcement agencies to complete the value chain. Operations took into consideration the roles and responsibilities of the Fireblade Facility and all the State agencies on the processing of passengers, goods and conveyances according to the laws of the Republic applicable at a port of entry. In 2018, the total number of flights was 627 (311 arriving flights and 316 departing flights) with a total number of passengers of 1 571 (811 arriving passengers and 760 departing passengers). In 2019, the total number of flights was 719 (340 arriving flights and 379 departing flights) with a total number of passengers of 2 364 (1 053 arriving passengers and 1 311 departing passengers).
Mr Mavuso said that due to the staff shortages within the DHA, the DHA reached an agreement with the Fireblade facility to recover the cost of personnel deployed there. DHA made a clear distinction between capital expenditure and operational expenditure. The initial costing was done for a single shift option but it was agreed that a DHA staff compliment of four officials would form part of the operational expenditure to be reimbursed. This was aligned to the business offering of infrequent flights and very few passengers. Fireblade was reimbursing the DHA for personnel cost associated with the opening of the facility on a monthly basis. The payment for the personnel amounted to R1 400 996 per annum.
Mr Mavuso submitted that since it had been confirmed that the Fireblade facility fell within the precinct covered by aerodrome license granted to ACSA, the Fireblade facility should be dealt with as terminal within the airport, which was covered by the designation of ORTIA as a Port of Entry by the relevant entities/departments described above, similar to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) State Protocol facility at the same airport. The DoT was developing policy relating to segmented passenger services to high end customers at international airports, taking into account the readiness of border control departments to service the facility. ACSA was planning a dedicated new terminal for the rendering of services exclusive to such passengers at ORTIA, in line with international trends and to attract people with more spending power for the benefit of economy. The infrastructure and services agreements remained the responsibility of ACSA and should be concluded between ACSA and the owners of the Fireblade facility.
Mr Mavuso recommended that the Committee should take cognizance of the content of the brief presentation.
Briefing by the DHA on EOH Contracts
Mr Mavuso stated that the purpose of the second DHA presentation was to update the Committee on the current contractual arrangements between the DHA and EOH Mthombo. He stated that the DHA had two contracts with EOH Mthombo. The first contract dealt with support and maintenance of data centre/server rooms for live capture and smart card in 140 offices and electronic movement control to 25 ports of entry as well as support and to all 403 DHA offices. The second contract dealt with design, provision, customization, integration, migration of existing data, commissioning, maintenance and support of an integrated automated biometric identification system (ABIS) and business for DHA. On 5 November 2019, the DHA had reported to the Committee on the procurement challenges and the role the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) played in respect of the ABIS contract.
The first contract was concluded in 2015. It followed a bidding process. The contracted amount was R162 083 334.68 for a period of three years (July 2015 – June 2018). The contract was extended until February 2020 at an amount of R119 680 572.08. The extension allowed the DHA to follow another bidding process after it failed to find a suitable service provider that met the bid requirements.
The second contract followed section 7(1)(a) of the SITA Act which gave mandate of procurement of information technology goods and services to SITA as a procurement agency. EOH was appointed at an amount of R409 885 716 for a period of five years (i.e. 2017 – 2023). The DHA reported on the procurement challenges and the role SITA played in respect of the ABIS contract at the meeting of the Committee on 5 November 2019.
Mr Mavuso recommended that the Committee note the presentation.
The Deputy Minister commented that the Fireblade facility was not a Port of Entry as no Port of Entry could be designated within a Port of Entry. Fireblade was a terminal within a Port of Entry. The decision to have that terminal was not a decision of DHA, but ACSA and DoT. The DHA had to offer immigration services. The DHA had the responsibilities of processing the documents and ensuring that people in that terminal had the right documents.
The Chairperson welcomed the presentations and asked for clarity on challenges the DHA was facing.
The Deputy Minister responded that the DHA had challenges in the EOH contracts. The ABIS was scheduled to be completed towards the end of 2018. The project was a year behind. The DHA was trying to find alternatives to ensure that its system did not collapse.
Ms L Tito (EFF), referring to the Fireblade facility, remarked that there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Fireblade and the government. She sought clarity what has been done within the MOU framework and what had been done to process the international passengers outside normal operating hours. On the EOH contract, she sought information on the role of SITA and on documents that needed to be restored or compared.
Mr Roos welcomed the comments of both the Chairperson and Ms Tito. He noted that there were heated and emotional debates in the previous two meetings. The question was: what was going on? Many issues were raised by Auditor-General and there were concerns about supply chain management. In the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, he could hear that a lot was happening. Surprisingly, the 2018/19 DHA annual reports said nothing about the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) and Fireblade. Nothing was said about the question whether there were investigations. On 6 March 2019, the Committee instructed the DHA to conduct an investigation. Was the ABIS contact investigated? When would documents be submitted to the Committee for it to have true facts on the EOH contract? On Fireblade, he remarked that the DHA submitted that the DoT was developing a policy and sought clarity on how Fireblade was operating. He sought clarity on whether SARS were present there. Who was discharging the security services? What had been done to close these gaps? Was it operating on a trust basis? What had been done to ensure that there were security personnel in the terminal? He sought clarity on what was happening in terms of the MOU. Mr M D Kekana (ANC) – who was a member of previous Committee – had sought clarity on the case that DHA could not be able to win and thus took to appeal. He wanted clarity on this because he might have worried that there was no prospect of winning that case. He finally asked that if there was irregular expenditure, who would be responsible for it?
Mr McGluwa seconded these remarks and commented that the full attention of DHA was needed on all these issues. He sought clarity on timeframes of the contract, terms of reference of the contract, security issues of Fireblade, and the arrival of international passengers outside operating hours. The DHA should come clear on all these matters and they should involve the Committee. He sought clarity on how many staff members were deployed to Fireblade.
Mr Chabane commented that there should be an oversight visit to Fireblade for appreciation of the area and see whether such appreciation corresponded with the brief presentation. He further commented that during the Fifth Parliament there was a huge crisis over the Fireblade facility. The Committee should note the recommendations made by the Fifth Parliament and make of follow up on what responses of DHA were. Some of these issues were raised by Mr Roos. The DHA should be clear on details surrounding the EOH contract. He felt that the DHA was changing the narratives of issues and challenges it was facing. Until the Committee got a proper narrative, the Committee would be obliged to send the DHA delegation back. The DHA was not giving a proper narrative surrounding the EOH contract, especially irregular expenditure connected therewith. The DHA narrative worked against the services that could have been provided by it. He commented that the money was misused and there was no accountability. The Committee would like to know what happened. The Committee could no longer afford to listen to the same narrative. Rather, the Committee should state key issues on which the DHA should report on. He concurred with the Chairperson who said that the Committee would conduct an oversight visit to the Fireblade facility.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee would conduct an oversight visit in order to have a better understanding of the situation. He agreed with Mr Chabane and Mr Roos on the issue of accountability and asked how issues raised by Auditor General would be solved. He commented that the Committee was not given a list of the people who were suspended or measures that were taken regarding the Auditor General’s recommendations. The person who did wrong things should face the music. It seemed that there was an issue of corruption and there should be a forensic investigation. Last time, when there was a debate on this matter, the Committee was emotional. There was a loss of a lot of money and someone should be held accountable. Issues of corruption should be dealt with. The Committee would be failing in its duties if no one was held accountable. The people wanted accountability. There should be a road map of how the money should be recovered.
The Deputy Minister remarked that he would allow the DG to respond to technical matters and he would make remarks after responses of the DG.
Mr Mavuso responded that there was a misunderstanding on issues that the DHA had to brief the Committee
on. Last time when the DHA was briefing the Committee (on 5 November 2019), they explained all issues relating to Auditor General and irregular expenditure. They had explained how the procurement processes were done and the reasons that led the Auditor General to conclude that there was possible irregular expenditure. The outstanding issue was to brief the Committee on the content of the EOH contracts. Perhaps, questions would be how many contracts were there and what would be the value of these contracts. The DHA was ready to give all these information to the Committee. The Committee should allow the DHA to exhaust all contractual obligations insofar as performance was concerned.
On the formal MOU, Mr Mavuso responded that the Fireblade facility operations were executed on the basis of a court order. The DHA did not sign any formal MOU. The only thing the DHA had done was to secure the recovery of its costs. Last year, the DHA explained clearly to the Committee that there was no legal framework that was guiding them and that the DHA would not be part of the said MOU. ACSA was in charge of airports and was the proper institution to enter into those agreements. There was a MOU between ACSA and Denel over the land that was being used by ACSA. With regard to Fireblade, any agreement should be entered into with ACSA.
On the question of security, Mr Mavuso responded that there was a security agency operating at ports of entry which was conducting security assessments. If there was a plane that would land at Fireblade, the DHA ought to receive a 24 hour notification. All passengers would be cleared and everything would be recorded in the control system, including the time of landing. He also commented that there were people who were feeding the Committee with wrong information anonymously and thus DHA found in the position of defending itself. The DHA officials at Fireblade never reported that there was any security incident. There was nothing reported to DHA or to the police which he was not aware of.
On the issue of irregularity, Mr Mavuso said that in the previous meeting, there was no instruction to carry out a forensic investigation, rather the Minister was asked to investigate the matter. At that particular time, they were dealing with a normal situation. As a result, all files were handed to the Minister in order to conduct that investigation. However, he felt that the DHA could not investigate itself. There was a need for an independent forensic investigation. If this could have been suggested, the DHA could have been sitting with an independent forensic investigation outcomes.
The Chairperson asked which meeting Mr Mavuso was referring to, who was chairing the meeting and who was the Minister.
Mr Mavuso responded that the Chairperson was Mr Chauke whereas the Minister was Dr Siyabonga Cwele. [The meeting in question was on 19 February 2019]
On the issue that had previously been raised by Mr Kekana, Mr Mavuso said that the court made a decision in 2017 and that DHA did not want to challenge the decision further. It was accepted to abide by the court decision. The matter was brought to court to challenge the decision of then Minister Malusi Gigaba and the court decision was accepted.
On the question of an oversight visit, Mr Mavuso commented that he welcomed this and reminded members that the DHA was operating on the basis of the court decision and not any MOU.
On the question of opening tenders, Mr Mavuso reminded the Committee that the Fireblade facility started operating in 2010. At that time, it was accommodating only domestic flights. The question of the tender should be directed to ACSA or Denel. He said that the Cape Town Airport had a VIP facility and the question of how it operated could be directed to ACSA.
On the issue of the license, Mr Mavuso responded that licenses were issued by the DoT.
On the issue of the EOH contracts, Mr Mavuso responded that he felt that the DHA had talked about it and the needed information was furnished to the Committee. The information was limited to when the contract was concluded, when it would end, and its value to the DHA. The money that was paid to EOH included money for software and hardware. These wares belonged to DHA. The equipment belonged to the state. The DHA could explain their costs and DHA could accept accountability if it was not performing. Likewise, other parties could be held accountable if they were not performing in terms of contractual obligations. At this point, it was premature to speak to these ABIS matters.
The Deputy Minister remarked that there were two issues of contention. These were ABIS and the EOH contract. These were separate issues. According to Auditor General, money spent on the EOH contact was possibly irregular expenditure on account of limitation of scope. The Auditor General did not get required documents because these documents were, at the time, in the hands of SITA. This was the question raised of staff members who were involved. Actually, the procurement was done by SITA. However, expenditure was sitting in the box of DHA. There was a need of reconstitution of a file through exchange of documents between SITA and DHA. The reconstituted file was submitted to Auditor General. On the issue of accountability, the matter was still under investigation and awaiting the outcomes. The DHA was sitting with a problem. EOH was supposed to deliver on certain elements and its performance had not been forthcoming. On phase 1, they were a year late. In the previous meeting, it was emphasized that the DHA would brief the Committee on what alternative measures the DHA was proposing so that it could still deliver on the contract. He was waiting for the Committee to offer him an opportunity to present.
On Fireblade, he welcomed the proposed oversight visit so that the Committee could see itself what was happening. He stressed that there would be no flight that could land without South Africa’s knowledge or permission. That would be wrong. If a flight landed in South Africa, it should be cleared. There were systems to process the people or goods that came with that flight. The DHA offered immigration services. There should be no impression that the DHA issued licenses for private landing operations. This was the role of DoT.
Ms L van de Merwe (IFP) said that she understood that the DHA would like to come back and present. However, the Committee had been engaging the DHA on the immigration system. Actually, the immigration system was non-existent as many people could go through borders without being cleared. This was reason why there was a refugee crisis at hand. There was an asylum-seeker who sent to her his asylum-seeker permit which had been extended or renewed 24 times in the period of nine years. She was shocked to learn about this. There should be a presentation on the broken immigration system that led to the refugee crisis, particularly, undocumented migrants. The DHA did not know the number of people who were not supposed to be in South Africa. Flights were landing and people could walk through the immigration system undetected. This created a bigger problem. She understood that there would be establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA), but this had a long way to go and that was why the DHA should pro-active in dealing with migration crisis.
The Chairperson said that they would be offered opportunity to present next year. He thanked the Deputy Minister and his delegation for their time and inputs. He acknowledged that DHA had stressful tasks as it dealt with number of issues, including documenting each and everyone in the country. They included issuance of birth certificates, death certificates and divorce decrees. Divorces were headaches. He appreciated the cooperation between the Committee and DHA and noted that these meeting were aimed at strengthening the DHA so that it could deal with all challenges it was facing.
The meeting was adjourned.
- 2018 High-Level Panel Recommendations: DHA and IEC briefing; Fireblade Aviation facility and EOH Mthombo contracts: DHA updates, with the Deputy Minister 1
- 2018 High-Level Panel Recommendations: DHA and IEC briefing; Fireblade Aviation facility and EOH Mthombo contracts: DHA updates, with the Deputy Minister 2