National Treasury briefed the Committee on the budget increases of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for the 2020/21 financial year. This was followed by briefings by the DHA, the IEC and the Government Printing Works (GPW) on their 2020/21 budgets.
The Minister briefed the Committee on two recent court rulings regarding the citizenship of foreign children born in South Africa when they attained the age of majority, and on the removal of refugees from outside the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town.
Regarding the naturalisation of foreign children, the Minister explained the provisions of the Citizenship Act which had been passed in 1995. In 2010, it was found that the children of foreign nationals, especially refugees and asylum-seekers, were not covered by this Act. The DHA had therefore tabled amendments, so that these children could apply for citizenship when they turned 18, subject to two conditions -- that they were born, grown up and attained the age of majority in South Africa without leaving the country, and their births had been registered in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act. Because the DHA had not met a 2013 requirement to come up with regulations to implement the amendments, the courts had ruled that children could apply using affidavits under oath. Although the DHA had appealed this up to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal had ordered it to allow children to apply with affidavits under oath until regulations were drafted, passed and came into effect. In the Minister’s view, the behaviour of the DHA had been very disappointing -- there had been absolutely no reason to go to court.
On the removal of refugees from outside the Central Methodist Church, the matter at issue was the applicability of by-laws. This was why the City of Cape Town (CCT) had approached the court, stating that the DHA was not doing its work. However, the DHA had done its work of assessing the status of the 780 refugees and asylum-seekers, of whom 88.6% were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In terms of immigration law, undocumented individuals should be deported, but in terms of refugee law, if they expressed an intention to apply for asylum, they could not be arrested and detained for deportation. Municipalities were running away from their obligation to enforce their by-laws, because they believed that the DHA had to deal with any matter involving refugees. This was a wrong understanding or interpretation. Municipalities had to apply their laws to citizens and non-citizens without distinction. The court ruling clearly specified the roles of the different stakeholders, and it was not the duty of the DHA to intervene if a foreign national violated a by-law, or any other law.
National Treasury briefed the Committee on the effect of local and global events on the economy, and the impact on the DHA and the IEC. There was a widening gap between revenue and expenditure, with debt-service costs making up an increasing share of the budget deficit. The spike in the deficit in 2019/20 reflected lower economic growth, increased support to state-owned companies and a downward revision to the nominal gross domestic product (GDP). The top priorities identified for the functions relating to the DHA were corruption and fraud; border security and immigration; the trafficking of persons; and the proliferation of arms.
The IEC stated that over the past five years, baseline cuts amounting to R170 million had been effected, and programmes had had to be funded through repriorisations, project cancellations and strict implementation of austerity measures. The IEC needed to replace its obsolete zip-zip barcode scanners with approximately 60 000 new devices in preparation for the 2021 local government elections. Other key cost drivers included extensive civic and democracy education and communications campaigns; maintaining addresses on the voters roll; the appointment and training of approximately 350 000 fixed term and temporary electoral employees; the ICT network, connectivity and security expenditure; the procurement, distribution and warehousing of registration materials; and the rental and infrastructure associated with opening approximately 23 200 voting stations.
The DHA said that it had consistently used its full budget allocation, and no unauthorised expenditure had been incurred. There was a moratorium on the filling of posts which had had an impact, leaving the Department with severe staff shortages. However, some critical posts had been advertised.
The GPW reported that its income had grown from R1.6 billion in 2019 and 2020, and was estimated to be R2 billion in 2021, with its profits increasing from R153 million to an estimated R188 million nest year. The Minister pointed out that this was the only government entity that generated money to fund itself and deposit money in the National Treasury, and was funding some important activities which were not funded by National Treasury.
Members welcomed the Minister’s comments on the two court rulings, and urged government entities to speak with the same voice on both two issues. They appreciated that the GPW was the only entity that was making a profit, and insisted that it should handle all government printing business. With regard to the IEC, Members expressed concern over the requirement that the Commission had to collect voters’ physical addresses, and asked what the legal implications would be if this condition was not met. They were also concerned that the DHA had insufficient budget to address backlogs with respect to the adjudication of asylum applications, or to meet the cost of filling critical posts. Members also sought clarity on how the Border Management Authority would be staffed and funded.
Removal of refugees
The Chairperson commented that the issue of removal of refugees at Central Methodist Church in Cape Town should be discussed, as it was a matter affecting the nation in general and the Committee in particular. He had seen on national television that there were some contradictions about what refugees were doing or refusing to do, and what they were doing against law enforcement agencies. This Committee had welcomed and noted the decision of the court, that refugees should leave the Central Methodist Church as required by the municipal by-laws. However, there had been violent attacks against law enforcement from refugees. The Committee should take into consideration these developments.
South Africa had signed international agreements that should be observed in line with its constitution. In addition, there were other legal instruments that were applied to ensure that foreign nationals in the country were safe and that they should stay and act within the parameters of the law. He was anxious that the issue of refugees was going from bad to worse, and that the Committee had to do something about it swiftly because it could not leave the situation the way it was.
He commented that he could not imagine going to another country and starting to fight against law enforcement agencies of that particular country. He felt that there might be something amiss -- something that the Committee did not know about. He suggested an oversight visit to see what was transpiring on the ground, because the situation seemed to getting out of hand. At the end of the meeting, Members should express their views on whether an oversight visit was necessary. In his view, Members should go and meet with violent refugees and check what the issues might be, and what was happening to them.
The Committee was an overseer of the implementation of international agreements on refugee protection. South Africa was a signatory to these instruments. In addition, Parliament was a guarantor and protector of the Constitution of the Republic. It was incumbent on the Committee to ensure that all these laws were executed to the letter for both citizens and non-citizens. It ought to be ensured that all people in South Africa were abiding by the laws of the Republic. The Committee should engage with other committees to find a solution to the situation. It was a multiparty committee, so they would be able to hear different views and voices.
Mr M Chabane (ANC) seconded this suggestion. He remarked that the DHA should reflect on the matter in its presentation, especially briefing the Committee on the court ruling and what the DHA had done about implementing the ruling.
The Chairperson agreed. He then informed the Committee about the passing away of the father of Ms T Khanyile (DA) and that his burial took place in a previous week, on Saturday. The condolence message was sent to her and her family through its delegation, led by Mr Chabane, who attended his funeral services. Again, on behalf of the Committee, he extended his condolences to Ms Khanyile.
After that, the Chairperson welcomed and accepted apologies from Ms L Van der Merwe (IFP), Mr D Moela (ANC) and Mr J McGluwa (DA). He also noted an apology from Dr Aaaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs for late attendance of the meeting, from Dr David Masondo, Deputy Minister of Finance and Mr Dondo Mogajane, Director General of Finance for their absence.
Briefing by National Treasury
Ms Gillian Wilson, Chief Director: Public Finance, National Treasury, said the events of the 2008 global financial crisis had not had an immediate negative impact on government finances, largely due to budget surpluses that the government had enjoyed at the time. Budget surpluses protected government finances only for a short period, however, and from 2014 the effects of the global financial crisis started to impact negatively on the macro-economic and fiscal environment. From then on the country had faced an extremely tight fiscal and macro-economic environment, and begun to introduce measures to contain expenditure. Poor economic growth performance, rising interest rates and high levels of inflation had placed additional pressure on the government fiscal programme, which sought to stabilise the growth of debt and restore fiscal sustainability. The 2020 budget proposed total consolidated spending of R1.95 trillion in 2020/21.
She said there was a widening gap between revenue and expenditure, with debt-service costs making up an increasing share of the budget deficit. The spike in the deficit in 2019/20 reflected lower economic growth, increased support to state-owned companies (SOCs) and a downward revision to nominal gross domestic product (GDP).
Ms Wilson reported on the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expenditure estimates for the 2020 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF).
The total expenditure for the DHA was R9 029.6 million, R9 659.9 million and 10 041.5 million for the next three financial years, respectively. The total expenditure for the IEC was 2 026.1 million, R2 486 million and R1 737.3 million over the same period.
The apex priorities identified for the function relating to DHA were corruption and fraud; border security and immigration; trafficking of persons; and proliferations of arms. The main priorities that were set by the DHA included:
- the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA);
- repositioning of the DHA as a modern and secure department;
- the modernisation of the Department’s information communication technology (ICT);
- passenger name record (PNR) system as part of building a world class immigration system;
- rolling out the smart ID cards; and
- public private partnership with the banking sector and private sector.
Ms Wilson provided an overview of 2020 MTEF budget process, which was still under consideration by Parliament. She commented that between 2016/17 and 2022/23, the DHA’s annual average growth rate was 3.2%, whereas the IEC’s was 6.9%.
She said the National Treasury was unable to fund the piloting of the e-voting system due to fiscal constraints. This funding request would be considered in the 2021 Medium Term Expenditure Committee (MTEC) process. The IEC was not sure if they wanted to run the e-voting pilot during the municipal elections or at a later stage. The DHA was currently in the process of establishing a public private partnership (PPP) with the private sector to redevelop and modernise six ports of entry. The cost of the project would be R6 to R7 billion over a 23-year period.
Ms Wilson stated in the conclusion that the DHA was in the process of establishing a PPP, with the private party to be appointed in 2021. Thereafter it would start with the reconstruction phase. A concern was the capacity constraints that the DHA was experiencing due to not filling critical positions that could impact on service delivery. This would receive attention in the new budget cycle.
Briefing by IEC
Mr Glen Mashinini, Chairperson: IEC, thanked the DHA and National Treasury for their collaboration with the Commission. He said that the IEC, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa, was hosting a conference for African election management bodies on the impact of social media on the integrity of elections. This would take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, as well as at the African Union (AU), from 2 to 5 March. The Minister of Home Affairs was a guest speaker. There were more than 200 delegates, mostly from Africa, and more than 30 election bodies. Commissioners would be there to present their papers. He extended an invitation to Members to attend the conference.
The purpose of the presentation was to brief the Committee on the 2020/21 financial year. There were municipal elections scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2021. As per practice, it was a time for preparation for general elections. The election voters needed to be boosted. There would be registrations during the weekend. For a successful registration, the IEC was hoping to have a budget ranging between R100 million and R150 million. The new technology should be used to capture particulars of voters, including their physical addresses.
Of importance was to make sure that voters were registered and cast their votes at the correct voting stations. The Constitutional Court decision required the IEC to make stringent requirements for voting. Ensuring that these requirements were met was not easy to accomplish. The IEC was still using old voting devices, but the new devices could help it to meet the new requirements. This would mitigate the perception that people could vote more than once. There would be an online mechanism connecting all voting stations. Once a person had voted, it would be detected that they had already voted if they tried to vote a second time. The existing loopholes would be closed.
Mr Mashinini stated that over the past five years, baseline cuts amounting to R170 million had been effected, and baseline cuts for 2020/21 amounted to R58.1 million. These pressures had to be funded through repriorisations, project cancellations and strict implementation of austerity measures. The total budget for 2020/21 was R2.234 billion, which was allocated to the IEC’s three programmes -- administration (29%), electoral operations (61%) and outreach (10%). An additional programme was party funding.
The budget allocation for the Administrative Programme was directed at supporting the strategic management and core business of the IEC. The programme was largely made up of ICT costs and office accommodation. ICT was made up mainly of professional services to maintain the security and integrity of the data held at the IEC Head Office, its nine provincial offices, 10 warehouses and 213 local electoral offices.
Expenditure under the Electoral Operations Programme increased significantly in an election year compared to a non-election year. During the 2020/21 financial year, expenditure for one main registration drive would be incurred, with the actual registration weekend being in the first week of April 2021. Expenditure for this registration weekend would therefore be procured in 2020/21, and had been included in programme 2.
Mr Mashinini said that the budget allocation for the Outreach Programme was directed at informing and educating civil society on democracy and electoral processes. Expenditure peaked during registration and election periods, when the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) communication programme peaked. A further factor was the internal observer missions that were hosted by Commission Services during these periods.
With regard to party funding, the IEC had been allocated additional funding of R50 million in the 2019/20 financial year for the establishment of a new party funding unit. These funds had been allocated to cover the costs for both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.
Mr Mashinini reported on the key cost drivers for 2020/21. R702 million (31%) of the baseline allocation was related to the first of two planned voter registration events ahead of the 2021 local government elections (LGE) to be held in 2022/23. The IEC needed to replace its obsolete zip-zip barcode scanners with approximately 60 000 new devices in preparation for the LGE. Other key cost drivers included:
- extensive civic and democracy education and communications campaigns;
- maintenance of addresses on the voters roll;
- the appointment and training of approximately 350 000 fixed term and temporary electoral employees; the ICT network, connectivity and security expenditure;
- the procurement, distribution and warehousing of registration materials; and
- rental and infrastructure associated with opening approximately 23 200 voting stations.
Mr added that there were unfunded projects, such as the e-voting pilot for the 2021 LGE. There was a need to pilot e-voting technology during the 2021 LGE in 1 020 voting districts (VDs) at an initial estimated cost of R150 million. An e-voting pilot had not yet been funded. The IEC had been requested to prepare and submit a business case to National Treasury in this regard.
Mr A Roos (DA) commented that physical addresses should strategically be collected by the post office. He felt that somebody should assist the IEC to collect physical addresses.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) sought clarity on what the legal implications of not fully complying with a court ruling on voters’ physical addresses were.
Ms L Tito (EFF) asked about the IEC’s own accommodation, and whether there was an outreach programme educating or informing voters about municipal elections, because these elections would be conducted within one week. She thought that one week was not going to be enough.
Mr Mashinini said that the collection of physical address by the post office was not in the jurisdiction of the IEC. The IEC had to comply with the court ruling. It had to collect the physical addresses of voters. A ministerial committee on elections had been established and operationalised. The IEC would take complex legal matters to them for further advice.
Regarding accommodation, Mr Mashinini acknowledged cooperation with the National Treasury. The IEC could engage in purchasing. In this period, they had negotiated the cost of the lease, and this would not interrupt elections.
He said activities were being undertaken in terms of the outreach programme. It had baseline funding as it was a crucial programme. The reason why registration was taking place in the weekends was because it was necessary to accommodate everyone and ensure that everyone was registered. He urged political parties to motivate their supporters to register and vote.
E-voting was not being used because there were many voices against it. However, many countries were using it, and it was not late to use it. It would be piloted during the municipal elections and would be used during the national elections. Physical addresses were a prerequisite for leaders of political parties to identify the location of voters. They were necessary during municipal elections. The issue of people with no physical address would be addressed in a Bill that would be tabled to Parliament soon. They qualified to vote because they were citizens, but would not qualify to vote because they did not have physical address. In Namibia, they used e-voting, and South Africa should enjoy the benefit of technology. E-voting was not a solution to all problems, however.
Briefing by DHA
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, said he would like to brief the Committee on two court rulings – the citizenship of children of foreign nationals born in South Africa, and the removal of refugees from the Methodist Church.
The Chairperson stated that he did not approve the request of the Minister, and said he would consider it and approve it as he went on to brief the Committee.
Citizenship of children of foreign nationals
The Minister apologised. He then briefed the Committee on the ruling of the court on the citizenship of foreign children born in South Africa on attaining the age of majority. People misunderstood the court judgment. The Citizenship Act of South Africa was passed in 1995, shortly after South Africa became a democratic country. The Committee should recall that refugees or asylum-seekers were not welcomed in apartheid South Africa, but were welcomed in post-apartheid South Africa.
In 2010, it was discovered by the DHA that the Citizenship Act of 1995 did not cover the children of refugees who were growing into adults. The DHA had approached Parliament with a proposal to resolve this situation. They had submitted amendments to the Act to Parliament in 2010. Section 4(3) of the amended Act read as follows: “A child born in the Republic of parents who were not South African citizens or who have not been admitted into the Republic for permanent residence, qualifies to apply for South African citizenship upon becoming a major if (a) he or she has lived in the Republic from the date of his or her birth to the date of becoming a major; and (b) his or her birth has been registered in accordance with the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act No. 51 of 1992).” Two conditions were set out in this provision. If they met these two conditions, they could apply for citizenship.
The Minister said that, in 2010, the amendment was passed by Parliament and there was no problem. In 2013, the DHA legal unit supposed to come up with regulations to implement the amendments to the Act. In 2017, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) brought 16 children who were born between 1996 and 1998, and said that they wanted their clients to apply for citizenship on the basis of the 2010 amendments to the Act. The DHA had responded that they could not proceed with their applications because there were no Regulations to the 2010 amendments. The LRC had therefore approached the court to order the DHA to accept their applications under the 2010 amendments, but through an affidavit under oath, since there were no regulations.
The DHA understood that it would be dangerous and a bad precedent should children be allowed to apply for citizenship on the basis of an affidavit under oath. It had approached the court to oppose this, and argued that children could not apply on the basis of an affidavit. It had insisted that there should be regulations to guide them, and that the children in question should apply on the basis of these regulations. The second issue was that the children in question were born between 1996 and 1998. This meant that the Act was being applied retrospectively. The 2010 amendments had come into effect in 2013, so they could not apply to people who were born before 2013.
The court had rejected these two arguments. The court stated that children should apply on the basis of an affidavit until the regulations were available and operational. In South Africa, there was a general rule that the law did not apply retrospectively. However, children could not be punished because they were born before 2013. The court therefore said the 2010 amendments covered them. Put clearly, the amendments also applied to those who were born between 1994 and 2002.
Unfortunately, in 2017, instead of the DHA drafting regulations, they had approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to overturn the decision of the Western Cape High Court. The SCA had endorsed the decision of the High Court and ordered the DHA to have regulations within one year. The DHA had not complied with the order of the court. Instead, it had taken the matter to Constitutional Court. Here, the court did not even hear the matter. The court held that there were no reasonable grounds for why the DHA had not introduced regulations to the 2010 amendments, and therefore the appeal was dismissed.
The Minister said that in his view, the behaviour of the DHA was very disappointing. In the first place, the matter should not have been taken to court. There was absolutely no reason to go to court. The problem that the DHA was sitting with was misinterpretation of the court ruling, because people were made to believe -- through social media -- that every child born in South Africa was entitled to apply for citizenship. Children who could apply for citizenship were those who were born and had grown up in South Africa, and had not left South Africa to live in another country, and who were registered under the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992. The media had been conveying a wrong message to the people.
Removal of refugees from Methodist Church
On the removal of refugees from the Methodist Church, Dr Motsoaledi said the matter at issue was the applicability of by-laws. This was the reason why the City of Cape Town (CoCT) had approached the court. The CoCT had applied for the removal of refugees. In their application, they had stated that the DHA was not doing its work. There were six respondents, including the Commissioner of Police.
The Committee should recall that the problem had started in Tshwane, and that it was residents (or taxpayers) who had approached the court for the removal of refugees. They had gone to court against the City of Tshwane. The court was not buying the story of by-laws. The Minister referred to the claims of the City of Tswane that the DHA was dysfunctional because foreign nationals were hijacking the buildings in that city. In this case, the city had been supposed to act, but it was shifting the blame to the DHA. Such blame had been presented to Parliament by Mayor Mashaba. The Minister had explained to him and Parliament that these were matters that had to be dealt at the local level in terms of the municipal by-laws.
The Minister had written a letter to the President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to explain this, and had further stressed that when applying by-laws, there should be no differentiation between people, as by-laws applied to both citizens and non-citizens. It was not the duty of the DHA to intervene if a foreign national violated a by-law. For example, if by-law prohibited anyone from urinating in the street, the by-law regulation applied to both citizens and non-citizens alike. If by-law allowed people to strike, it did not prevent non-citizens from engaging in strikes. The letter to the President of SALGA had been copied to the CoCT and the City of Tshwane.
The High Court in Western Cape had agreed with the DHA, and stated that the dispute involved the municipal by-laws and their implementation. It was ruled that the CoCT was not doing its job. The DHA was required to process the refugees and determine their legal status, whereas the CoCT could find alternative accommodation for them. The court further stated, in paragraph 4.4 of the judgment, that the CoCT should find a place in which refugees could be processed by the DHA, and this ruling had not been implemented by the CoCT. The court also ruled that refugees in distress should be assisted socially. Applicants (refugees) should be provided with the necessary information to enable them to decide on their positions. Information included particulars of refugees, fingerprints, photographs, etc, and the City could determine whether the refugees had a well founded fear over returning to the local communities from which they had cme. That was part of the judgment which was not being implemented.
The judge had looked at all factors, including the attack against the police in Johannesburg, the killing of the taxi drivers who stopped the person who was selling drugs, and xenophobic violence, and had come to the conclusion that the leaders of the group of refugees -- JP Balusi and Papi Sukami -- had taken advantage of other refugees, especially those who could not speak English. They had distorted xenophobic violence and used it in their favour. They had used xenophobic violence as a reason they wanted to move away.
There was no rule – according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) – that they could be moved to another country, either as a group or on the basis of their claims. The UNHCR issued a statement on this matter. The statement continued to urge the protesting refugees to abide by the laws of Republic and the court decision, and hoped for a peaceful resolution. The UNHCR was concerned about the safety and security of the women and children. Its mandate was focused on lobbying and advocacy for local integration. This statement was in line with what the DHA proposed: that refugees should return to the communities they came from, such as Philippi, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, etc. The UNHCR reiterated that they would continue to partner with the DHA to find a solution of the matter.
The UNHCR said that the question of resettlement to another country was available on the basis of individual cases, and that refugees and asylum-seekers had equal access to the UNHCR. The resettlement could not be made available on a preferential basis. It was awarded to a very small percentage. One percent of refugees around the world were able to have access to a resettlement mechanism. The message that the resettlement was not an option was communicated to refugees on several occasions. In particular, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Reverend Pastor of the Methodist Church and the Commission of the South African Human Rights Commission, had been sent to deliver the same message, and had been violently assaulted by refugees for stressing that resettlement was available on the basis of an individual assessment, and not as a group.
The ruling of the court dealt with the application of by-laws, in that the matter was concerned with people living outside of the church -- that is, those who lived outside on the pavement. By-laws did not apply inside the church. The church could only apply for their removal, as the Catholic Church did. The Catholic Church reported a case of trespassing, and they were immediately removed. Those who were inside the church would remain there until the church decided otherwise. It was problematic that the Metro police had kept saying that the DHA should apply the by-laws, and thus remove the refugees on the pavement. This was not the duty of DHA, but that of the Metro police as a law enforcement agency.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and said that Members would digest this information first in order to find a way forward.
The Minister said the DHA had completed the assessment of protesting refugees, as required by the court ruling. Individuals on pavement numbered 780, of whom 88.6% were from the DRC. Other nationalities represented 1% or less each. Of the 780, 538 individuals were actually documented, either as refugees or as asylum-seekers, and 470 documented individuals were from the DRC. In other words, 538 documented individuals were allowed to stay in South Africa. In terms of immigration law, undocumented individuals should be deported. However, in terms of refugee law, if they expressed an intention to apply for asylum, they could not be arrested and detained for deportation. They ought to be allowed to file their application for asylum.
DHA finance briefing
Mr Gordan Hollamby, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DHA, said that from 2013/14 to the 2019/20 financial year, the DHA had consistently used its full allocation, and had had the capacity to spend it. No unauthorised expenditure had been incurred. The main cost drivers over the MTEF were reported as follows: 42.8% for compensation of employees, 30.3% for goods and services, and 26.4% for transfer payments. The expenditure increase over the MTEF was 1.8%, from R9.5 billion in 2019/20 to R10 billion in 2022/23. Whereas the baseline increases over MTEF stood at R1 093 million, the baseline reductions were R692 million.
Reporting on the compensation of employees (CoE) ceilings and expenditure, he said that the CoE ceiling was R3.559 billion in 2019/20, R3. 893 billion in 2020/21, and R4.140 billion in 2021/2022.
With regard to human resources capacity constraints, by January 2016, 687 posts had been unfunded and had thus absorbed a reduction in the CoE budget of R253 million in 2017/18, and R396 million in 2018/19. There had been a moratorium on filling posts which had had the impact of leaving the DHA with severe staff shortages. However, some critical posts had been advertised.
Government Printing Works finance briefing
Ms Alinah Fosi, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Government Printing Works (GPW), tabled the GPW’s budget allocations for the 2020/21 financial year to the Committee. She said the GPW had five priorities for 2021 to 2025. These included:
- Repositioning the GPW business processes to ensure stability, sustainability and viability of the organisation as a critical national security facility;
- Continuation of implementation of the medium term strategic framework (MTSF) strategic plan and the MTEF annual performance plan (APP) commitments;
- Ensuring the return on investments and sound financial management and sustainability;
- Implementation of its long term vision (Vision 2030);
- Recruitment, retention, and development of the workforce to meet market and client demands.
The GPW had five cost centres for budget purposes in respect of MTEF. These were operations and production; financial services, strategic management, human resources, and the Office of the CEO.
Ms Fosi stated that the GPW’s income had been R1.6 billion in 2019 and 2020, and was estimated at R2 billion for 2021. Expenditure had been R1.4 billion in 2019, R1.5 billion in 2020, and was expected to reach R1.8 in 2012. The annual profit was R153.2 million, R155.9 million and R188.4 million, respectively.
Mr Roos referred to the National Treasury presentation, and said that the immigration budget was decreasing very slowly. However, the DHA was facing a serious backlog of undocumented asylum-seekers, or economic migrants. He expected a budget for handling this issue. There were more than 150 000 appeals over the rejection of applications for asylum. The DHA should work to protect its integrity and reputation, especially in a situation where South Africa was chairing the African Union. The issue of undocumented migrants or refugees was affecting the reputation of South Africa, and how Africans perceived South Africa. The backlog in the documentation of refugees went back to 2008.
With regard to border management control, he asked whether border management offers would be taken from the immigration entity, and whether the budget would be transferred from the DHA to the Border Management Authority (BMA). How was the BMA budget allocated? How would the PPP be implemented with regard to the modernisation of ports of entry? He expressed his concern that the PPP could lead to putting South Africa at ransom, or confidential data might end up in a private entity. What were the safeguards to prevent this from happening?
He sought clarity on why the GPW was not competitive against the private sector, and whether there had been a socio-economic assessment for special dispensation.
Referring to the Minister’s comments on the naturalisation of foreign children attaining the age of majority, he asked what the status of these children was before the age of 18 -- whether they were documented, and whether they could attend schools. He commented that the refugees at the Central Methodist Church had created a very sad situation. It was affecting the existing social cohesion simply because rthey were abusing the hospitality extended to them. South Africa allowed refugees to live in communities. However, whose responsibility was it to move them or provide a shelter to them in case they became homeless? What was South Africa’s responsibility in terms of international refugee agreements? He believed that there was a way of addressing the homeless situation of refugees at the Central Methodist Church. They were affecting businesses, and there was an urgent need to remove them from the streets and sidewalks. There should be an inter-departmental discussion on matter. The judgment had involved different roles of stakeholders who needed to do something to solve the situation, prior to damage to the reputation of South Africa.
Mr Roos added that Members had had a session with the IEC, and had raised the situation where public representatives would come to them and ask them to go to DHA offices in order to get hold of somebody. The former DG had indicated that this issue would be resolved within a reasonable time. Some people were stuck overseas. There was a lady who was stuck in Panama. She was a missionary there. It had been eight months to get a photograph across for the passport. This scenario showed how the DHA was operating.
Ms Khanyile asked what the National Treasury meant when it stated that the filling of critical positions would receive attention in the new cycle. The non-filling of critical posts affected the functioning of the DHA on the one hand, and service delivery on the other. She asked whether the DHA could adhere to turning around the issue of documents in relation to adopted children, especially children adopted abroad. Children were equally important. In most cases, adoption processes were finalised, but the outstanding matter was always the issuing of documents. She finally sought clarity on the tender offered by the GPW with respect to finding a suitable manufacturer, and why it had taken so long to finalise the tender.
Ms Tito asked whether all government departments were giving their printing work to the GPW.
Mr Chabane commented that the National Treasury had submitted that critical posts were not filled and this had had a severe implication on service delivery, and that the BMA would need a massive budget in order to operate. He agreed with ithe ssues raised by Mr Roos. He applauded the work done by the IEC and the GPW. On the issue of refugees, he said that the Committee should have one voice and be able to communicate one message to the public. Such a message should be drawn from the comments of the Minister and the court ruling.
Ms Wilson said the compensation for the immigration programme had been increased, and a small amount of the increase had been allocated for dealing with backlogs in resolving immigration issues. Some employees in the DHA would take early retirement. On the BMA, the Department had looked at the projects that would be rolled out when considering the budget. The money to fund the BMA would be moved from the DHA to the BMA. There would be a gap in the funding. Critical posts at a high level were funded.
Ms Fosi, referring to competitiveness, responded that she would focus on skills and salaries in her response. She said that people were being trained, but left the GPW because they were not well paid. The GPW was not competing with the private sector. It was a member of the printing federation of South Africa, and through that collaboration, the GPW was conscious of the developments in the printing area and could collaborate with others to support them and make sure that it delivered its services. The focus was on printing the government’s documents.
The Minister referred to the question on how to address the backlogs, and said that there was a need to identify the cause of the issue. The main problem was the shortage of employees, or the budget allocated for the compensation of employees. On top of that, refugee law required that the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA) should establish a committee of five people (with a quorum of three) to hear the case of an asylum-seeker. It was designed as a court of law. If this law was followed, all lawyers in the country could have been hired. This could not be possible if one considered the high number of refugees in the country. Fortunately, the UNHCR had now expressed their intention to step in and assist. The DHA ought to inform the UNHCR what the type of assistance they were looking for.
On the public-private partnership for the modernisation of six ports of entry, and keeping data confidential, the Minister responded that it was not only a project of South Africa, but also of other countries. However, there was no money for rolling out the project. Five main construction companies in the country had shown an interest. He referred to the building of the N1 and how it was built, and said that the same approach might apply.
On the question of GPW competitiveness, Minister asked what the term “competitiveness” meant, because the GPW would not compete with the private sector. Like any other government in the world, the South African government had important confidential information or data. The GPW could not base its work on competitive bidding. It printed important documents such as identity documents (IDs), passports, etc.
He was happy that National Treasury had told him that the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) was being reviewed. The issue of competitive bidding should be addressed. This was the only entity that generated money to fund itself and deposited money in the National Treasury. It was the only state entity which was not funded by the National Treasury. Members should take into consideration the profits made by the GPW. Money could be allocated to other departments and help them to create jobs. The Department of Public Works had a very good entity in Silverton, and used to employ about 3 000 people. It was doing very well until the PFMA had involved them in competitiveness. The entity could not compete and disabled people – who were mostly employed – had lost their jobs. As a result, they became beneficiaries of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). State entities should not be asked to be competitive.
On the question of what happened to foreign children prior to attaining the age of majority or acquiring citizenship, Minister Motsoaledi responded that there were many ways of legalising the stay in a particular country. The provision in question was dealing with children of foreign nationals, born and grown in South Africa, who had not gone anywhere else. Normally, children took the status of their parents. At the age of 18, children could decide on their own legal status or what they wanted to be. If a child was born as an asylum-seeker, he/she would take that status. If he/she was a child of a refugee, she/he would be a refugee too. If one was a child born of a parent with permanent resident status, one would automatically acquire such status. If one’s parents were naturalised, one would be naturalised too. At the age of 18, one had to decide on one’s own -- all would depend on the child’s choice.
On the question of the removal of refugees from the sidewalks, he said that the judge had considered all matters. Social issues had been considered in the judgment. It had been very comprehensive. There was no emotion in the judgment, neither was it based on a particular party’s political views. The judge had looked at the role of all stakeholders. She had talked about the social development. There was no law requiring the DHA to provide social or humanitarian assistance to refugees who were destitute.
There was no way the DHA could find accommodation for refugees and asylum-seekers. There was no refugee camp in South Africa. There was no budget allocated to the DHA to address social issues of refugees. It was the Department of Social Development (DSD) that had the budget for assisting people in distress. The CoCT had been instructed by the court to address the social problems of refugees. The DSD in the Western Cape had money for social assistance. An inter-governmental meeting had taken place to discuss the issue. However, the person responsible for social distress in the CoCT had run away from implementation of the judgment of the court, because he said that there were many destitute in this province. The CoCT had confirmed to the court that they had money to deal with a situation such as this, but they were afraid to set a wrong precedent.
Likewise, refugees in Tshwane had been removed from the office of the UNHCR because they were trespassing. The City of Tshwane had been ordered to take over. However, some of these refugees had been taken to Lindela facility. However, he had been advised that Lindela was a facility where people were taken for deportation approved by the court. Because there was no other facility where refugees could be given shelter, he had instructed that there should be a section to accommodate homeless refugees and asylum-seekers.
Again, the mandate of the DHA had been misinterpreted. For example, the Mayor of Tshwane wanted the DHA to deal with the people who grabbed houses in the City. This was not the work of the DHA. Many things were out of the control of the management of the DHA. People were under the impression that every matter relating to refugees should be addressed by the DHA.
The Minister said that it took eight weeks to issue a passport or an ID. This was different if a person was in a foreign country. The application had to come in a diplomatic bag, and that bag could come into the country after six weeks. More importantly, the application was handled manually, and not electronically.
The Chairperson said that other questions could be send to the Minister and presenters in writing. The issue of a turnaround should be considered. He asked Minister to continue to be an ambassador of the GPW. He assured him that the support of the Committee was undivided.
The meeting was adjourned.
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