The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs convened a virtual meeting and was briefed by the Minister and the Department of Home Affairs on the entity’s 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan and the 2020 to 2025 Strategic Plan.
The presentation covered national and ministerial priorities, and looked at both the progress and challenges experienced in the Medium Term Strategic Framework for the period 2014 to 2019.
The outcomes for 2020 to 2025 included, but was not limited to, (1) the secure management of international migration; (2) secure and efficient management of registration citizenship and civil registration; (3) an efficient asylum-seeker and refugee system; (4) a population register for citizen empowerment, inclusivity, economic development and national security; and (5) to contribute positively to a capacitated and developmental state.
The presentation also covered Civic Service Targets, Administration Targets, and targets related to the Border Management Authority (2020/21).
The Minister also provided an update on the Lindela Repatriation Centre an Shuttered DHA Offices.
Members repeatedly raised issues concerning the closure of Home Affairs offices around the country, and also the issue of the Lindela Repatriation Centre.
As regards the former, the Minister had intimated that there was a possibility of bringing legal action against the Department of Labour, who had closed the aforementioned offices pending the installation of glass partitions in every Home Affairs office in the country. The Minister felt this to be "outrageous" and resisted attempts by the Chairperson to get him to adopt an alternative method for resolution.
Members also raised questions concerning the issuance of death and birth certificates, information services limitation, the rolling out of biometric censors, the shortcomings related to supply chain management, irregular expenditure, the issuance of uncollected IDs and IDs for matriculants requisite for sitting examinations, mobile units for distribution of identification documentation and a backlog which, if left unresolved, could impact the upcoming local elections.
The Chairperson, Adv B Bongo (ANC), welcomed the media, the Minister, the Deputy Minister, the officials from the Department of Home Affairs (“Department” or DHA), and all members of the Committee. He indicated that the meeting agenda would include (1) his opening statement, (2) apologies, (3) the briefing and presentation on the Department’s 2020/21 annual performance plan (APP) and strategic plan, (4) discussions by members, and finally (5) closure.
He reminded everyone that the meeting was taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the country had moved from level 5 to level 4 lockdown of the Executive’s risk-adjusted strategy. Level four brings many challenges and thus many expectations from the Department, because as the level decreases, so the number of persons seeking services from the Department would increase. So the Department has to multiply its efforts to ensure full compliance. The Department’s state of readiness must be much higher, particularly on the issues of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the sanitisation of the environments in which officials are working. He noted that the Minister reported an incident involving officials in Vryheid; however it turned out that officials tested negative. On behalf of the Committee, he asked officials working in the Department to multiply their efforts and to ensure that their “patriotism” is in the forefront of their actions, since we were facing a disease which is “not known in the country” and thus it was not planned for. All steps to be taking should aim at resolving the problems that the country is now dealing. The issues not resolved yesterday, he said, we would resolve today; and those not resolved today, tomorrow. He again called for patriotic civil service.
He thanked members who took the time to visit and oversee their nearest Home Affairs offices. These members identified respective challenges in those offices. The managers of the offices were consulted and all issues have been elevated to the acting director general and the Minister of Home Affairs. The nature of any given problem which concerns home affairs changes from one day to the next. Due to issues relating to unions and employers, some visited offices were found to be closed. The issues are being incrementally resolved, as confirmed by a report reviewed by the Chairperson the night prior (May 6).
There were also issues which arose about the Lindela Repatriation Centre (“Lindela”). He asked the Minister to elaborate on what happened at Lindela after the presentation of the performance plan.
The Chairperson also emphasised that the strict time frame of the meeting would be adhered to, namely two hours. Agenda item three (the presentation and briefing about the APP and SP) would be strictly 20 minutes long, so that members could be afforded the chance to raise pertinent questions. Time would be allocated after the presentation has concluded for the Minister to respond to the questions raised about Lindela, and the offices which have been found to be closed. He reiterated that the Minister should also provide details about the latter. He “was particularly disturbed about what was happening in Mpumalanga, ”where it is reported that approximately 154 death certificates had not been printed as of May 6. Unlike other departments, there is no substitution for the services rendered by the Department of Home Affairs, and therefore it is essential that the service improves and problems are resolved. The current pandemic is unprecedented. For this reason, it is necessary that the response of officials should be in the interest of the South African people, including the printing of death certificates and the registration of births. Birth registrations are important in this regard because, as announced by the President, the next six months will see an increase in grants issued, and the number persons taking up these grants will be dependent on their access to identification documentation issued by Home Affairs. These documents are necessary to establish the validity of grant claims.
Mr M Chabane (ANC) stated that the issues he wanted to raised were already raised by the Chairperson, in particular the concern around the current status of Lindela, and the Home Affairs offices which were found to be closed. He agreed with the Chairperson that the Department needed to give a “detailed report” concerning these two issues after it concluded its presentation.
An apology was received from Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) in the Committee WhatsApp group. She informed the Committee that she would join the meeting later, and had also requested that the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Mr M Hlengwa (IFP), join the meeting. The Chairperson informed Mr Hlengwa that he would be informed when it was time for him to speak. Another apology included Mr D Moela (ANC) who was going to leave the meeting at 17h15. The Chairperson said he took the apologies to be accepted since they were properly directed to the secretariat.
The Chairperson then recognised the Minister for his briefing.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, then deferred to the acting director general to proceed with the presentation.
Briefing by Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
Mr Jackson McKay, Acting Director General, DHA, explained that the Department’s priorities are divided into four categories (1) national priorities, (2) ministerial priorities, (3) priorities contained within a 2019 Cabinet-approved White Paper, and (4) an initiative for the improvement of service delivery.
Ministerial priorities include the institution of a new Border Management Authority (BMA), a modernisation programme, a comprehensive immigration policy review, the upgrade of six ports of entry, improving client experience, early birth registration, critical skills visa issuance, and a queue reduction programme.
The Department has identified the following outcomes for the 2020 to 2025 period: (1) the secure management of international migration; (2) secure and efficient management of registration citizenship and civil registration; (3) an efficient asylum-seeker and refugee system; (4) a population register for citizen empowerment, inclusivity, economic development and national security; and (5) to contribute positively to a capacitated developmental state.
The Department has a critical contribution to make to the achievement of the NDP 2030 objectives, which include the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. This involves including all citizens in democracy and development, facilitating the acquisition of the critical skills needed for economic growth, driving integrated and coordinated border management, enabling regional development, harnessing the fourth industrial revolution, and building a capable state.
In accordance with the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for 2019 to 2024, there are seven Apex priorities under the category of national priorities. The Department contributes to four of them: For economic transformation and job creation, the DHA commits to adjudicating 95% of visas in four weeks by 2022 by implementing a new visa regime. To contribute to social cohesion and safe communities, the DHA commits to establish and operationalise the BMA by 2020 and 2021, respectively. The DHA will also contribute to ensuring a capable ethical and developmental state by repositioning the DHA to that end, and assisting in the improvement of the continent and “the world” at large through the introduction of a world-class e-visa regime.
On the headway made regarding the MTSF commitments for the period 2014 to 2019, the DHA has made some progress and faced some challenges. Firstly, the progress made includes the phased implementation of the Integrated Border Management Strategy (IBMS); the registration of 810 000 or 74% of births within 30 calendar days; the adjudication of 85% of critical skills visas within four weeks; and the establishment of the DHA contact centre (2015/16) and two premium visa centres (2016/17). The challenges, however, included the stalled establishment and operationalisation of the BMA in 2017/18 due to delayed legislation and consequent funding; a delay in the review of the policy on international migration due to delays experienced with the Socio-economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS), which is a prerequisite; the delayed rollout of biometric sensors to all ports of entry due in part to capacity limitations within the Information Services Branch and connectivity challenges at 38 ports of entry; and finally a delay in the development of the National Identity System (NIS) by 2018/19 due to complexities around the supply chain management .
Speaking on the outcome targets for the strategic plan for the period 2020 to 2025, Mr McKay indicated the following outcomes and the corresponding five year targets:
Firstly, the secure management of international migration. The five year targets included the incremental rolling out of 36 ports of entry, 10 segments of the land borderline, and two community crossing points. These are in accordance with the BMA Roadmap 2032. Additionally, the construction and redevelopment of six land ports of entry as one-stop border posts to be completed by 2025, and the implementation of a risk-based and strategic approach to immigration. This also includes the strategic issuance of permanent residence permits, business and general work visas, and critical skill visas. E-visas are to be rolled out to 106 countries by 2025.
Outcome two is to secure the efficient management of citizenship and civic registration to fulfill constitutional and international obligations. The five year targets include issuing documents to all identified citizens, permanent residents, to issue birth registrations within 30 calendar days, and issue 19 million Smart ID cards. The implementation of the new Marriage Act was also a target in this regard.
The third outcome concerns the efficient asylum seeker and refugee system. The associated five year target is to implement the system by 2025.
Fourthly, to secure a population register to empower citizens, enable inclusivity, economic development and national security. The associated 2025 target is to operationalise the NIS and to implement the Population Registration Act by 2025.
The final outcome is to position the DHA to contribute positively to a capable and developmental state. The associated five year targets are the implementation of: (1) the Service Delivery Model; (2) the DHA Access Model; (3) the Communication Strategy; and (4) the DHA Counter Corruption Strategy.
The Civic Service Targets for 2020/2021 include (1) to register 810 000 births within 30 calendar days; (2) to issue three million smart ID cards to citizens (including those naturalised and holders of permanent residence permits) 16 years of age and above; (3) to issue nine out of 10 machine readable passports to adults within 13 working days.
The BMA & IMS Targets for 2020/21 include (1) rolling-out the BMA to 4 Ports of entry along 5 segments of the borderline and 1 community crossing point; (2) establishing a National Targeting Centre; (3) the appointment of a preferred bidder for the redevelopment of 6 priority ports of entry; (4) submitting the Immigration Bill for Cabinet approval and consultation; (5) conduct 200 law enforcement operations and inspections to ensure compliance with immigration and departmental legislation; (6) adjudicate five percent of permanent residence applications within 8 months; (7) adjudicate 90% of business and general work visas within eight weeks; and (8) adjudicate 85% of critical skills visas within four weeks.
There were also several Administration Targets for the 2020/2021 period, which included the activation of e-visa systems for 10 countries and the implementation of biometric movement control for four airports.
[Refer to the presentation for a more detailed analysis of these targets]
The Department proffered the recommendation that the Committee support the Strategic Plan for 2020 to 2025 and Annual Performance Plan for 2020/21.
The Chairperson thanked Mr McKay for the presentation, and then recognised the Minister, who, however, stated that he had nothing further to add and that he would wait for questions.
Mr D Moela (ANC) reminded the Chairperson that, the Minister was to brief the Committee on the issue of Lindela and the closed offices, as outlined at the beginning of the meeting.
Minister’s Briefing: Lindela Repatriation Centre & Shuttered DHA Offices:
The Minister stated that at Lindela Repatriation Centre there had been two events. One involving riots led by Lesotho nationals, the other involving a “labour squabble” between workers and a company contracted to provide, inter alia, security services. He advised that 94 Lesotho nationals had been deported that morning at 04h30, and had arrived safely in Lesotho by midday. The security guards who “caused [the] problem” had been been suspended by the company. That morning, he said “we” met the embassy of Zimbabwe and other officials, who had identified their nationals. The Minister indicated that the process for their deportation was underway. At 14h00, “the officials” are meeting with the embassy of Mozambique, who would, as in the case of Zimbabwe, identify their nationals. This same process will be done country-by-country.
Turning to the “issue of offices”, the Minister said that indeed the DHA offices in question had been closed, especially in the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and “to an extent” in Limpopo. These offices had been closed by the Public Servants Association (PSA), which is the majority union. That morning, he had received an undated letter which included a list of demands, and which stated that the PSA, as the majority union, had closed offices. Two offices in Gauteng had been closed by the Department of Labour (DoL), for which he—the Minister—had the certificates. He had been trying to have discussions with the DoL because he “[does not] accept their reasons.” The DoL had indicated that the DHA should erect a permanent, transparent glass petition between the employees and members of the public. There is not a single office in the country that has such a partition. The question is, therefore, why single out the two offices in Gauteng when no other offices have them either? If the DHA had to comply with such a request, all other offices, included that of the DoL, would have to comply. He said the DHA had opted for masks, gloves, sanitisers and even facial screens. The other reason given was that the DHA offices must be “deep cleaned and disinfected before the return of employees.” The office in Vryheid, where one COVID-19 positive employee had been identified, had undergone a deep disinfection and was decontaminated. He said that this was “our” understanding of the DoL’s instruction and he—the Minister—had checked with the Deputy Minister of Labour who confirmed this. However, it appears the union expects each and every office to be likewise decontaminated—this matter would be clarified with the unions, he said. The other issue cited was that of thermometers [audio distorted] which the Department had decided to procure, but which was difficult to obtain due to the increased demand in the country. A few had arrived the day before (May 6) and have bee distributed. Additionally, five thousand face screens also arrived the day before, and the provinces were in the process of collecting them.
Speaking on the issue of the “144” death certificates in Mpumalanga, the Minister said they had been referred to other offices, which was confirmed that morning. [Note: the Chairperson had previously indicated “approximately 154”, not 144.]
The Chairperson opened the meeting to discussion.
Mr D Moela (ANC) raised the issue of capacity limitation within the information services branches. He emphasised more focus should be placed on this limitation. The rolling out of biometrics needed to be tended to in a “very progressive manner,” along with connectivity challenges. He emphasised “more focus” on the problem of supply chain which, he added, pertained to much about which Mr McKay had been speaking. He applauded the proactivity of the Minister’s handling of the Lindela matter. He expressed the importance of focusing on the issue of the shuttered offices, since Home Affairs was a critical department, without which the country “could not move.”
Mr J McGluwa (DA) mentioned the “important request” made by the Chairperson for members to visit certain DHA offices. “The problem that I am facing is that a week ago we [had] been told that all of these offices [had] the necessary PPE and that [they were] COVID-19 compliant. A week later, the contrary [had] been shown to a greater extent that numerous offices [were] closed,” for example offices in Cape Town, Worcester, Paarl and others. He therefore requested that the Committee requests a weekly status report on all 421 DHA offices.
On the “capacity challenges” of the Department, he said the Auditor General’s 2018/19 report made it “very clear” that the DHA is “stagnant” and that there is a “non-compliance concern” when it comes to supply chain management and also irregular and wasteful expenditure. He emphases that the “weakness” regarding the link between the information technology systems and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) must be addressed.
He was of the opinion, considering what has been happening with COVID-19, that there would be an addendum regarding new born babies. It was “anticipated in other countries that in this COVID time that we will have seven million births in some of the countries” and that India alone will have “20 million births.” He therefore wanted to know whether all these factors had been considered as far as the challenges were concerned.
He said that to a greater extent there was a “decline in performance, and that the BMA would do it better.” He added that there was a challenge in the tabling and the approval of the BMA and also the announcement of budgets to the DHA. Approximately R130 million would be allocated to the DHA and he therefore wanted to know how it would be utilised within the Department. He asked if it was possible to “send the Department back” and “to come with a judgement as far as the COVID-19 alignment is concerned” since it is a bit difficult to know what “are we condoning and what are we approving now” (sic). There have already been two months of expenditure and he wanted to know what was being approved in terms of this APP.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) expressed that it is essential to rectify the issue of the closed offices in order to issue death certificates in a timely manner, without which families could not bury their loved ones or claim from their policies. She said that whilst she heard the Minister talking about unions and glass partitions, she did not hear him commit to when the offices would be open, which members of the community want to know.
She also wanted to know when the Department would start issuing IDs and passports. She raised the concern, of twelfth graders requiring identification when they returned to school, which the Minister of Basic Education had been speaking about.
She referred to the Department working with skeleton staff; and asked what it was going to do with staff who were at home not working, namely whether they were going to be paid for “just being at home” or whether they would come assist with the services being rendered.
She also wanted a list indicating where mobile units were located, since otherwise they cannot be inspected. She has observed that some units have only been accepting about 10 persons, leaving a long queue of people unassisted. She wanted to know what could be done to streamline the system so as to assist more people, including providing them warm waiting accommodation, as queues stretch outside. This is particularly pertinent considering we are going into winter.
She said that mobile units needed to be located in rural areas so that people could avoid using public transport and therefore limit the spread of COVID-19.
Ms L Tito (EFF) emphasised the importance of issuing IDs especially considering the backlog of issuance and the approaching local elections. This is particularly important in rural areas.
She also wanted to know where the mobile units were located.
She pointed out that the Department did not have a proper plan when it made the announcement that the offices were going to remain open from 08h00 to 16h00. The DHA was meant to meet with the unions and should have been a priority, but that did not happen. The DHA should not have claimed to remain open without the requisite PPE for workers.
On Lindela, she urged the Minister to visit the site and inspect the suitability of the facility for human habitability.
Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) Indicated that during oversight of the Bellville DHA office, Ms van der Merwe, who had sent in apologies for her absence at the start of the meeting, related to him that she discovered that no-one at the office was working due, amongst other things, to their not receiving thermometers to screen members of the public as they entered. One the one hand, regulations are been eased, but it seems as if the state of readiness is being called into question. He therefore wanted the Minister to address whether the necessary resources have been made available.
He also sought clarification about insurance of twelfth grader’s IDs. He also enquired about what discussions the DHA has had with the Department of Basic Education to determine the operational framework which will allow learners to continue to be in school whilst the country is grappling with the pandemic. He said that that morning he was receiving calls from parents who were “very desperate” due to the uncertainty concerning the opening of schools.
He also raised concerns that the Department had no tracking mechanism to locate “illegal” refugees. His main question centred around the turnaround response time regarding complaints against such refugees. He maintained that the country was already dealing with escapees from Lindela: he wanted to know whether the Department was tracking them.
He referred to irregular expenditure from 2017/18 and wanted to know what steps had been to investigate such irregularities.
He also wanted to “zoom in” to the issue of the airlines, namely whether those that have been found guilty of illegally bringing people into the country have been fined and whether the Department was collecting on these fines. He requested a schedule of payments received.
Mr A Roos (DA) said he was going to focus on immigration matters, and conveyed his surprise that in the APP there was no emphasis on the refugee appeal backlog. This was very significant and the Minister committed to a four year timeframe to deal with this. Courts, he said, are relying on remote hearings at the moment; he asked whether the DHA could do the same to work on this backlog.
He said that after the eventual unlocking, there will be a surge in visa applications, and that would affect the DHA’s ability to meet processing turnaround targets, per the APP. There are foreign national doctors who have studied in South Africa, did community service, and passed our entry exam, but they are stuck in our foreign workforce management programmes due to home affairs issues. He asked if these issues could be looked at so that these doctors can assist the public service in dealing with COVID-19.
He asked if there was a reason why status changes on visas are not being processed at this stage since there is no need of direct physical contact.
He agreed with Mr Moela in terms of the Lindela Repatriation Centre, and that it was “great” to see that deportees are being deported before the 120-day mark and that that is not being allowed to lapse. He asked if legal action was being taken against the guard, since the guard has “turned their back and allowed criminal action to take place; they’ve allowed people to escape a holding facility and disappear,” so he was uncertain how those persons were apprehended again. It was, in his view, a serious offense for the guard to turn their back, since this was a matter of national security.
Centurion Home Affairs office services a massive area in Tshwane and Gauteng, he said, and it has been closed for the last few days due to lack of thermometers. He asked the acting director general whether this could urgently be resolved.
Mr M Chabane (ANC) said that he had visited four offices and were delighted to see they were open. The central issues was the thermometers; he wanted to know what the plans were regarding this since this issue was causing delays in reopening, in addition to sanitisers in some of the offices. Notwithstanding the Department’s challenges, a proper plan needed to be in place, including engagements with stakeholders and unions.
He applauded government’s decision to “lift the processing of the new born certificates.”
It appears, he added, that there was an acknowledgement that the “IT division and labour in the main” constituted the Department’s most critical challenges, particularly concerning the implementation of biometric sensors. He wanted to know what the plan was concerning the issue of the “IT area.” In past annual reports there was the issue about the “EOH”; the director general and the Minister may need to expand on this, since it contributes to their achieving the Department’s targets.
On capacity limitations of the supply chain management: He wanted to know what these limitations were and what are the mitigation measures, since it was a recurrent matter in the Committee.
Addressing the Minister, he said a judge has directed the Committee to “enter into a department” to say that the Chairperson may need to “venture into the legal divisions.” Most cases, he said, were being lost, and that the backlog needed to be dealt with. There was nothing in the presentation to show how the Department would remedy this.
On Lindela, he appreciates that the Minister had been swift to inform the public on the issues concerned, including the deportation plans. More emphasis needs to be placed on the layman’s understanding of the deportation arising from Lindela as compared to similar issues arising in the City of Cape Town. He thanked the Minister for his actions, and wanted to know what further actions would be taken, and if there was anything left wanting in the Department’s response. He wanted to know how many guards were involved in the incident concerning the approximately “1 500 immigrants”.
He then raised the issue of identity documentation. There is no plan concerning the distribution of uncollected IDs; he wanted to know what the plans were, especially regarding learners which will need them to write examinations and the upcoming local government elections.
Mr Q Dyantyi (ANC) then raised the issue of contact tracing, visiting offices, thermometers, physical distancing and deep cleaning of offices. [However due to his connection, some of the details of which he spoke were indiscernible].
He welcomed the Department’s strategic plan. He asked whether the Department has started a review process given the pandemic, and how this would affect the changes which had been proposed in the strategic plan.
He asked what the relevance was of the APP to the medium term strategic framework (MTSF), since the latter was not submitted together with the former. If there was any gap between the two, he wanted to know how this would be remedied.
On the “state of readiness of the Department to open offices, rather to give extra services in our offices because our offices were never closed; they’ve always been there.” The DHA was issuing only death certificates, replacement birth certificates and replacement IDs. In level four, the DHA has added the issuance of birth certificates (not replacements), and uncollected IDs, which was the plan presented. “And that very same week, after we have done so on a Friday,” all the provincial managers were called, and each indicated their stock of PPE. PPE, in the Department’s understanding, include gloves, masks, and sanitizers. “Where we accept that we failed, was the thermometers” since “they were very difficult to find in the country” due to the demand, but they have been received the previous day (May 6). The Department did not imagine that without thermometers that the offices could not be operational.
As to glass petitions, it is not the unions who demanded them, but rather it was “unfortunately an inspector of the Department of Labour.” According to his document submitted to the DHA, the inspector said “a permanent, transparent screen must be put in front of each and every work station” in our frontline offices. The Minister said he was complaining that “I do not understand the regulations […] demanding that, because many government departments do not have permanent screens, and if we were to open offices only because of permanent screens, it will take many months.” He continued that “our understanding is if a person has got gloves, has got a mask, and sanitisers, they can work.” Then we “added the face screens, five thousand of which were received yesterday [May 6], and we are distributing them between offices.” He maintained that the Department “thinks that is enough; you don’t need glass partitioning, and we are challenging the Department of Labour about that. We are actually appealing.” He said “we do not think it’s right. If we don’t get it right with the Department of Labour appeal process, we’ll certainly go to court, because we believe this is an arbitrary demand by the Department [of Labour].” The other issue was “the deep cleansing of offices. Chairperson, we are deep cleansing our offices because we don’t want [a] stalemate. We don’t want delays.” But the DHA’s “understanding of the rules is that you decontaminate and disinfect only an office that has been contaminated or infected, which is what we did in Vryheid.” He reiterated that the previous night he “checked with the Deputy Minister of Labour, and she confirmed that, [and] here [I] am quoting, that the Department of Labour said ‘all offices needs to be disinfected’—it’s not true.” You only do so when an office that has been contaminated, he repeated. But nevertheless, “in order to avoid any frictions [sic] and delays, we are busy decontaminating our offices, and we want to open as soon as possible” because at least we are now receiving thermometers.
As to the question of IDs: The DHA has not presented any plans to the Chairperson about issuing IDs. We do not think, at level four of the lockdown, that we have reached that point yet. The concern here is that you do not want many people together in offices. The DHA has half a million IDs which have not yet been collected. When we move to lower lockdown risk levels, the DHA will, accordingly, present a plan for the issuance of IDs. This also relates to students. We are not panicking. Students are still at home. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and that of Basic Education met, since they were instructed to formulate a programme to dispatch mobile units to schools so that students should not go to home affairs offices, but rather that mobile units should go to them to issue IDs. Of course, they cannot be dispatched now since schools are closed; these units will be dispatched once opened. “We are not panicking, because we are able to issue an ID, as we have already seen, within a period of five to 13 days.” We are just waiting for the Department of Education to inform us when schools will be reopening.
Speaking of the mobile units which “we have been promising you,” of which there are 100 being fitted, 65 have already been distributed.
Answering Mr Tito’s question, the DHA “definitely planned very well, including the social distancing,” which is “what Hon Dyantyi was talking about.” The DHA has already fixed marks to indicate the length of physical distance required, namely one meter. This past Friday (April 30), an instruction was given to increase the physical distance to one and a half meters, even inside the buildings in which people sit, and also between the public and workers.
On whether Lindela is fit for human habitability, the Minster maintained that “I don’t think that this is just a statement that anybody can claim, because there are institutions that must do so. They must do it officially and in writing.” There is a permanent office of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) adjacent to the Lindela site. Any contravention would have been picked up by the SAHRC. There are also other permanent offices of other such institutions nearby. And the DHA would “very much like to hear from them” if such contraventions have been found to be occurring.
As to resources being made available for PPE, he said that DHA “[does] have those resources,” as has already been explained along with an explanation of the challenges faced.
Now, the tracking mechanism to find “illegal migrants” consists of “only one mechanism” and “unfortunately it’s a human mechanism.” These migrants are tracked by immigration inspectors. The DHA has been before the Committee many times before to inform it that the Department only has 650 such inspectors. We have been appealing to the Treasury to increase them. You are aware that the compensation of employees has a ceiling, after which further hiring is not permitted. “The fact that there are people in Lindela is the work of these immigration officials. we cannot have any other mechanism because a person who is illegal does not want to be seen” and “because nobody has tagged you with any electronic document or anything and it is not written on your face, it is very difficult” but the immigration inspectors are trying their best.
Turning to irregular expenditure: The director general will deal with this.
Answering Mr Roos’s question, the Minister said that the police are investing to see “if there is any illegality.” When he was addressing the media, who had been “howling” at him the previous day (May 6), they “claimed, of course, in a howling manner that they [presumably the guards] do not have any contract with their employer to work for a certain number of hours.” So they worked for the hours they understood to be required and left thereafter. But “inmates there have told us that before leaving, they [presumably the guards] kicked the inmates and said ‘we are going to leave before [the] time; you are free to do what you want because there will be nobody to guard you’.” As to whether police can corroborate this remains to be seen, but that’s what the DHA was told by the inmates,. This is the reason the inmates knew to scale the walls at exactly 17h00.
The Minister confirmed that he would have to check with regard to the question about the Centurion offices. He advised Mr Roos that by now they must have received their thermometers.
As to Mr Chabane’s question, the Minister stated that “I think he did not hear me very well. I never said ‘almost all offices in Limpopo are closed,’ I said the letter we received from the PSA about offices which they say they’ve closed because they claim that their workers were not safe, are mostly [in the] Western Cape. In Mpumalanga it’s half of the total offices, and then in Limpopo its about four. Otherwise all the other offices in Limpopo are working and, if I’m not mistaken, they’ve got 53 of them.” He added he was speaking off the cuff with regard to the 53 offices in Limpopo—he remembered “seeing it somewhere.”
He then addressed the question of what the difference was between the repatriated Lesotho nationals as compared to the refugees in Cape Town. The “difference is that the people in Lindela have appeared in front of the magistrate. It is the magistrate who has ruled, legally, that they must be deported. When such a ruling is made, the deportees are taken to Lindela, at least for “a period of 30 days, waiting for the ambassadors of their country [sic] to come and identify them, because you can’t just deport people without their countries having confirmed that ‘yes, this indeed is my citizen’.” He said, "the refugees in Cape Town, as you have heard, most of them have got [authorisation] to be here. There is no immigration law that they have breached. What they’ve breached are by-laws of the City of Cape Town. I know there [has] been an argument about this, that we are throwing our responsibility to the City of Cape Town. The immigrants there, even when you check the judgments from the court of law is about by-laws, not about breaching immigration regulations, but we have accepted the ruling of this Committee that we must try to integrate them back into society and if they fail then we repatriate them back to their countries. Now, that is an if, meaning it’s not our first choice to repatriate them back to the countries where they come from, because many of them have got official refugee status in the country, others have got asylum-seeking documents, that is, section 22 permits. Those who were illegal during the time we were checking them, after the judgement […] were very few.” So that is the main difference, and this should clarify things for the layman.
As to the plan to distribute uncollected IDs: “Honourable members will remember, during every election, there’s a call from Home Affairs for people to come and collect their IDs. Sometimes they number up to a million, where people apply for them and leave. We have even appealed to you in your respective constituency offices to ask you to make a call for people to come and collect their IDs. It’s a perennial exercise with every election that comes. At the moment there are 500 000 uncollected IDs. 104 000 of them are new, and the remainder are people who have applied for a smart card who actually have an ID.” And we understand why they are not under pressure to fetch them. Now that there are gains in social development, along with the new grants announced, people will be much more interested in collecting their IDs. But we still make a call for you to help us, otherwise there is no other strategy except to call for collection through the radio, he said. SMSs have also been sent to call for collection.
On how many guards were at Lindela, the Minister said that was a good question. “When I was at Lindela, while we did not hire the guards, they’re hired by the company that has been contracted. I heard them, when they were howling, that one of their grievances is that they’ve got one guard for every 50 inmates. And they say that is too much. I was then interested, Chairperson, in checking what is the ratio, what is the standard” against which they are calculating this 1:50. “I then phoned the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services to ask and this is what he told me. He said ‘in the maximum security correctional service facilities, the ratio is one guard to 30 inmates. In the medium [security correctional service facilities] the ratio is one guard to 40 inmates.” For prisoners awaiting trial, the ratio is one guard to 60 inmates. Even though Lindela claims 1:50, when the Minister counted the day before (May 6) the ratio stood at 1:44. Which means it is more or less equivalent to a medium security prison. The Minister said he believes that, at Lindela, it is even less than that, since most of its security inmates are the people who “just came here illegally, they didn’t commit any crimes. Those who committed crimes are there but they are very few.” The Minister thanked the Chairperson.
The Chairperson recognised the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr N Nzuza (ANC).
Mr Nzuza said that the Committee needed to be aware that when the DHA “is dealing with the issue of issuing new identity documents, or new applicants for identity document[s], it involves a higher risk in terms of COVID-19, not just of our frontline offices but it involves work that must now be done VVR, it involves work that must now be done GPW. So as a result it’s a bit more higher and that’s why we are following the approach that has been laid out by the President in terms of the risk approach and, as the Minister has said, we’ll look into that when we got to that particular phase. And we must also remember that all children who actually have birth certificates, whether they’re grade twelve and whichever grade, they already have ID numbers and as a result it becomes much easier to then issue them with Smart Card IDs. Already there was a plan, which the Minister has already articulated, to go an issue those in schools.” This has been piloted in the Northern Cape and a “soft launch" had being considered in the Free State prior to COVID-19.
The Chairperson then recognised the director general.
Mr McKay said that the DHA has received the report from Monitoring and Evaluation, where they state that the impact of COVID-19 national state of disaster and the lockdown has necessitated the alignment of government planning and non-financial performance reporting processes. In the alignment of the 2020/21 adjustment budget process, national institutions will be expected to revise and retable the 2020/21 APP and the 2020 to 2025 strategic plan. The purpose for the re-tabling of these plans are to incorporate the interventions and the adjusted 2020/21 [inaudible] and to prioritise government programmes and projects for continued service delivery. So the re-tabling of these plans will follow the tabling of the adjusted 2020/21 national budget in Parliament by the National Treasury. They go on to say that “the DPME will soon issue formal communication to all national institutions regarding the processes for the revision and tabling of the strategic plans and APPs as well as guidance on reporting against COVID-19 initiative[s].” The Department is awaiting such guidance. The Department will also, during the review of its quarterly report on May 17, discuss the issues thought pertinent to the review.
On the relevance of the APP to the MTSF: these two are related in that the latter expounds the targets to be reached year-on-year; it is thus a breakdown of a five year plan into annual deliverables. Mr McKay then turned over to Mr Gordon Hollamby (Deputy Director General: Finance and SCM (CFO)) to address the question of irregular expenditure.
Mr Hollamby said that the 2017/18 irregular closing balance was R552 million and reduced in the 2018/19 year to R253 million. There was a R328 million condonation received by the National Treasury that caused the reduction in irregular expenditure.
On the levying of fines to airlines and the Department’s ability to collect on these fines, he said that he would prepare a proper schedule for submission to the Chairperson, if he permits, since Mr Hollamby did not have the details before him.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister, the DHA and members of the Committee.
Mr Roos interjected, saying his question regarding visas among others were not answered.
The Chairperson interjected also, and asked Mr Roos if he—the Chairperson—could talk. He told Mr Roos that all questions that could not be answered must be sent in written submission form to be answered, as other members had done and who had received answers to their questions.
The Chairperson said he had received a message from the media regarding the silence of Mr M Lekota (COPE). They wanted to know why he was not raising his hand to ask questions.
Mr McGluwa interjected with a point of order saying that the media is not part of the Committee and has never before been allowed to ask a question during a session of the Committee.
The Chairperson then turned to the issue of Lindela. He said the Committee had to devise a strategy of oversight. The Committee would consult the leadership of Parliament as to how that could be done.
On the closed offices, addressing Mr McGluwa, he said he would liaise with the DHA to find out which offices were closed and when they would be opened, which would have to be submitted in writing within five days.
The question on supply chain had not been answered. He would allow this to be answered in writing too.
He mentioned that all decisions taken in the Committee would be elevated to the director general, the Minister, and the Deputy Minister for response. This is because most issues which have been raised have already been raised in the Committee. For example, the issue of the EOH, and VOS, both of which had already received recommendations from the Committee.
With regard to the issue of birth and death registration, no explanation would be taken from the Department. These certificates needed to be issued as a matter of procedure and urgency. The Committee will continue to monitor these. Within five days, the Committee will follow up on birth registration, since it relates directly to COVID-19.
On the issue of disputes and appeals regarding unions and the Department of Labour, which the latter the Minister said he was prepared to take to court, the Chairperson advised that since the government was a unified government, alternative dispute resolutions must be encouraged, which does not necessarily include appeals and courts. These will affect service delivery, he said.
He said that a learned judge of the Western Cape High Court has issued a judgment that this Committee ought to go to the DHA and interact with on the challenges concerning legal services. Because he respects the judiciary, he needs to write back to the judge to indicate what the Committee had done in this regard. He wanted the Minister to read the judgement and report back to the Committee. This judgment would be distributed to all members of the Committee. He reiterated that the Committee needed to comply with the judgement concerning the shortcomings in the Department.
He then spoke about the “major” issue of the BMA. He wanted the roadmap for when and how it would be implementation. This was because promises had been made to the people of South Africa concerning the resolution of challenges regarding refugees, namely that the BMA could resolve them. The BMA Bill is in Parliament and it will soon move to the President for approval. Once approved, he reiterated that the Committee would be requiring the roadmap.
With reference to ID collection, he asked for the Department to engage and innovate in this regard.
The Chairperson commended the presentation, but asked the DHA to focus on implementation, particularly so that oversight can be enhanced.
The Minister asked to be heard and the Chairperson acceded.
The Minister wished to clarify that the DHA was not taking any union to court. He was talking rather about the Department of Labour, since the demand it placed on the DHA was “outrageous.” The DHA has twice contacted the DoL, which responded that the DHA should appeal. The DoL director general may be contacted to confirm this, and had informed him that he—the Minister—was making a mistake. The director general of the DoL said “please appeal”. The Minister said he was “talking about a court of law because this has already happened to him when he was in the Department of Health. They closed our office headquarters for five days and when we asked them [about it] they said ‘appeal’. Only when we threatened them with a court case they opened the offices. And I am just doing a déjà vu here; that our offices are not working [because of] a demand that we believe is outrageous. And when we spoke to them collegially as you [the Chairperson] are advising, they said ‘no, appeal’. So we have already appealed as I am speaking here because we want those offices to be opened.”
The Chairperson reiterated that, the Minister’s response notwithstanding, alternative dispute resolution was to be encouraged where the dispute is interdepartmental. He added “I saw the letter from labour; it’s written by an inspector who’s at a level seven/level 10… but if these issues are elevated [to] a strategic level of a director general, [it] may get” a different response.
The Chairperson noted that he is not prescribing what must be done in this case, but merely suggesting so that the Committee can be seen to be assisting.
The Chairperson again thanked all members and participants of the meeting and conveyed his appreciation of the work. He then adjourned the meeting.
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