The Committee met virtually and was briefed by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on matters relating to systems, operational hours and staffing in the province.
In the briefing from the DHA, Members heard that there were 28 front offices in five districts and one in the Metro. The Provincial Management goes to the one permanent contact point in Ladismith twice a week based on the agreement with the municipality. With 16 connected health facilities, the DHA was ready for birth registration. Members were concerned that some offices had slow to no service because of connectivity problems. They asked about the Minister’s commitment in June regarding an ‘actionable plan’. Members asked for the status of the booking system that the Department indicated it would implement; for the plans to take the mobile program to the next level; and whether mobile units could be prioritised in the Metro. Members expressed concern about the human capital challenge and asked whether the refugees’ sites in the Metro would ever be closed. The status of this issue was questioned because it seemed as if the DHA was not attending to this crisis of refugee status determination.
The Committee was asked to help in securing space to increase the number of connected health facilities in the province from the existing 16. Members heard that green Identity Documents would be phased out and other options besides and including mobile units were being looked at. Members were concerned about the status of the refugees in the Metro as this situation has been unchanged for many years and litigation was at play presently. The UNHR offered financial packages to integrate refugees in communities and about 500 were re-integrated in the communities they came from here in Cape Town and about 100 were repatriated to their countries of origin.
Members heard about the new policies regarding Muslim marriages to assuage the community. Members were assured by the DHA that their concerns were noted and would be attended to.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
Mr R Allen (DA), Acting Chairperson, introduced himself and welcomed everyone.
There were apologies from Mr R Mackenzie (DA), Mr C Dugmore (ANC) and the National Minister of Home Affairs.
Members were asked to introduce themselves.
The Acting Chairperson said that in June of the current year, Mr Mackenzie engaged the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in the National Council of Provinces and in the meeting, the National Minister made commitments to the Chairperson. He informed Members that the Committee would be briefed by the DHA on matters relating to the systems, operational hours, staffing and any other relevant matters in the Western Cape.
Mr P Marais (FF+) asked to leave early but was concerned about whether there will be a quorum.
He was assured by the Acting Chairperson that there will be a quorum as Ms M Maseko (DA) was standing in for Mr Mackenzie.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Procedural Officer and supporting staff as well as members of the public for being in attendance. He asked Mr Thomas Sigama, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Civic Services, DHA, to introduce his delegation.
The Acting Chairperson informed Mr Sigama that the Committee had not received the presentation from the Department, and Members might not be well prepared for the discussion. He was delighted that the presentation was screened.
Mr Sigama apologised and mentioned that the presentation was sent out on Monday.
Mr Yusuf Simons, Western Cape Department of Home Affairs Provincial Manager, introduced himself and led the presentation. He apologised for sending the report to the Committee in the morning of the day of the meeting and mentioned that the presentation was ready in the previous week.
Briefing by the DHA: State of Affairs, Western Cape
Mr Simons mentioned that the presentation had 71 slides and he was unable to go through each one of them. The contents of the entire presentation were under five main areas: provincial overview; provincial resources and operations; stakeholder engagement and provincial performance in relation to Annual Performance Plan targets for 2021/2022. He went through the geographical outlay of the province and introduced some of the management team that were not present in the meeting and explained their responsibilities. This was followed by Provincial Management and Provincial Immigration contact details. He also explained the high-level summary which is a footprint and access to clients and mentioned that there are 28 front offices in five districts and one in the Metro. There is one permanent contact point in Ladismith and the Provincial Management goes there once or twice a week based on the agreement with the municipality.
There are 16 connected health facilities. This meant that when children are born in those facilities, the DHA is ready for birth registration. There are four connected banks in the province. Standard Bank in Canal Walk, FNB Portside which moved to Green Point, Nedbank in St Georges Mall in the City Centre and Standard Bank in the Promenade Mall in Mitchells Plain. The province has 11 mobile offices that help with the outreach programs and one provincial office in Barrack Street in the City Center. A provincial archive facility is established in Bellville and a dedicated collection hub in Maynard Mall Wynberg. He said that 86% of the offices are modernised. Vredenburg and Citrusdale are in state owned properties and due for modernisation in the Fourth Quarter of 2021/2022 financial year. This is an investment as there is no rental to be paid on state properties
Mr Simons said that the Laingsburg offices are too small for modernisation infrastructure. He shared the names and numbers of connected health facilities and mobile units. He also went through the footprint expansion of the past five years and said that infrastructure is the biggest challenge in the province as most of the offices are not conducive to service delivery. Most clients queue outside the offices in harsh weather conditions and it is also a nuisance factor to nearby businesses. The new offices will make provision for queuing areas and will be part of the norms and standards of facility specifications. The Barrack Street offices that have been in use for the past 20 years in the City Center are getting a facelift and occupational health and safety issues are being addressed. The Mitchells Plain offices are also not conducive for service delivery as there is high demand and the offices are not big enough. The tender for reconstruction was awarded to the new landlord and construction is set to commence in the year 2022/2023. In Caledon the challenge is that the municipality did not approve the utilisation of the generator that is on the premises of the same landlord and the solution would be getting a new generator.
The birth registration place in Hanover Park does not have space and Mr Simons has met with the CEO of the hospital several times. The solution is to procure an office container that will be refurbished for birth registration. The Department has obtained quotations and secured the budget in the coming financial year. The Telkom cable theft in Nyanga adversely affected office operations but alternative LTE connectivity was installed on 18 November and connectivity is now uninterrupted. This is a relief for the Department because Nyanga is a high-volume office. In Swellendam the challenge was small floorspace and the Department received notice of getting more space at no costs from the municipality. He shared a slide of all offices in the province with their contact details and classification. He explained the provincial highlights in George and Paarl for the year 2021/22. There was appreciated cooperation from the Head of Paarl Hospital that allocated more space and currently there are dedicated staff members in those hospitals to conduct birth registration. He said that very few parents on rare occasions leave the hospital before registration because service is easily available. The Department had extensive engagement with members of the community in the province regarding the development of the new Marriage Policy. The Department also has a Youth Forum that raises awareness on voter registration and other projects that are aligned to current service delivery.
Mr Simons went through staff breakdown per office for the years 2019-2021 and mentioned that vacancies have not been filled in a long time as the Department only fills high priority vacancies. The offices with more staff and less client demand were restructured and staff is sent to offices that have less staff and high client demand. There is high client demand in the Cape Metro and it has 53% of the staff. He went through the current Inspectorate capacity and the status on the vetting of staff. He explained the impact of the pandemic on the operation of the DHA in the province. Since March 2020 the province reported 127 cases with 126 recoveries and one fatality in the Nyanga branch. The pandemic slowed down operations and health facilities where births are registered barred officials and the space was used for the virus testing particularly in Somerset, Tygervalley. This created a backlog in birth registration and the target was not met. The matter was resolved by the Director-General of Health and the DHA and Officials were deployed to catch up with the backlog. The incident reports resulted in closure of offices and the most affected were Cape Town, George, Mossel bay and the Paarl offices. Mobile offices were deployed in front of those offices to render limited services and preventive measures were put in place when offices opened.
He went through operating hours of the Civic Service and the Immigration Inspectorate and mentioned that 30 minutes before opening for clients, daily, is allocated for staff meetings. He also discussed client volumes for the past three months and the statistics of uncollected IDs per office per district. Queue management strategies that the Department is implementing to reduce waiting times and the challenges faced were explained. One the strategy, the - Moetepele Rating Cards - was temporarily closed because of the pandemic regulations as it required contact from clients. He showed the examples of the cards with questions and feedback from clients. He went through the challenges faced by the Department and solutions going forward regarding information systems and how the Department is rooting out corruption and maintaining security. He also discussed the query and complaint management strategies and the state of the Immigration Inspectorate. Immigration Officers are now able to make arrests during business inspections and the Department no longer depends on the SAPS. He showed pictures of provincial immigration and outcomes. The province conducted civic services outreach programs for disasters that happened in the current financial year and application fees for documents were waived.
Mr Simons explained the types of stakeholders that the Department is working with and the nature of cooperation and the purpose of engagement. Several stakeholder trainings were conducted, and front office staff was involved in the ongoing in- service training on Modernisation and the National Population Register. Stakeholder training for government departments is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.
Provincial Performance in relation to APP targets
Mr Simon concluded the presentation by going through the APP targets. The province achieved 100% of the targets in Q1 and 88% in Q2. The provincial target of death registration is set at 70% with death to be registered within three days. There has been a huge dependency on funeral undertakers to provide death notices to the DHA. Late registration on birth certificates is also a challenge as this is a threat to the national population. When a person registers late, there are verification processes to follow to prove that the person was born in the country and is indeed a citizen. These cases are many in the rural and farming areas and the challenge is caused mainly by substance abuse and mothers that are not in possession of identity documents. This is a risk and illegal foreigners could acquire fraudulent documents through the process therefore the Department is always stringent.
The Acting Chairperson appreciated the report and mentioned that it was very comprehensive. He opened a discussion platform and Members were reminded to be mindful of the time.
Ms W Philander (DA) thanked Mr Simons for the presentation and said that some offices have slow to no service because of connectivity problems. The Minister committed in June that there was an actionable plan in motion. She asked what the plan was and the progress if there is any. She asked for the Procedural Officer to flight pictures that she had sent earlier. Referring to the pictures, she said that was the situation in the rural area of her constituency. On her several visits and engagement with the Paarl office, Councilors of Ward 30 and 31 gladly offered their services to help the Department in salvaging the situation. She asked if the Department is open to engaging with the councillors to ensure service delivery. The situation pertains to connectivity problems and there are usually no signals and then no service is rendered hence long queues. She wanted to know the measures being taken by the Department to salvage the matter. She asked for the status of the booking system that the Department indicated it will implement.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-Ah) welcomed the presentation and commended the Department for great work in the province despite the pandemic. He asked for the plans to take the mobile program to the next level if there are plans and whether mobile units could be prioritised in the Metro.
Mr M Xego (EFF) said the presentation has statistics of uncollected green ID books. He asked if the Department was still issuing green ID books and when they will be phased out. There are immigrant children born in the country whether from legal or illegal parents. He asked of the process of birth registration especially for undocumented parents. He added that there are people that are being declared dead whist alive are not able to utilize their IDs. He asked the Department for measures available to help people in that situation as the process seem to be irreversible with the Department.
Ms Maseko was concerned about human capital allocation and asked the Department the extent it is reacting to the population increase and staff reduction in the province.
The Acting Chairperson further welcomed the presentation and described it as extensive. He was concerned about the well being of the staff as they dealt with a huge workload and human capital is a challenge for the Department. He asked for measures in place to ensure that the well-being of staff is prioritised. He also asked for a figure or the estimate number of the days when there were connectivity issues and the impact on the workload. He asked whether the refugees’ sites in the Metro would ever be closed, if that is an option and the status of the issue at hand. There is lack of retention and letters, the support needed for refugee issues was not being attended to. Their lack of access to services could create bigger problems because the DHA is not attending to those services.
Responses from the DHA
Mr Sigama said there is a program in place for mobile units and has shared ideas with local councillors and relevant stakeholders. There are currently about 100 mobile units and plans are underway to procure 10 more nationwide and the province will have its own share so that service is improved in rural areas and in places where there are no offices. The Western Cape is one of the provinces that are largely connected, and most offices have the live capture system. This helps in the deployment of mobile units and when clients visit offices assistance on all civic products is provided. The province has about two offices that are not completely refurbished. Another key issue is to get health facilities connected as only 16 are connected. He asked the Committee to help in securing space to increase the number of connected health facilities in the province.
The DHA is still issuing green IDs because out of 412 offices about 197 are modernised and 215 are not. Clients in areas with offices that are not modernised are given an option of applying for green IDs. When all the offices are connected, an announcement to stop issuing the green IDs will be made as the legislation allows that. On the issue of people that are declared dead whilst alive he said that there are also people whose fingerprints are not registered in the system and some people are sharing their IDs with others. He encouraged members of the public to visit local branches to verify their IDs and if fingerprints are not registered, it will be detected by the system. A copy of the ID, an affidavit and any other documentation which serves as proof of identity are needed for verification on the Home Affairs National Identification System and only when there is no match a full set of fingerprints will be captured into the system to lift the embargo. The solution on workload will be reduced when services are automated, together with the implementation of the booking system.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DDG: Institutional Planning and Support, DHA. said that he will be in the Western Cape the following week and would visit Cape Winelands to assess the situation that was described by Ms Philander. The Department has a scheduled presentation with the Portfolio Committee on the coming Tuesday to give progress on the plans of the booking system which will be rolled out in certain offices as part of testing the functionality. The biggest challenge is that clients are used to the walk-in system. The booking system will be rolled out in phases so that clients familiarise themselves with the system and no one gets turned back if no booking is made. The Department is getting into partnerships with other municipalities and organisations to help in the branches by providing queue marshals, floor helpers and cleaners that are trained to completely understand the assignment. Between 2013 and the current financial year, the DHA lost about 2 500 staff members. There were about 10 500 staff members in 2014 and currently there are about 8 400 staff members. The Western Cape is mostly affected and Provincial Managers and Mr Sigama are highly affected.
There are several plans regarding the mobile units. The Department is looking at other alternatives that will offer services after hours. When smart card IDs were first implemented, they were given to citizens that are South African by birth and not naturalization. The green IDs will be phased out when the program moves to another category.
Mr Simons said the District Manager ofOoperations for Cape Winelands and the West Coast, Ms Irmgard Michaels’ contact details are on slide 9 of the presentation and councillors in wards 30 and 31 may reach out to her for engagement to improve service delivery. When a child is born in the country and parents are non-citizens, the law stipulates that the child takes nationality from the parents. The birth certificate will be registered as a confirmation to use for registration at the embassy or country of origin.
The well-being of staff is a concern as the client volume keeps on increasing. The Department has a wellness outsource programme that helps staff with wellness issues. Staff were also rotated to different offices to share the experiences. One of the UWC Professors volunteered to debrief and train the Department on how to deal with client related matters and situations.
It has been two years since the issue of refugees has not been solved. The Department has engaged with the National Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in collaboration with the City of Cape Town and the SAPS as well as the UNHR. The Department was given marching orders which were implemented and the UNHR offered financial packages to integrate refugees in communities. About 500 were integrated in the communities they came from here in Cape Town and about 100 were repatriated to their countries of origin. The Portfolio Committee agreed with the DHA that government did enough to accommodate the refugees in addressing issues they had. Some refugees wanted to be sent to countries like Canada, and the USA which was impossible for the government to help. A few months ago, a decision was made in the cluster, that the City of Cape Town and the Department of Public Works who are landowners to approach the court for eviction orders. The three parties are in favor of the eviction and have appointed senior counsel and papers are being drafted to approach the court for eviction. The costs at the facilities are covered by the DHA.
The Acting Chairperson said he should have allocated an additional hour to the meeting but reminded Members that during the Committee discussion, resolutions would be formulated and submitted to Mr Simons and the DDG. He took note of the National Portfolio meeting happening next week as relayed by the DDG and noted comments in the chat function from Ms Philander concerning an engagement with Ms Michaels on oversight visits. He was delighted with the stakeholder engagement that is ongoing and has seen how the EWP system can help in queue management. The Committee would be interested in getting monthly updates on the mobile units and their location and Members will be deployed to exercise oversight. He was happy that a tender was awarded to commence construction in Mitchells Plain
Ms Maseko made a plea to the Department to help Members to help them [the Department] deliver. She said that the improvement of the IT system is the only way to prove what the Department is doing. The Department would not need human capital if services are easily available online. The world is in the Fourth industrial Revolution and the youth have different types of gadgets that can be used to access services to curb queueing at the offices. There should be a system that is easily accessible for verification processes instead of going to the contact offices. This also applies to the rural areas as people in the rural areas have smart gadgets they use on social media. Most citizens are unaware of the difference between the provincial and national Parliament and the Executive and stones that are supposed to the thrown to the Department are thrown at Members.
Mr Brinkhuis raised the matter of the Muslim community receiving death certificates written ‘never married’ even though the person was married for many years. This has harmed the community for many years. It is a national issue, and the Department is aware. He hoped for cooperation and support from the provincial department for the restoration of dignity among Muslims.
Ms Philander thanked the Department officials for extending services to the rural communities and the commitment shown in the province. Working in collaboration is efficient and there are people willing to extend a hand to the Department to make sures services reach the rural communities.
Mr Xego was concerned about the eviction of refugees and hoped that the Department would follow the necessary procedures to avoid further litigation. Eviction is a very sensitive issue that easily evoked emotions. The communities recently voted in the local elections and there were no evictions. Evictions usually lead to a serious attack on the local municipality or province over issues that are decided on the national level and the City of Cape Town are famous for eviction court cases.
The Acting Chairperson said there was no response on the number of days lost due to connectivity issues and the impact.
Mr Mavuso said he is fully aware of the issues of death certificates in the Muslim communities and the Department is working on changing the marriage policy to accommodate everyone. There were people that were previously trained to conduct marriages, but the current legislation does not recognise Muslim marriages. The Department has met with various stakeholders in the country including Al Jama-Ah to discuss Muslim, Hindu, Shembe, Khoisan and Jewish marriages. The issue does not affect Muslim communities only; Black Africans who were married under the repealed Black Administration Act are also affected but will be corrected with the new policy that is being currently developed.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Department for a meaningful engagement.
Ms Philander asked for the presentation to be shared.
Mr Simons assured that the presentation will be shared either electronically or in person. Every office keeps a register on offline activities and if the system goes offline during the day records are kept per workstation and will be provided to the procedural officer.
The Acting Chairperson commended the Department on the work done and sympathized with the staff Members that are overworked as staff morale plays a big role. He was delighted that there are measures in place to assist the staff. The Committee will see how it can foster a working relationship with the Department to ensure that services are rendered, and communities are informed on what the DHA is doing.
Closing remarks from the Department
Mr Sigama thanked Members for an opportunity to present and a fruitful discussion. He emphasised that concerns that were raised were noted, and the Department is working towards correcting that. When polices are reviewed including legislation, the DHA will ensure that people that were not registered in the population register in the past will be in cooperated in the system. The Department will work towards improving technology and asked Members to encourage those that have not collected their IDs to do so.
Mr Simons said Members and councillors should feel free to engage with the Department as they know local areas better and should make use of the contact details provided in the presentation. The Department is always looking at ways to improve service delivery therefore pointers will be appreciated.
The Acting Chairperson excused DHA officials from the meeting and wished them a safe festive season. He said it has been a very difficult year for many across the province and is looking forward to the end of year where family members come together in the spirit of surviving a difficult year. He asked Members to stay in the meeting for an extra 15 minutes to conclude Committee business.
Committee report on the 2020/21 Annual Report of the Department of the Premier
Ms Philander asked if the oversight visit on point (4) of the report is to the Contact Center.
The Acting Chairperson confirmed that it is the Call Center and Contact Center. In the previous meeting, the Committee was notified of the Call Centre that had increased its volume due to the pandemic.
The Procedural Officer confirmed it is the Contact Centre.
The report was considered and adopted.
Committee Report on the 2020/21 Annual Report of the Western Cape Children’s Commissioner
The report was considered and adopted.
The Committee minutes of 11 November 2021 were considered and adopted.
The Procedural Officer notified the Chairperson of the two resolutions that were captured. The data relating to offline time per region and an update on the mobile units monthly. She asked if the Committee would prefer contacting the DHA monthly or provide current information.
The Acting Chairperson said the DHA can provide input on the current status and the Committee will formulate a way to engage further.
Ms Philander was happy with resolution two and added that the Committee must ask the Department to provide the new year schedule for outreach programs in the rural areas in the province.
Ms Maseko wanted to confirm if she heard correctly that the mobile units are modernised, and clients can access all services.
The Acting Chairperson said the Department will ask for confirmation from the Department in writing. The Department explained on the modernisation of offices and mentioned that the Laingsburg offices are small. He asked for measures in place and a solution if premises are not big enough.
Mr Brinkhuis encouraged teamwork and said Members should support a certain Member who sees the need for the Department to visit a certain constituency in the province.
The Acting Chairperson said that is welcome and once the presentation is shared, Members will be able to access contact details of specific districts. He described the Committee as multiparty and would appreciate working together to exercise oversight where government services are being rendered. He would be happy to join any Member should he get invited to any constituency or any event where government services are being rendered.
The Acting Chairperson thanked everyone for the input and emphasised that working together to hold government accountable.
The meeting was adjourned.
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