State of Nation Address implications for Home Affairs; with Deputy Minister

Home Affairs

21 February 2023
Chairperson: Mr M Chabane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


President Cyril Ramaphosa: 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA)

The 2023 State of Nation Address had implications for the Department of Home Affairs, Electoral Commission and Government Printing Works in these three areas:
• Growing the economy, reducing red tape to scarce skills, tourism and business investment.
• Addressing crime and corruption.
• The impact of load shedding and infrastructure.

Committee members welcomed the SONA announcements about the points-based system to attract skilled immigrants, the trusted employer scheme to make visa applications easier for large investors; the remote worker visa and a special dispensation for high-growth start-ups. They raised concern about the delay in the implementation of the e-visa system, establishing regional systems for monitoring movement of people to promote the African Continental Free Trade Agreement; tracking the Department's phased employment of 10 000 unemployed young people to digitise paper-based civic records. They requested the itinerary of the increased Home Affairs mobile units for oversight purposes.

Meeting report

State of the Nation Address implications for Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
Mr Adam Salmon, Committee Content Advisor, presented on the implications of the 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA) on the work of the Department.

The 2023 SONA has three broad areas with implications for DHA, Electoral Commission (IEC) and Government Printing Works (GPW):
• Growing the economy, addressing unemployment and poverty by reducing red tape to scarce skills, tourism, and business investment.
• Addressing crime and corruption.
• The impact of load shedding and infrastructure.

Growing the economy, addressing unemployment and poverty by reducing red tape to scarce skills, tourism and business investment.
The President said that one of the key ingredients for economic growth and competitiveness is the ability to attract skills that the economy needs. He mentioned the completion of a comprehensive review of the work visa system and moving quickly to implement those recommendations. He spoke about red tape reduction and the Presidency team that has been working with departments to make it easier to do business. The President referenced the collaborative approach, working with departments and agencies in areas such as tourism transport, visas and work permits. An example will be introducing remote worker visas to encourage this new kind of tourism to the country and a special dispensation for high-growth start-ups to recruit highly and competitively skilled persons.

DHA also has a role to play in the stability, prosperity and development of our continent.
The focus of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be on collaboration on sustainable development, the just energy transition and industrialisation. DHA will need to participate in the promotion of bilateral and multi-lateral visa agreements needed to facilitate free movement of persons so trade is expanded.

Addressing Crime and Corruption
The State Capture Commission recommendations are being implemented according to the plan submitted to Parliament in October 2022 so that the systemic weaknesses identified by the Commission are addressed. DHA will be monitored in terms of how it is advised by the Anti-Corruption Advisory Council and the relevant prosecution bodies and how it interacts with other departments in addressing illegal mining. In response to the State Capture Commission and in line with the framework for the professionalization of the public service, new recruits to DHA, IEC and GPW will have to undergo integrity assessments which will become a mandatory requirement for recruitment to the public service along with entry exams.

Impact of Load shedding and Infrastructure
With the implementation of a State of Disaster for Electricity Load Shedding, Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act requires the making of regulations for the purpose of —
(a) assisting and protecting the public.
(b) providing relief to the public.
(c) protecting property.
(d) preventing or combatting disruption; or
(e) dealing with the destructive nature and other effects of the disaster.

In the forthcoming regulations, it must be assessed if DHA and GPW can at least be partially exempted from load shedding because of the critical services they offer. The power outages have had a negative impact on service delivery at Home Affairs offices already challenged by network connectivity. Back-up power solutions will need to be budgeted for by Home Affairs offices not assisted by Uninterrupted Power Supply solutions and may benefit from an expedited procurement process and budget under the disaster regulations.

See presentation for further details.

Ms A Khanyile (DA) said that her concerns had been covered in the presentation such as the digitization of records and the recruitment of young people being under way. However, she is unsure that they will receive guidance on this from the Minister [inaudible 38:30]. The President mentioned the issue of [inaudible] that is going to be used when we now look at [inaudible] foreign workers, she thinks she would need clarity on that.

Mr A Roos (DA) said that the DA certainly welcome the points-based system announced to attract skilled immigrants, as well as implementing a trusted employer scheme to make the visa process easier for large investors. The speech spoke about work visa system recommendations and a report that had been requested by the Committee sometime last year. It is important for the Department to introduce the remote worker visa and a special dispensation for high-growth startups because Namibia has already had this quite a while back and it is benefiting from this. It is important that all these opportunities that the different government departments have, and not just Treasury, contribute towards job creation and business development in South Africa. It is important that the Committee gets the report and implementation plan on the proposed work visa regime recommendations.

Mr Roos said Mr Salmon rightly stated that some of these announcements such as e-visa, have appeared in multiple SONAs again and again and again before they are implemented. This needs to be avoided. The Committee needs to get to the bottom of this disastrous progress on visas, because the country can have this new regime but if the visa-processing arm of Home Affairs is not processing them in time, then it is not going to help.

Mr Roos said it is important to note that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA ) with the AU Protocol on the Free Movement of People, allowing for much access to opportunities of this Agreement requires the implementation of systems at a regional level. For example, East Africa already has one-stop border post regional system between the different countries in that region. It is something that is not there now in SADC. For example, when there was the Beit Bridge hold-up on the one side and not on the other side, it seemed as if South Africa was not able to get hold of the relevant minister to find out what was going on. If we had regional systems that were integrated and talking to each other, we would all know what is going on and the systems development taking place. Those regional systems allow one to check the authenticity of a document even inside this country, as well as security systems, and labour as well. There is a perception that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement means persons will come in and take everybody's work. But the way it is supposed to work is labour opportunities in all these different countries are shared and encouraged with the regional system. The systems would not happen overnight. It is important for the Committee to perhaps get a briefing on this from the Committee content advisor. What are these regional systems that Home Affairs needs to participate in and help set up to make the AfCFTA a reality?

On the cohort of unemployed young people appointed by the Department of Home Affairs to digitise more than 340 million paper-based civic records, it is important that the Committee tracks this. The Minister had spoken about the phases. The second phase of 4 000 should already have assumed duty in January but the Ministry is only training the first phase now. It is important the Committee tracks this closely because there is not a lot of time. Once that money runs out, then one cannot guarantee more money. The Committee has to track this to ensure that these work phases are not unnecessarily delayed. If they are delayed, the Committee needs to understand what is going on and why. He welcomed what the Minister said in his response about Home Affairs services in malls. It is an excellent idea that you can go there, get a number, then go and do your shopping and you will get called when it is your turn.

The DA welcomes the announcement of 20 new Home Affairs mobile units and the ordering of another hundred. He had requested that the itinerary of these mobile units gets shared with the Committee regularly so the Committee understands where they are going to be and to enable oversight to ensure that these mobile units are getting out there and are serving remote communities that cannot get to these mega shopping centres.

Mr Roos said the Minister also spoke about border guards and how they assist finding people with agricultural products and vehicles. His concern is that these border guards are supposed to be assisting with patrolling the porous borders. However, they appear to be doing routine functions at the border posts. It is concerning when you hear that border guards are busy confiscating agricultural products at the border post.

Mr K Pillay (ANC) recommended that the SONA implications should be itemized for the strategic planning session in March so the Committee can have specific timelines to address each of those points. The Department will then be able to respond to what is currently happening and what is going to happen. In that way the Committee will be able to evaluate and monitor the success of these items.

DHA response
Mr Tommy Makhode, DHA Director General, gave an update on where the Department is with the review of the visa regime. The Minister had received the report from the former DG Mavuso and broadly there are eight recommendations classified into two. The first one speaks to process improvement and the second one to policy and regulator improvements. The Department has been working with the team in the Presidency on an implementation plan and they will need to come and present to the Committee including on the e-visa.

As the Committee is aware, DHA did receive the funds for the first phase of the youth employment cohort very late from Treasury and as a result, it could not make any commitments until DHA received the Treasury letter. Hence there was a delay in recruitment, but it is picking up pace as the adverts for the additional 4 000 for the second phase are out, which means the work is underway.

On the AfCFTA with regard to the AU Protocol for Freedom of Movement, this depends on several issues, not only security systems, but also your civil registrations in those countries. If someone says they have an ID or passport, is the Department able to authenticate that in order to enable free movement. There is a lot of work going on concerning that. The Deputy Minister will be in Lesotho in the next week or so. The Department has finalized some agreements with Kenya, which are currently being implemented and there is work that will be done with Uganda as well.

With regards to services, the Deputy Minister will speak to other initiatives, other than mainly what is being arelooked at. For example, in the Western Cape, there is an office that will be opened shortly, which will just be based on bookings only.

Mr Makhode noted the suggestion that the SONA implications be itemised. He also noted that climate change has had a huge impact not only for DHA operations but also for people accessing services in areas where they are unable to come to the offices due to flooding.

Deputy Minister's comments
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Njabulo Nzuza, said that the Department will take the advice and itemize the items and respond to them and provide tight detailed timelines.

DHA will present the work that is being done by border guards in the Border Management Authority (BMA), which has been good work. Some of the functions done by other departments had to be transferred to the BMA as part of the single command and control environment of the border. Some aspects do not just belong to the Department of Agriculture as they involve security checks driven by acts of criminality such as smuggling of animals.

The e-visa has been a work in progress. Since its announcement the Department has to start by piloting, and then adding countries as it goes along. DHA will only be able to say it is complete once all countries have been added. The responsibility as Home Affairs is not only from an economic development perspective but also a security perspective, and it has to balance both.

The Department aims to advance in opening up the country so there will be better economic opportunities, for instance in tourism as it pertains to the e-visa system. But DHA also has to ensure that the systems deployed are actually safe and that is why they will be gradually introduced up until such time that security is guaranteed.

On African free trade, the Department is working to help other countries and neighbours improve their population register and how they actually register those people as part of their national population register because some of the countries do not have the required set of documents, as South Africa does. Only once that is addressed, can they guarantee the free movement of people, because you cannot have free movement of people whilst those people do not have the necessary documentation to move up and down. He recognized the huge responsibility in improving Home Affairs services.

The Department will bring a report on the advances it is making with the booking system which is working quite well. The Department is piloting use of shopping malls which decreases queues and there is technology that DHA is looking at which will modernize more than 200 offices. This will introduce huge capacity in issuing smart ID cards throughout the country. The work is still in progress, and he hopes soon the Department will come back to the Committee and make an announcement on how they are dealing with that. DHA is also continuing to build purpose-built offices throughout the country which is also working very well. The Department is also fixing the challenges of the back-end IT system.

Mr Salmon said that he noted all points and will include them in the planning session as suggested and share them with the Committee.

Committee minutes
The Chairperson stated that there was a backlog of minutes that needed adoption. He requested that the Committee approve five sets of committee minutes per session.

Mr Pillay agreed but said the Committee should not allow the minutes to pile up. He proposed the backlog of minutes are brought to the Committee at least by March to clear the backlog.

Mr Roos agreed with the proposal to clear the backlog as soon as possible as its challenging to remember what happened a year ago.

Ms Khanyile agreed that the Committee should not allow the minutes to pile up again.

The 7 December 2021; 8 February; 26 and 29 April and 3 May 2022 minutes were adopted.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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