The Committee convened virtually to discuss the Department of Home Affairs' (DHA's) response to the recommendations from the Zondo Commission's state capture report. The Department also described its efforts to clear the backlog of residency visas and permit applications, and measures introduced to deal more quickly with requests for information from Members of the Committee.
The DHA had been assigned two actions arising from the state capture report. The first was to amend the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act , while the second focused specifically on reforms to the electoral system. This proposed that consideration be given, when making the necessary constitutional amendments, to ensure that the President of the country was elected directly by the people. The Department had expressed the view that all the actions assigned had been addressed, particularly during drafting of the Electoral Amendment Act.
The Department reported that a total of 750 queries from Committee Members had been received from 1 April to 15 September this year. Of the queries received, 534 had been finalised and 216 were pending and still being processed by the Department. The outstanding matters were receiving attention, given their complexity, as some required investigations while others had legal implications.
The DHA gave details of the large number of outstanding applications for temporary and permanent residency visas, and said that to ensure that it had sufficient capacity to deal with all outstanding matters, officials would be used throughout the immigration services from various branches. This would increase the current capacity from 18 to 50 officials. An additional 15 officers who had returned from their missions would also be included to provide further support.
The Committee Secretariat briefed the Members on their planned study tour to Brazil at the end of November.
The Chairperson welcomed Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza, and all the Committee Members in attendance. He made special mention of the Minister's briefing to the media, where he had discussed the Department of Home Affairs' (DHA's) plan to manage the country’s porous borders. All the issues raised during this briefing were acknowledged, and the continuous work currently demonstrated by the Border Management Authority was praised.
Mr Eddie Mathonsi, Committee Secretary, noted an apology from Ms L van der Merwe (IFP), the late arrival of Mr T Mogale (EFF), and the early departure of Ms M Modise (ANC). The Committee was introduced to Mr Ndaba, the newly appointed Committee researcher.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) said she would leave the meeting early.
The Chairperson handed the floor over to Minister Motsoaledi to introduce the presentation and the team of officials who had accompanied him.
As per the Minister's instructions, Mr Tommy Makhode, Director-General (DG), introduced all the officials from DHA who had assisted with the report being presented to the Committee.
The Chairperson suggested the meeting agenda be amended, and should begin with a briefing by Dr Thulisile Ganyaza-Twalo, Unit Manager, Parliament, followed by a briefing on the recommendations stipulated in the State Capture Report. The Minister would then brief the Committee on the Department's annual performance plan, progress report and outstanding queries. The Committee would be given an opportunity to deliberate, once the briefing was complete.
Mr K Pillay (ANC) moved the adoption of the new meeting agenda, and was seconded by Mr A Roos (DA).
Committee's study tour to Brazil
Dr Ganyaza-Twalo gave Members feedback regarding the Committee's planned international trip to Brazil. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the necessary officials from the DHA, including herself, had met to discuss the organisational issues surrounding this trip. Despite the difficulties, they would proceed with the preparations for the study tour, which was currently set to depart towards the end of November, and return on 1 December. Accordingly, all Members that had been approved would be attending the trip and one staff member.
Mr Mathonsi clarified that the meeting they were referring to had taken place on 16 September, the day on which he had submitted the suggested dates -- from 24 November to 2 December -- to the Embassy in Brazil. He confirmed that the Tribunal Superior Electoral would be available to meet with the Committee on the suggested dates. However, the Brazilian equivalent of the Department of Home Affairs has yet to confirm their availability.
DHA plan arising from recommendations of the State Capture Commission
Minister Motsoaledi said that the first presentation would cover the DHA's implementation plan for the recommendations suggested in the State Capture Report. He noted that the specific issues directed towards the DHA were related to elections.
DG Makhode led the presentation, reminding Members that it was a year since the response of the President to the Commission's report had been provided to the DHA. The presentation focused specifically on the purpose, background and actions assigned to the DHA, and the recommendations.
He noted that the Presidency had set up a steering committee which was led by the DG, the Presidency and the Secretariat of Cabinet. On 15 December, the DHA was requested to share an implementation plan addressing the actions, as per the President's response to the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud. As such, the DHA has been assigned two actions:
- Action 1 was to amend the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act
- Action 2 focused specifically on the reforms of the electoral system. Moreover, Action 2 proposed that consideration be given when making necessary constitutional amendments, to ensure that the President of the country was elected directly by the people. Action 2 aimed to ensure that anyone who became President of the country was elected based upon their own popularity with the nation.
Mr Makhode said that the Presidency had created a team which specifically conducted the monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the State Capture Commission's recommendations. The DHA had provided its implementation plan to the Presidency on 19 February 2023, and evidently reported directly to the steering committee regularly. As such, the DHA had provided the Presidency with two progress reports, with the last one being a close-out report. Significantly, the Department had expressed the view that all the actions assigned had been addressed, particularly during the drafting of the Electoral Amendment Act (Act No.1 of 2023)
(Refer to the presentation slides for more details).
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) suggested that a thorough investigation be launched, focusing on the advantages and disadvantages experienced by those countries who utilised the popular vote system when electing a new president. She suggested that the Committee wait until such research had concluded, before making a decision on such a complex issue.
Mr Roos said that the Act stipulates that an Electoral Reform Consultation Panel must be established within four months of the commencement of the Act, that being 19 June 2024, which meant the panel needed to be formed by October of this year. Looking at section 23(9)(b) of the Act, it stipulated that this process must take place in consultation with the Commission, as well as after it had been granted approval by the National Assembly. Once this had taken place, only then could nine members be appointed to the panel. Mr Roos asked how far along the Committee was with this process, and what the next steps were.
Mr Pillay noted the report and the progress that had been made thus far. He requested that the reports referred to by the DG be shared with the Committee, so that Members could be kept up to date. Regarding the consultation panel, he asked what road map was being used to ensure that the process was complete.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) noted the report and the progress made.
The Chairperson thanked the Members and the officials for the presentation. He also noted the progress that had been made regarding creating the consultation panel.
DG Makhode noted the comments made by Ms Molekwa, and said that the Minister would respond to the questions raised by Mr Roos. However, regarding the road map, nominations had been received in line with the gazette issued by the Department, and these were currently being processed. Responding to Mr Pillay, he said that the reports would definitely be shared with the Committee.
Minister Motsoaledi said that all the work discussed would be completed by the committee. In the Zondo Report, several of the issues raised were complex and required research to be conducted prior to implementing solutions. Accordingly, he explained that if the President was elected by the public and not by Parliament, they no longer had the power to conduct oversight. Thus, researching and analysing the pros and cons of utilising the popular vote election process was highly significant. Therefore, the consultation panel being created would be responsible for conducting such in-depth research and presenting the findings to Parliament.
Responding to Mr Roos, the Minister said he was unsure of the exact dates, but there was an agreement that this would need to be completed within four months after the Bill was passed. Since the Bill was passed, an advert has been published inviting the public to submit their nominations by the end of August. These nominations have been presented and are currently being assessed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The Committee was awaiting confirmation of a date from the IEC to meet and complete the selection processes of the Members who would be appointed to the Electoral Reform Panel.
Progress report on outstanding queries
Mr Modiri Matthews, Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Institutional Planning and Support, DHA, presented the status of queries sent to the Department by Committee Members.
He said the DHA acknowledged its responsibility to ensure that all enquiries were addressed in line with the mandate of the Department. Internal processes had been put in place to ensure that queries received were attended to timeously, apart from matters that might require further investigations and/or additional information from relevant clients. There were also internal processes to ensure that enquiries received from Committee Members were addressed. The Office of the Director-General in Cape Town served as an interlink between the DHA and Committee Members, particularly in facilitating the referral of enquiries, and following up to ensure their conclusion. He said the Department continued to strive to clear all cases which were currently still pending.
Currently, a total of 750 queries from Committee Members have been received from 1 April to 15 September this year. Of the queries received, 534 had been finalised and 216 were pending and still being processed by the Department. The outstanding matters were receiving attention, given their complexity, as some required investigations while others had legal implications.
(Refer to slides for a breakdown of the queries).
Progress on permits without targets in the annual performance plan
Mr Matthews said the purpose of the presentation was to report on the non-annual performance plan (non-APP) targets, with the actual annual performance plan (APP). Significantly, the permitting environment had various categories of non-App targets and APP targets, which were as follows:
For the temporary residency visa/permits, there were three APP targets and 19 non-APP targets.
The permanent residency permits also had three APP targets and only seven non-APP targets.
Looking at the non-APP temporary residence statistics displayed, the Department had a grand total of 74 318 outstanding submissions that needed to be finalised. There was also a total of 7 681 appeals that remained outstanding.
Regarding the non-APP permits for permanent residence statistics, the Department had a grand total of 42 835 matters outstanding, with the addition of 3 935 appeals outstanding to date.
Of the 1 063 overstay appeals received, 749 had been finalised, with 314 still outstanding.
(Refer to slides for a full statistical breakdown of all non-APP targets).
To ensure that the Department had sufficient capacity to deal with all outstanding matters, officials would be used throughout the immigration services from various branches. This would increase the current capacity from 18 to 50 officials. An additional 15 officers who had returned from their missions would be included to provide further support. Plans were in place to utilise provincial officials to reduce the number of applications for various categories.
The strategy of the previous slides, coupled with reducing the quality levels in the delegations, would improve the outputs to a certain degree, bearing in mind that the intake had been far higher than what the staffing capacity could deal with. For permanent residence, this would change from six levels to four. The suggested and planned approach for the delegations was as follows:
Delegations for final decision-making on permits and visas were proposed to be taken to lower levels. This would allow for the adjudicators, assistant directors, directors and chief directors to approve visas based on the risk profile of the visa, specifically the Relatives Visa 11 (6), in line with approved delegations.
As a means to assist with the verification process, the Department created various partnerships with entities such as South African banks, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC).
(Refer to slides for further detail).
Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) commended the Department for the progress made in dealing with the backlog of outstanding applications. However, his constituency office was receiving complaints daily regarding the backlog, and questioned what the Department planned to do to assist.
Referring to the matter of the marriage and death certificates, he asked if it was possible to receive a report on the status of the Minister's recommendation due to the urgency of the matter.
Ms Molekwa commended the Department on the progress made. She went on to acknowledge their ability to attend to the myriad of outstanding cases.
Mr Roos voiced his disappointment at the deal the Department had in place with Members that had not been honoured. The Minister had assigned a specific official to assist with the queries brought forward by the Members. These queries would then be passed on to the correct officials to ensure that the DDGs were not overwhelmed with finalising them. Significantly, he noted that of the 700 queries, the majority were submitted by himself. He questioned why the Department did not have a tracking system in place which detailed the status of each application throughout the process, from submission to it being finalised.
Certain officials within the Department had decided to completely ignore these instructions, so he asked that a report be submitted to the Committee explaining why Members' queries had been ignored. He voiced his discontent by saying that the process was no longer working, as the DDGs were helpful but the officials had proved themselves useless. The Committee needed to revisit the process introduced by the Minister and decide whether it still stands, and if it did, then the Committee needed to decide what should be done to improve the process.
Mr Roos said there seemed to be recurring issues that the Department needed to acknowledge. These involved death certificates and permanent residence permits (PRPs). As there were still pending PRP applications from 2016, he asked how it was possible that it was taking seven years to finalise and process these applications. Another critical issue was birth certificates, as the Department had been accused of losing the original vault copies of these certificates. He asked what the Department planned to do to remedy such situations. Had any proposals been put forward to deal with the processing of applications at a more rapid pace?
Mr Pillay said the DHA could not have a DG that replied almost immediately, and officials who did not respond at all. He therefore argued that consequence management processes needed to be implemented to deal with non-responsive officials, as it was unacceptable and needed to be addressed. He asked that a spreadsheet be provided to the Committee which details all outstanding and closed matters. Significantly, he voiced his appreciation for the work being done by the DHA and the progress made.
Ms Khanyile welcomed the presentation and commended the Department for the work that it had been doing. Although there had been progress, the DHA had been struggling. She appreciated the contribution made by Mr Yusuf Simons, Western Cape Provincial Manager, DHA, and also acknowledged the profound impact Mr Matthew’s presence had had on the Department s progress. She voiced her agreement with the sentiments of Mr Pillay, that they needed to ensure that the officials were equipped and trained correctly to deal with all cases in a timely manner.
Mr Pillay interjected, and said that he had forgotten to ask if it would be possible to fast-track the Committee's oversight to the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) centres, as it would help with the processes. He said that certain things were discussed during the last oversight visits regarding the backlogs and appeals. He argued that there were individuals who were abusing the system and buying time by prolonging the application processes by consistently submitting appeals. He asked Mr Matthews if a system could be put in place to prevent this from happening.
DHA 's response
Mr Matthews responded on the case management system, pointing out that such a system did exist and was currently being used to track queries from the DG’s office. He added that he had noted all the comments and suggestions the Members of the Committee brought forward.
Mr Makhode reiterated that the Department had systems in place to assist with tracking each application. Moreover, he accepted the comments made towards the need for improvement in areas such as dealing with the backlog.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Njabulo Nzuza, responded to the issues regarding the number, or stages, of quality assurance, which did not necessarily mean that they would be reducing the quality. Rather, it was merely a case of reducing the number of people who had to go through the applications, particularly the applications which were deemed as high risk.
Minister Motsoaledi asked that Mr Roos elaborate on the issue of the birth and death certificates, and asked if he could please be provided with all the necessary issues pertaining to this matter.
The Chairperson thanked the DG for the constant good work that the Department was doing.
Minister Motsoaledi apologised for interrupting, but said the Department was just waiting for a slot in Cabinet to deal with the consequential constitutional amendment.
Adoption of Minutes
Mr Roos noted the amendments that needed to take place.
Mr Pillay moved to adopt the minutes, and was seconded by Mr Roos.
The meeting was adjourned.
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