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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
9 March 2005
TURNAROUND STRATEGY: PROVINCIAL PROGRESS REPORTS
Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)
Documents handed out:
PowerPoint presentation: Provincial Manager of KwaZulu-Natal
Report by Provincial Manager of Limpopo
Report by Provincial Manager of Gauteng
Report by Provincial Manager of Mpumalanga
The provincial managers of the Home Affairs Department presented their progress in implementing the Turnaround Strategy for the second day running. On the previous day, the Deputy Minister had given political input on the direction of the national Department in the new financial year. The remaining Department Provincial Managers gave presentations about the developments within their departments during the past financial year. They described their infrastructure, staff composition and the level of computerisation of their offices and hospitals. In addition, they reported back on the status of identity document (ID) delivery, investigation into fraudulent marriages, corruption in the offices and illegal immigration. Furthermore, the provincial managers outlined what funds they required to improve the level of service to the public.
Members remained concerned at staff shortages, uncollected IDs, a lack of suitable vehicles, corruption and fraud, and the Department’s attitude towards illegal immigrants.
Mr R Zitha (Provincial Manager: Mpumalanga) presented the demographics of Mpumalanga, the state of Home Affairs offices in the province, the location of these offices and the demographics of the staff currently employed and the lack of disabled staff. He outlined the procurement of staff and the number of posts that had been filled. He explained the IT situation in the offices and hospitals and the problems faced as a port of entry. He shared the milestones, achievements and challenges. See presentation.
Mr Swart (DA) was concerned about the 34 000 uncollected ID Books. It was a problem if the official thought that people had applied for new IDs because of the opportunity for free photographs and new IDs. It is a problem that people can apply for two IDs. What was the Department doing about it?
Mr Zitha said that the system was being worked on to prevent duplicate IDs. Head office was responsible for that.
The Chairperson said that traditional leaders in the area were giving illegal immigrants letters that guaranteed them an ID. Late registration was causing a big problem because there was a lot of abuse.
Mr Zitha agreed and said that late registration had been intended to assist people but people had abused it and were taking chances. The Department was scrutinising applications more thoroughly and knowing the demographics of the area helped.
Mr Hlahla (Deputy Director-General: IT) said that the problem with duplicates was not only with IDs or in Mpumalanga. It was a national problem for all documents. There was no verification system. The smart card would assist with that problem.
Mr Swart wanted to know about the shortage of immigration officials in the province. How many new immigration officials were they getting and would this solve the problem?
Mr Zitha said that out of the 200 posts being filled, four posts would be for immigration officers.
The Chairperson asked if that would be enough. Mr Zitha said that this was according to the new staff establishment.
The Chairperson asked who had approved it. Mr Zitha said that head office had approved it.
The Chairperson asked how they came to this decision. Mr Zitha explained that a work study had been done.
The Chairperson asked when the 1000 posts would be filled. Mr Zitha said from 2005 onwards.
The Chairperson said that TAS started last year so why were vacancies only filled now. Mr Zitha said that in the last financial year they had filled the critical posts. The approved staff establishment from the end of last year would address the new financial year.
The Chairperson said that if the province had fourteen immigration officials how could the immigration officers interrogate people in the rural areas? How did they deal with situations without immigration officers?
Mr Zitha said that they now scrutinised applications and applications were only done through the district offices. They no longer just approved applications. Regardless of this, the problems remained.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) asked how often the manager visited the regional offices. Was there a programme that he followed?
Mr Zitha said that he did provincial visits with the assistance of his two deputy directors. They were opening another office, which would help. According to the business plan the manager had to visit every office once per quarter. They had limited staff for such a vast area.
The Chairperson asked if he visited the offices and whether there was a programme. Mr Zitha said yes.
Mr Sibande asked about the allegations of farmers on the border hiring illegal immigrants who were children. Mr Zitha said that they were aware of the problem and it had been addressed along with the Department of Labour. Home Affairs did go out and investigate the situation but another Department was managing it.
Mr Sibande wanted to know about the relationship between Home Affairs and the traditional leaders. Traditional leaders had been involved in the discrepancies with IDs.
Mr Zitha said that the Department had good relations with the House of Traditional Affairs. The Department attended meetings of traditional Chiefs. The Chiefs had allocated the Department space within their offices but the Department did not have enough personnel for that office. The Chiefs provided 54 provincial government members to assist the Department. It was discovered that these 54 personnel were the outcasts from the traditional leadership cadre. It was furthermore an issue of control - the personnel were still doing tasks for the Chiefs, which interrupted the work of the Department. The personnel were also expected to do work for Social Services. They would be wearing two caps – approving birth certificates and grants. The Department took up the issue with the Premier’s office but had not received a response. Provincial government was paying them.
The Chairperson wanted clarity on whether these people processed the grants. Mr Zitha said that they did so under the supervision of Social Services.
The Chairperson asked why Mr Zitha was not saying more about traditional leaders. The Department had laid a charge against the traditional leaders. Was the relationship really fine?
Mr Zitha said that it had been sorted out. The Department had met with the relevant Chief. He had been giving people from Swaziland a letter of support for a fee.
Mr Sibande was concerned about the hijacking of cars in the province. What programme was in place to protect the vehicles? It had been alleged that it was an inside job.
Mr Sibande asked about the Mozambique border gate. What was in place to protect illegal immigrants from the local gangsters called ‘amaninja’ that assisted with border crossing? He wanted to know about passports that were destroyed upon arrival in South Africa, picked up by border staff and sent back to Mozambique and put back in the system.
Mr Zitha said that the informal crossings from Swaziland and Mozambique were a serious problem. It was an issue that involved other structures. The Department had forwarded reports to the National Immigration Branch (NIB) who had then forwarded them on to the head office. An added problem was that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and not Home Affairs controlled the borderline. The Chief of the NIB was coming to visit the province to assist in charting a way forward. He said that it was true that ‘amaninja’ were operating. Officials collected passports that were dropped and this had to be investigated. Now a gate prevented free movement although people could gain access through other places. SANDF staff had been arrested for assisting people from Mozambique to come through. Home Affairs officials had recorded the fraud on film, which was used for the arrest. He added that there was a river next to the border post and a railway line, which people were using. The SANDF was patrolling the river and the railway line. He said that Mozambicans were now coming through Swaziland because the Buzini tunnel was closed. The tunnel had been closed because many people were using it from all over Africa. The tunnel was also being used to smuggle in goods. The tunnel was being patrolled by the SANDF but there were still many informal crossings.
The Chairperson asked if we were in control? Mr Zitha said that the Department was not in control. There were serious problems but the border was under another Department. The people should come through Home Affairs but they had no jurisdiction.
The Chairperson said that the picture presented of the province was not that good. Traditional leaders were not helping because they were helping illegal immigrants. What needed answering was whether the budget was realistic and if it would address all the problems the province was facing.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) said that immigration officials had raised concerns about the need for bulletproof vests when working with the police. Had Head Office been informed?
Mr A Fraser (Deputy Director-General: National Immigration Branch) said that the Department was aware of the need and that they saw bulletproof vests as a necessity. The national branch was looking at all the tools that immigration officers would need.
Mr Morwamoche raised the concerns by immigration officers about the disparity in their salaries. Immigration officers were paid salaries lower than SARS officials but they did the same job. Did the budget cover the discrepancy?
Mr Fraser said that proposals had been made to the DPSA regarding the remuneration of immigration officers. There was a need to restructure and capacitate officers. In March 2006 when the officers had been through the processes and they had improved, the matter would be finalised. A curriculum that they had to go through had been developed to ensure an elite cadre. This had been advertised through road shows and newsletters for immigration officers.
Mr Morwamoche asked whether people were informed before mobile units arrived. He asked about the shortened hours of the mobile units. This meant that they serviced fewer people and they did not return the next day.
Mr B Mashile (ANC) asked if the vehicles were enough to service the several service points in Mpumalanga.
Mr Zitha said that the vehicles were attached to the staff establishment. It had to match the staff.
Mr Mashile commented that on the study tour they had seen uncollected IDs lying around. The Department had to come up with innovative and creative methods to distribute the 14 IDs remaining.
Mr Mashile said that Mpumalanga was receiving a region from Limpopo. What plans were in place to facilitate the transfer and to ensure ongoing service delivery?
Mr Zitha said that it was still a rumour that had not been authorised by the head office.
Mr Mashile asked about the transformation of Home Affairs and personnel. At one of the offices the junior official knew more about the operations than the senior.
Mr Sibande commented that hijacking was a ‘sacrifice to the people’. He wanted to know more about the allegations that it was an ‘inside job’.
Mr Fraser said that they were looking at setting up tracking and voice communication in all vehicles. There were plans to build a centre to track the locality of vehicles. They were looking to work with Netstar. Proposals had been tabled to deal with corruption. They were looking to shorten the human factor and track human behaviour. It would then be easier to stop irregularities. They were also looking at developing a system where the public could register onto the system and would be forwarded to the operational system.
The Chairperson asked if the regional managers were involved in the work that was being done. Sometimes things were being done at national level and not being filtered down. He asked what Mr Zitha would do to advertise the programme.
Mr Zitha said that road shows had come to the province and workshops were held for all the staff.
The Chairperson asked if the immigration officials knew about the new establishments. Had they been taken along and did they buy into the new work being done?
Mr Fraser said that the problem was at head office because they had not provided the provinces with proper guidance. Head office had to play a greater role. At the moment road shows were held. Newsletters would be a new form of communication.
The Chairperson repeated the example of the junior official knowing more than the senior official. That was the frontline of the Department and it was embarrassing.
Mr Sibande pointed out that the province was a large one and the Department had to travel long distances to provide services. Had travel expenses been included in the budget?
Mr Zitha said that the current staff establishment had not been approved in terms of civic services. They were still having the same problems of trying to stretch out the number of officials to reach more people.
Ms N Gxowa (ANC) asked if the service was working at the seven computerised hospitals.
Mr W Skhosana said that some vehicles could not reach some areas because of the terrain. Had vehicles suitable for the terrain been requisitioned?
Mr Zitha said that they had requisitioned suitable vehicles and they would be receiving trucks.
The Chairperson asked when they would be arriving. When they left the province for the study tour they were still waiting to receive the trucks. Where was the blockage?
Mr Khambule (Chief Financial Officer) said that the vehicles were being registered in Gauteng. Mpumalanga would get their vehicles by the end of March. The Department had to get proper drivers. He said that if provinces could provide vetted drivers then the distribution would go much faster.
The Chairperson asked if the province was aware of this arrangement. He asked if NIA was working to get drivers.
Mr Khambule said that they had started communicating with the provinces about this.
The Chairperson asked for this information to be recorded. If the provinces could provide their own drivers then vehicles would be delivered to the provinces by the end of the month. This was agreed and noted.
The Chairperson asked what the priority of the province was. Mr Zitha said staffing.
The Chairperson said that he would ask the Minister if meetings with the provincial managers and the Committee could take place every month or every three months.
Mr W Delport, Provincial Manager, listed all the existing and projected Regional and District Offices operating in the province and the permanent service points and mobile units deployed. He highlighted the special situation of the province due to its numerous border posts. He illustrated the racial and gender breakdown of the staff and explained the province’s budgetary needs for the coming financial year.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) inquired how the provincial department had dealt with the reported problem of human trafficking through the Durban harbour. Mr Delport conceded that due to the great size of the unfenced harbour it was difficult to tackle this problem. No special unit dealt with immigration at the harbour. The immigration officers were deployed both at the airport and harbour. Frequently not even the masters of the ships were aware of the illegal foreigners onboard. Nevertheless arrests had been made and illegal immigrants had been deported at the cost of the ship owners
Mr Sibande also asked whether the office had sufficient immigration officials. Mr Delport indicated that this was not the case but that the situation would soon improve as new personnel had been trained.
Mr Sibande asked how the office dealt with the issue of registering customary marriages and how the relationship with the traditional leaders was.
Mr Delport assured the Committee that the office had at their disposal the expertise of Mr J Ricken who held workshops with the officials. The relationship with the traditional leaders was good. The office held regular meetings with all stakeholders before the mobile units were deployed in order not to show any bias.
Mr Sibande wanted to know why there was such a big backlog with refugees and why 52000 IDs were unclaimed. Mr Delport reported that repatriation of refugees was a slow process because the office lacked the necessary staff. However, new staff had been employed and had been trained. This procedure had taken time though because of the rules to be followed. He explained that the number of unclaimed IDs was worrying. A lack of staff and the cancellation of the volunteer program had aggravated the situation. The office had entered into a new arrangement with the Post Office to facilitate better distribution.
Chairperson Chauke wanted to know whether the office had a system to track ID applications to prevent re-applications by the same person and ID abuse. Mr Delport said that all applications were checked against the National Population Register. However, ‘lost’ IDs needed to be replaced and this was beyond the control of the Department.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC) asked how illegal immigrants were deported and whether IDs were also posted overseas. Mr Delport explained that the office liaised with the country of origin (Mozambique, Swaziland) and transported the deportees in own vehicles. It could not be prevented that these persons again entered the Republic thereafter. IDs were sent overseas by diplomatic mail.
Mr M Mabunda, Provincial Manager, briefed the Committee on the existing and projected Regional and District Offices operating in the province and the permanent service points and mobile units deployed. He also mentioned the special problems faced by the province due to the fact that it borders on Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Province had opened two additional border posts. He commented on the progress made in combating corruption within the office and reported that 17 employees had been prosecuted. He illustrated the racial and gender breakdown of the staff and explained the province’s budgetary needs for the coming financial year. He raised the concern of the office’s lack of vehicles.
A Member raised the issue of alignment of the municipality demarcations and the district demarcations. Mr Mabunda explained that this problem would be addressed within the next weeks together with Works Study. No additional staff had been budgeted for in the present budget for the additional two municipal districts.
Mr Sibande asked what measures had been implemented to prevent the open border in the Kruger National Park being abused as an illegal point of entry into South Africa. Mr Mabunda stressed that the fact that the fences between the territories had been removed made the task of preventing illegal immigration more difficult. Repatriations were made at the unofficial border crossing at Pafuri. In his opinion the majority of the illegal immigrants did not pose a threat to South Africa.
Chairperson Chauke stressed that the law had to be applied regardless of the personal opinion of the administration and that South Africa needed to protect its territory. Mr Sibande added that many of these illegal immigrants dealt in drugs, smuggled arms and abused South African social grants. They needed to be considered as dangerous.
Mr Sibande inquired about the question of reported break-ins into Home Affairs offices in Limpopo. Mr Mabunda admitted that IDs had been stolen in the past but now all offices were equipped with safes and overnight all documents were under lock and key. In addition, security was tighter just before holiday periods. Experience had shown that many break-ins occurred then because the perpetrators needed IDs to return to South Africa after the holiday period.
Mr Swart (DA) asked how it could be that the closing balance of IDs at the end of February 2005 could be 10 070. According to the figures in the report there should have been a balance of 15 508. Mr Mabunda agreed that there must have been a calculation error.
Mr Skhosana asked whether the office’s cars were merely in a bad condition or no longer roadworthy and whether or not the office had a permanent officer in each of the hospitals. Mr Mabunda clarified that the cars were merely in a bad condition. With regard to the hospitals he explained that each hospital had an official entrusted with registering births.
Northern Cape briefing
The Northern Cape was represented by its Provincial Manager, Mr Simons.
Mr Sibande asked about the relationship with the traditional leaders and how the Department managed with the vast distances in the province. Mr Simons explained that the relation was very good and their knowledge had been invaluable in the Kuruman area where they had been helped with interpretation.
Mr Skhosana inquired about the distances travelled by the staff and the effects on the department’s vehicle fleet. Mr Simons admitted that the distances the officials needed to travel were a constant problem. It was not easy finding accommodation for their staff when they needed to stay over on their travels. The Department provided accommodation and a daily allowance. Breakdowns of vehicles were frequent but until now, no fatalities had occurred.
The Chairperson asked about the relationship with the stakeholders involved in border control. Mr Simons explained that the relationship was pleasing and monthly meetings were held with all groups involved.
Mr Skhosana asked whether the closing of the Noenipunt border post had inconvenienced the people of the region. Further, he wanted to know who was servicing the Namaqualand area.
Mr Simons explained that the border post closure had not had dramatic consequences since it had been discussed for more than five years and had been done in consultation with the Namibian authorities. In addition, the Rietfontein border was only 40km away and the road was newly tarred. Regarding the question of Namaqualand, Mr Simons said that his provincial department was in charge of the area. The office in Springbok was in the process of being boosted to cater for the needs of the area.
Mr Vundisa asked about the state of transformation in the Department. The last time he had visited the Kimberly offices, he had seen only African staffmember at the counter.
Mr Simons outlined that the last thirty appointments in the Department all had been in line with the racial guidelines and 70% of the people appointed were African. Further, the Department was actively employing the rotation policy which entailed moving all staff to all the various stations within the Department. This helped to multiskill the employees and expose them to all functions within the Department. The equity manager had supervised this policy.
Mr Ndema explained that he had just recently been appointed to the post of Provincial Manager. Nevertheless he would report back on the issues he had already made out to be of concern in the Province. Firstly, he explained that major reorganisation had taken place in Gauteng. The previous two Gauteng regions had been combined under one Province headed by one Provincial Manager. He stressed that there was a great need for additional offices in many of the growing townships such as Atteridgeville, Alexandra and Mamelodi, as well as in Soweto. In some regions, the Department was considering relocating existing offices to points were they would serve more effectively.
He noted that the Department’s Turnaround Project had not reached all levels of the Department. The treatment of the elderly at the offices was a concern as well as the problem of rude officials. Further, he stressed that discipline needed to improve. He would not tolerate staff not wearing nametags, leaving computers, stamps or cash unattended. A further problem was the smoking in offices, bad signage within the department buildings and the issue of "street agents".
Mr Ndema illustrated that the level of computerisation of the offices had reached 100%; however computers were still needed in hospitals. The intern training had successfully begun and 113 of the 157 vacant posts in the Province were in the process of being filled. The offices had also introduced ‘flexi-hours’ offering its clients convenient opening times. The relocation of the migration office from Market Street to Johannesburg had led to a decrease in complaints and corruption.
Mr Skhosana asked why the use of suggestion boxes had not rendered the expected results and why there seemed to be a problem with an internal dress code.
Mr Ndema explained that the suggestion cards needed to be standardised so that the queries could be dealt with in a sensible manner. On the issue of the dress code, he stated that the staff needed to dress appropriately, and the introduction of a corporate dress piece such as a scarf was being considered.
Chairperson Chauke summed up the provincial presentations and outlined the recurring and pressing issues. He suggested a joint meeting with the Department of Public Works to address the issue of office space that affected several of the provincial offices. He commended the Provinces on the progress made with the computerisation of their departments and stated that there had been a significant improvement in the past two years. The support offered to the provinces needed to be made use of. He understood that the need for government vehicles was an ongoing problem, but that the present budget went a long way to alleviate this issue.
He stressed that service delivery to the people needed to be the utmost priority. He expressed his grave concern at the unacceptably high number of unclaimed IDs, especially in Gauteng. The issue of racism and lack of transformation in the Western Cape had also come to his attention. On the issue of illegal immigration, he felt that not all officials had a proper understanding of who was considered "illegal". The Chairperson feared that South Africa was developing an image as a xenophobic country. This and the obvious problems with immigration posed great challenges with the 2010 Soccer World Cup looming.
The Chairperson stressed that the Provincial Managers primarily needed to address their staff shortages. The ID campaign needed to become an ever-present goal and not a once-off project. Lastly, he criticised the lack of the presence of the Provincial Managers in the various regional offices. He urged them to inspect these more often and also encouraged them to send in monthly development reports to the Portfolio Committee on advances and problems as they had done previously, so that these issues could be tackled on an ongoing basis.
The meeting was adjourned.