SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons: Department of Home Affairs briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


14 November 2006

Ms J Masilo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons: presentation

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Home Affairs on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons. The presentation outlined the basis for the protocol, the ‘evolution’ of the protocol, critical requirements, challenges, signatories and non-signatories, and recommendations. The purpose of the presentation was to provide the Committee with a brief outline of the Protocol. More information regarding funding and implementation would be provided at a later stage.

Members were concerned about the funding for the implementation of the protocol and a lack of sufficient signatories at this time for the protocol to come into effect. Members noted that the impact of the protocol on South African society would have to be carefully assessed.

Department of Home Affairs briefing
Mr G Ntlakana, Acting Deputy Director General, noted that historical and cultural linkages, the need for economic integration and security considerations between Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries necessitated the Protocol. The Protocol was first presented to SADC ten years ago. Due to technical areas of disagreement, the Protocol was not implemented.

The critical requirements were that nine signatories had to give effect to the Protocol, a technical Committee had to be set up and that there had to be co-ordination and co-operation between Member states. The challenges that faced the protocol were funding solutions, harmonisation of laws, addressing economic difficulties in Member states, forced migration issues and bilateral arrangements.

The Protocol would affect socio-political, economic, security and environmental issues in SA. The recommendations noted that ratification of the Protocol should be supported along with closer regional cooperation and increased bilateral engagement of SADC Members of Parliament.

Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) acknowledged the challenges facing the Protocol but supported its implementation. He was concerned about conflicting agendas of the Members of the technical committee.

He asked what mechanisms exist to break deadlocks. He questioned the implications of and needs for the technical committee. He queried the envisioned mechanism to incorporate the technical committee with Parliament. He asked whether there would be public participation.

Mr Michael Ramagoma, Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, responded that the Committee will receive regular updates regarding the Protocol. He noted that the substance requirements are issues that Parliament had already covered. Citizens from SADC countries were already allowed to enter South Africa without a visa and stay for ninety days. This was the result of bilateral agreements. He noted that the Protocol would not be a significant departure from the existing situation.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) queried the structure of the funding formula and whether ratifying the protocol would have financial implications. He asked about the legal implications of having only eight signatories.

Mr Ntlakana noted that any outstanding issues would be covered when the Protocol was analysed in follow up meetings. He noted that there were mechanisms that would deal with the suspension of the Protocol if there were critical problems.

Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether the Protocol was putting the “cart before the horse”. He queried the implications for SADC Members that had not signed. He was concerned about the potential flight of skilled workers to South Africa from poorer SADC Members once the Protocol was in effect.

Mr Ramagoma noted that the Protocol had to be signed first before proceedings could follow. He noted that there was a distinction between illegal and legal movement and that the protocol would help facilitate the legal movement of persons. He noted that issues of free movement were being debated as well as an implementation framework.

He noted that the flight of skilled workers to South Africa was not a concern as the Protocol would be implemented in accordance with the laws of Member countries. He noted that work permits would have to be applied for.

Ms N Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) asked in what forum the movement of persons would be discussed.  She asked which Department had the responsibility to educate citizens about immigrants.

Mr Ntlakana responded that it was the responsibility of various stakeholders in the public and private sectors and government to educate citizens.

The Chairperson asked how urgent the Protocol was to Parliament. She asked who had been responsible for lobbying countries.

Mr Ntlakana replied that it was important that the Protocol be ratified. The Department of Home Affairs could not dictate a timeframe because it was dependent on parliamentary procedures.

Mr M Thetjeng (DA) stated that there was no deadline for countries to commit to the Protocol. He asked what impact the Protocol would have on South Africa. He asked how the protocol would affect citizenship and dual citizenship.

Mr Ntlakana responded that a population register had been urged in SADC countries. He noted that the Protocol could be used as a population register in countries where it did not exist. He also noted that citizenship was a national prerogative and was very important.

Mr Tolo asked why so few countries had signed the protocol. He asked how the Protocol would create favourable conditions and relations with South Africa’s neighbours.

Mr Ntlakana replied that stagnation in signing was the norm. He noted that political systems were not always conducive to signing. He stated that bilateral lobbying was important to encourage countries to sign.

Ms A Qikani (UDM) asked what measures Home Affairs would take to prevent corrupt practices such as the provision of grants to illegal immigrants.

Mr Ramagoma responded that the protocol did not deal with residence requirements. The protocol would deal with the waiver of visa requirements. Issues surrounding theft and fraud would be dealt with. The Department of Home Affairs will attend follow-up meetings with the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.





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