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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 February 2006
SADC PROTOCOL ON THE FACILITATION OF MOVEMENT OF PERSONS: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT
Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)
Documents handed out:
SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons
SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons: Powerpoint presentation
Audio Recording of the meeting
The Committee was not able to consider the report by the Intervention Support Task Team, as it had not yet been discussed by senior officials nor by Cabinet, and had therefore not been tabled in Parliament. It was resolved that the Committee must discuss the report as soon as it had been tabled.
The Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on the aims and terms of the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, which would be implemented once at least nine member states had signed. An implementation framework had to be agreed upon within six months of signature, which meant that all national laws, statutory rules and regulations would need to be reviewed. Members expressed concern how slow South Africa had been in seeking to ratify the Protocol. A bi-lateral agreement between South and Lesotho existed already. The Department accepted that there was a need to improve existing structures. Members resolved not to take a decision on the Protocol as more time was needed to study it, but to meet with the Department the following week to discuss and approve it.
Members expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of progress made by the Department in dealing with the myriad of internal problems. These issues impacted negatively on all South Africans. An urgent meeting would be set up with the Department to discuss progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations and eliminating the Department's problems.
Report of Intervention Support Task Team
The Chairperson tabled a letter addressed to him by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, notifying the Committee that senior officials would only discuss the report of the Intervention Support Task team on 26 February. Cabinet also still needed to discuss the report. The Committee could therefore not engage with these matters. This was unfortunate since without this report, and bearing the very strict schedules in mind, the Committee's oversight role, especially in relation to the strategic plan and annual report, would be compromised.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was concerned about the continuing high proportion of “acting” officials in management structures of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). He asked why the officials continued to resign, having served for only one or two years with the Department. Although slight progress had been made, the Department still needed urgently to do much more to address its complex and pressing problems. DHA had not yet provided feedback on the progress of the Committee's recommendations to the Department. The challenges leading to the recommendations were again highlighted in DHA's 2005/2006 Annual Report. The lack of improvement in the delivery of services to South Africans was unacceptable.
The Chairperson noted that the President, in his recent State of the Nation address, had highlighted the urgent problems faced by departments. These included staff capacity, the ineffectiveness of IT systems, and the need for the implementation of the recommendations of the Intervention Support Task Team.
SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons: Department of Home Affairs briefing
Mr Yusuf Simons (Acting Deputy Director-General: National Immigration Bureau) tabled an overview of the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons (the Protocol). He reported that the main objective of the Protocol was to develop policies that would progressively eliminate obstacles to the movement of persons into and within signatory countries. Essentially persons would find it easier to enter a signatory country lawfully without a visa for up to ninety days. Bi-lateral agreements would guide the admission of persons without any travel documents.
The protocol would be implemented after at least nine member states had signed. Member states also needed to agree on an implementation framework within six months of the signature. This meant that all national laws, statutory rules and regulations needed to be reviewed in order to promote the objectives of the protocol.
Ms S Kaylan (DA) noted that the quality of the presentation was insensitive to those who might be visually impaired.
The Chairperson said that Members needed to engage with the Protocol before they could pose questions. He was concerned about how slow South Africa had been in ratifying this document, since most other countries had already debated and discussed it.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) wanted to know when the Protocol would be implemented.
Mr Simons answered that nine states needed to ratify the protocol. A meeting in Tanzania earlier in the month had stressed the importance of the signing and ratification of the Protocol. Member states were also required to brief officials on the progress in preparing systems and legislation for the implementation. The Framework Agreement was an integral document to ensure that the Protocol was streamlined into domestic laws and processes.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) wanted to know what the implications of waiver of visas would be in regard to Lesotho.
Mr Simons answered that South Africa and Lesotho had signed an agreement that allowed Lesotho citizens to enter South Africa without a visa certificate for 30-day periods every 12 months. Although the Protocol prescribed a 90-day period for stay without a certificate, bi-lateral agreements could be made to extend such periods.
Mr W Skhosana and Ms C Ludwabe (ANC) asked whether the problems in the population register had been sorted out.
The Chairperson advised that the questions raised would be thoroughly examined at the next meeting, which needed to be scheduled for the earliest possible date within the next week or so. In the meantime Members should familiarise themselves with the protocol.
The Chairperson asked what programmes were in place to ensure that the Protocol could be effectively implemented.
Mr Simons acknowledged the need for improving existing structures. He added that the Protocol necessitated the review of existing legislation to enable easier implementation. He also stressed the improvement of intergovernmental cooperation, as the implementation of the agreement was a cross-cutting responsibility.
The Chairperson formally proposed, and the Committee resolved that the Committee should consider the report of the Intervention Task Team as soon as it was tabled in Parliament. He also proposed that an urgent meeting be set up with the DHA to discuss progress in implementing the Committee’s recommendations
The Chairperson emphasised the importance of eliminating the problems faced by the Department. Parliament, in particular this Committee, must hold the Department to account. It was unacceptable that people had to wait for long periods before receiving an ID book, especially those pensioners who needed to produce their IDs in order to receive their pension. The DHA challenges had a direct impact on the lives of South Africans.
The meeting was adjourned.