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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 August 2007
PSL CEO CONTRACT, BOSASA CONTRACT & MARABASTAD REFUGEE RECEPTION CENTRE TURNAROUND: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr P Chauke (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Marabastad Crack Team Project PowerPoint presentation
Department of Home Affairs on Auditor General’s Performance Audits of the Immigration Process
Audio recording of the meeting
The Committee received briefings from the Department of Home Affairs on the processes it followed when granting work permits to foreign sports administrators, the negotiations as far as the BOSASA contract as well as on the progress that had been made on improving the conditions at the Marabastad refugee reception centre. It was agreed that in the interest of the transformation of the sporting fraternity and in accordance with the regulations and legislation, foreign administrators ought only to be allowed with the understanding that South African individuals would be skilled during the foreign administrator’s term. The Department made clear that anyone who was found in the country without the proper documentation was in contravention of the law and had to be deported.
The Department was wary of sharing the details of the BOSASA contract as the negotiations were still underway. Following the SCOPA probe into the contract, which seemed inappropriate and exploitative, the Department had embarked on negotiations with the service provider. The Committee made clear that it would have to be updated on the process since the matter involved the appropriation of public funds. The contract would be up for review in April 2008.
On a recent visit to the Marabastad refugee reception centre, the Committee had been appalled by the conditions it had found. It had given the Department fourteen days in which address the matter. The Chairperson was not entirely satisfied that the Department understood the gravity of the situation. The Committee would give them the additional six weeks they requested to address the issues which related to systems, hygiene and management. It had faith that the current leadership could affect the necessary change. It was made clear that Africans seeking asylum could not leave the dire situations in their countries of origin only to be subjected to inhumane living conditions and long waiting periods in South Africa.
Members also raised concern about the Democratic Alliance’s failure to attend and participate in meetings.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) as well as two members from the Sport and Recreation Portfolio Committee, Mr B Khompela (Chairperson) and Mr M Dikgackwi.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) said that Parliament was the representative of all the people of South Africa and found it interesting that only the African National Congress Members of the Committee were present at that day’s meeting. He commented on the fact that Members of other parties did not attend a meeting on Fridays.
The Chairperson shared the Member’s concern and said that he had intended to address the absences at some point. The Democratic Alliance (DA) had recently changed the Members they had seconded to the Committee. The new Members went about the country visiting home affairs offices, condemned the DHA for the manner in which it treated Zimbabwe and arguing for the establishment of refugee camps. The Committee had undertaken a number of oversight visits during the recent recess, but the DA Members had not joined in any of those activities. They claimed to have much knowledge about the Department yet refused to participate in the Committee’s activities. They had instead formed their own committee that visited offices and interviewed officials and then used the information they gathered from these interactions to raise questions in the National Assembly (NA). He reminded the Committee that all Members of the Committee were supposed to process information together.
He was confident that ultimately nothing would stop the other Members from doing the work Parliament expected them to do – oversight was their responsibility and would continue. If the DA decided to undermine the committees of Parliament and thus Parliament, no one would take them seriously anymore. He felt that if they were boycotting the Committee they should say so. The Committee had always raised pertinent issues. The Committee was the platform where things had to be debated. He was disappointed that the main opposition party behaved like “loose cannons”. He would appreciate if they explained themselves to Parliament. The Committee would then right a formal letter to the Speaker to enquire after the DA’s position in the Committee.
Contract of the new Premier Soccer League Chief Executive Officer Briefing
The Chairperson explained that his counterpart in the Sport and Recreation Portfolio Committee had raised serious issues with regard to the process the DHA followed when issuing permits to foreigners who came to administer all sports, not only soccer and rugby, in the country. Mr Khompela had put his concerns in a letter, and immediately upon its receipt, the Committee had started its interaction with the DHA on the matter. The DHA had now been invited to explain the policy and processes that guided the issuing of permits to such administrators. Any such policy and process would have to be guided by the Immigration Act.
The Committee knew that a position had to be advertised and should no such skill be found locally, it may be sought internationally. If a foreign administrator was appointed, his or her term of office had to be used to ensure that a South African was adequately trained to fill the position upon the expiry of the contract. The PSL had apparently not advertised the position, nor did they ensure that during the previous CEO’s term, a South African was groomed to take up that seat. Mr Chauke had suggested to Mr Khompela that federations who recruited skills from outside would at some stage have to appear before Parliament to offer an explanation. He added that it would be important to also understand the difference between the policies that governed the recruitment of players and administrators.
Mr Mavuso Msimang, Director General DHA, said that on 3 August 2007 the DHA directorate for permits received a request from Dr Irvin Khoza, indicating the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) intention to appoint Mr Simms as CEO. Because Mr Howard Simms had been ‘head-hunted’, no advertisement of the position had appeared in the newspapers as was required by the regulations 16(4) of the Immigration Act (2005). The legislation provided for the Minister to waive any prescribed requirement or form if good caused existed. The Minister had, in terms of Section 31(2)(c) of the Act, delegated the authority to the level of Deputy Director. That position was vacant so the acting Chief Director carried it out. Based on the motivation given by Dr Khoza the DHA had no reason to doubt the motivation why Mr Simms had been identified as the most suitable candidate. Consequently a waiver was granted.
The Chairperson thought it important that the Committee had clarity on what the DHA’s general operations as far as sports federations were. He knew that during the sporting season, teams recruited many players, particularly players from the African continent. These players then participated in the trials and those who qualified joined the teams that recruited them. Those who failed to qualify, had to return to their countries of origin. Experience had shown this posed a particular challenge: there was no monitoring of how many players had initially been recruited, how many qualified and thus how many ought to return to their countries of origin. Those who stayed of course had to receive some kind of permit allowing them to stay and work in South Africa. Some of the players who did not qualify, stayed in South Africa despite the fact that they had no permits.
He also sought clarity on how the permits to companies such as the PSL worked and asked how they made sure that when a foreigner was appointed, an ‘understudy’ was trained to take the position once it became vacant again. The case of the new rugby trainer, Mr Eddie Jones, ought also to be discussed. He added that one ought also not to lose sight of the role the Department of Labour played in this regard. The Committee would return to the waiver at a later stage.
Mr Msimang said that currently those who were granted work permits to be in the country had to leave once the permits expired. Those who remained beyond that date would be reported and fined upon discovery.
The Chairperson asked if the DHA had a system in place for monitoring the number of players that came into the country and when they needed to leave South Africa. Currently there were players who had been in the country for a long time. Their permits had expired and their teams were now applying for residence on their behalf.
Mr Msimang said that he was not aware of regulations that specifically applied to sports codes. The information he had applied to every foreigner that came to work in the country.
Mr Yusuf Simons, Acting Deputy Director General of the Immigration branch, said that the immigration inspectorate monitored compliance with permit conditions. It had however also been put on record that the National Immigration Branch was at the moment facing capacity challenges. The presentation to be made later that day would look at immigration issues at ports of entry and preparations that the DHA had so far made for the 2010 World Cup. He confirmed that at present there was no specific unit for monitoring permits to the sports fraternity.
Mr Beukman said that according to the regulations, applicants had to prove that they had advertised posts but that no suitable candidates could be found locally. He thought that there were many appropriately skilled South Africans who could have filled the position Mr Eddie Jones had taken. He asked if the DHA made sure that sport federations complied with the “technical requirements of the Act”.
Mr Khompela thanked the Committee for allowing his committee to take part in the discussion. The Sport Portfolio Committee had recently returned from a study visit to Japan and Korea and had experience of the sophisticated system those countries used to track the visitors for work and otherwise, that their countries received. In his Committee’s experience, the DHA granted permits but had no monitoring system. There were people whose permits had expired but who had been in the country for almost four years.
Mr Khompela recalled that Dr Khoza himself had suggested the skills transfer condition. The DHA never determined whether those conditions had been met and once the DHA had granted the second or third permit it was a fait accompli.
Mr Khompela said that Eddie Jones had arrived in the country without the necessary permits allowing him to work here. The case of the national soccer coach Mr Carlos Alberto Parreira had been similar and it was the Portfolio Committee who alerted the DHA to the fact, resulting in Mr Parreira being fined. South Africans considered what happened in the sports fraternity and looked to the Portfolio Committee for answers, yet it was the DHA that gave permits “will-nilly”.
Mr Dikgackwi reminded the Committee that South African sport was facing a huge transformation challenge. If DHA was not going to assist the sport fraternity, the country would continually be told that South Africans did not have the necessarily skills to fill these key positions. One should not forget that there was also still much racism within the sporting fraternity. South African coaches were leading junior teams to great success and he wondered why they could not be roped in to assist Jake White. There were suitable candidates but they were overlooked because they were neither white nor foreign.
On his Committee’s visit to Asia, they had learnt that in some countries unemployment was as low as 4,5% because they made sure that their nationals filled positions. South Africa gave key positions to foreigners yet it had an unemployment rate of 36%.
The Chairperson realised that it would be very difficult to find solutions to the problems right there and then. He emphasised that there was a need to establish what the issues were and they should then consider what the way forward would be.
Mr Msimang noted the two problems the Committee had highlighted: the lack of a tracking system and ineffective implementation of the law. He thought that what was needed was an electronic system for tracking all foreigners that came into the country. If the conditions of the issuing of a work permit for Trevor Philips were that he should have during his term trained a South African, the DHA ought not to have granted the second permit.
Mr M Sikakane (ANC) said that the Portfolio Committee on Sport dealt with the sport fraternity. He wondered why that Committee had not been able to address the matter, by calling the different federations to account. The DHA only received applications and did not deal with the role players on a regular basis.
He was not so optimistic about devising a system whereby one could track down those people who failed to leave the country once their permits had expired. It was an international problem – people arrived in a country with the correct permits, but then disappeared. Short of stopping everyone in the street to ask for their permits, he could not see how such a system would work.
Mr Khompela explained that when Dr Khosa applied for anyone to come into the country he presented the PC with a “pile of motivations”. The undertaking that the appointment of foreigners would go hand in hand with skills transfer was always made clear. That was the extent of the Portfolio Committee’s interaction on the matter. The statements made by Mr Msimang made clear that those undertakings were not tested when the DHA granted permits.
He added that everyone knew what was happening within the sporting fraternity – there was no need to have police deployed to check permits. The people his Committee was concerned about were well known figures who were in the public eye. It would be easy to get in touch with them so that their permits could be checked. Trevor Philips was well known - everyone knew that he was working illegally.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) asked whether the DHA had already received a list if dignitaries who would be participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He said that capturing those details now would mean that “congestion” would be avoided closer to the event.
The Chairperson reminded the Member that matters related to the 2010 World Cup would be addressed once the Committee had received that presentation.
Mr Sibande asked whether the DHA had succeeded in ensuring that its systems were coordinated.
Mr Beukman thought that it would be useful if the two Committees met with other stakeholders so that whatever solutions were found would have the buy-in of all the role players. It was important that the “internal squabbles” of the sporting fraternity did not become a DHA problem. The DHA had to find a way whereby it forged a more direct relationship with the sporting bodies.
Mr Msimang said that the DHA would be happy to pursue any practical suggestions. The letter the DHA had received from Dr Khosa had stated that “since Trevor Philips’ appointment the PSL has been seeking a suitable successor to be groomed, preferably an African. This was done through the appointment of Mr Bafana Dlamini who has since joined Supersport United and Mr Sizwe Nzimande who has since accepted a position with the SABC”, the letter went on to state that the candidate was “convinced of the need to identify, train groom a successor to his position.” Based on this motivation, the DHA had granted the permit.
The Chairperson believed that the Sport Portfolio Committee had done the right thing in raising the matter with the Home Affairs Committee who had the responsibility to respond to those concerns. When conducting its business the DHA had to take two things into account: the general policy for issuing of work permits as well as the government policy about skills transfer. In applying their general policy, the DHA had to be guided by the government’s policy.
He felt that the directors general of the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR) and the DHA had to engage on the matter. The Ministers were already engaging each other at their level. The PSL could not make the decision on such a high profile appointment without consulting the Minister. The DHA, DSR and federations had to agree on a general standard for how they would approach he matter. If federations were allowed to act on their own, transformation would not be achieved. The PSL was not a federation but a registered company. The appointment of the CEO had to be decided in compliance with certain regulations. One also had to bear in mind that the appointment of players and administrators had to be dealt with separately.
Dr S Huang (ANC) pointed out that no matter where the application came from, the DHA had to follow the processes they had in place.
The Chairperson felt that if there were synergy between the DHA and the federations, the problems would not exist. It was a good thing that people loved South Africa and wanted to stay – but they needed to follow the appropriate processes. The process for players and administration ought to be different. While internationally players did sometimes succeed in moving around without proper permits, the case was not the same for administrators. The gap needed to be closed.
He urged the Mr Msimang to discuss the matter with his counterpart so that the gaps in the system could be closed. He again stressed that one had to adhere to Government policy to ensure that South African skills were developed. He suggested that all stakeholders should agree on a strategy. He appreciated the way in which the Director General had responded to the problem but pointed out that the challenges nevertheless persisted. He trusted that the Director General would, considering his experience, be able to develop the necessary systems at DHA.
Mr Msimang said that he would meet with his counterpart in DSR. He added that perhaps the solution ought to be sought in improved legislation. He felt that while the matter on the table now related to sport, any other industry could soon raise the same concerns resulting in the DHA being “caned all the time”. The legislation should provide for skills and appointments.
The Chairperson said that one would need to look at the immigration legislation in its entirety and the role the Department of Labour (DOL) played as that department gave permission for any skilled professionals to come into the country. He added that contrary to what the Director General said, the law did require that special permission be sought to grant positions to foreigners.
BOSASA Contract Briefing
The Chairperson referring to an interaction the DHA had had with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in which the Department’s contract with the service provider at the Lindela Repatriation Centre had raised some concerns. That the matter had not been raised during the budget hearings was an oversight on the part of the Portfolio Committee. The DHA would that day have the opportunity to explain the situation to the Committee.
The Committee had received a copy of the confidential BOSASA contract. It had also in the past interacted with the service provider as well as the DHA but those interactions focused on illegal immigrants’ conditions of detention and transport. A month earlier the Committee had visited Lindela. The Chairperson recalled that the former Director General had told the Committee that the BOSASA agreement was the most inexpensive and that that service provider was the only one that provided such accommodation in the area. The Committee had been guided by the information it had received. They had not gone through the agreement partly because that was better done by the DHA, and partly because capacity constraints at Parliament made such an exercise difficult.
Mr Msimang was glad that the Chairperson had given the context in which the matter became public. SCOPA had raised questions around the apparently “very exploitative relationships” between the DHA and BOSASA. Following that meeting, the DHA met with the service provider and the contract was now under discussion.
He explained that the DHA would like the total cost to be unpacked and that the cost per person per day or per week or per month be indicated. The current costing appeared to base the variable cost on 3 450 individuals per day. The records however indicated that the average number of people accommodated there had over the years never been in excess of 1 500 people.
BOSASA defended their position saying that their facility was custom-built and that the infrastructure cost did not change depending on the number of people. The cost for something that was custom-built had to be amortized over time and that the cost was to the client.
The DHA felt that it would be difficult to justify the current payment structure unless the cost was unpacked. The information the Chairperson had received stated that the cost of the BOSASA service was the lowest compared to what was paid in some countries including Australia and Mexico, and the lowest compared to what correctional facilities paid for similar services. The comparison was unrealistic as much of the cost was embedded in the infrastructure cost.
Mr Msimang said that due to the sensitive nature of the matter, he was wary of discussing it in the presence of the media. The matter was under negotiation and it would be reported “to the prejudice of the DHA and the Government.
The Chairperson noted that the contract would be up for review in April. According to what had been said at the SCOPA meeting, everything would be done to arrive at a more favourable agreement. He realised that in the light of that review, the DHA would not be able to go through the content of the current contract.
The contract the Committee had received contained a request that the document could not be shared with anyone without the Director General’s consent. The Chairperson pointed out that the document was not classified, thus was a public document. The Committee had an interest in the matter because it involved public money and it was its responsibility to ensure that the money was accurately accounted for.
He asked the DHA to share what had been said to SCOPA with the Committee. He added that parliamentary committees were open to the public; in exceptional circumstances the Committee could request that a closed meeting be scheduled. The BOSASA matter had been raised openly. The Committee would decide how it would proceed with it.
Mr Msimang said that SCOPA had looked at the reported cost the DHA paid to BOSASA. That cost was based on the premise that, on any given day, there would be 3 250 people at the centre. The cost was calculated at R79 per person. The reality was that on average the number of people at the facility averaged R1 500. The cost thus appeared exploitative.
BOSASA had responded that the variable cost would not be affected by the fixed cost. They argued that regardless of the number of people at the facility they still had to pay for the cost of the building. The DHA had countered that it wanted the real cost per individual and infrastructure cost should be reflected separately. The DHA was in the middle of the negotiations. The Committee could receive a report on the negotiations but such a report would not reflect the end result since the matter was ongoing. He added that there was information that he would not want to share as it would render the DHA very vulnerable at this stage. The negotiations would “have a result” and the result would be conveyed.
Mr Beukman noted that there should be a monthly meeting of a joint committee consisting of Lindela and the DHA, chaired by the Department, so that the terms of the provision of services could be discussed. He asked if that clause of the contract was in operation. The clause provided an internal remedy for any problems.
Mr Simons said that staff of Lindela and the DHA met regularly. The Director of Deportations went to the centre more than once a month. A matter around meals that had been raised by the Muslim fraternity had been successfully resolved through such meetings.
Mr Msimang added that the issue of the contract was not discussed by that meeting. The contract could only be reviewed when the time for review arose.
Dr Huang wondered how the DHA could have agreed to a contract that more than doubled the average number of people that were at the facility. He asked how Parliament could address the matter.
The Chairperson said that the responsibility to fill up the beds was not up to BOSASA. DHA had to determine the number of people that should be catered for.
Mr Beukman pointed out that according to the contract both parties would have agreed to the number of people that would be catered for.
Ms Msimang pointed out that there were aspects of the contract that some of the officials found pernicious and that was what was being negotiated.
The Chairperson felt that there were more issues involved that what was being raised at the SCOPA meeting. He proposed that the Committee allow the engagement with BOSASA to continue pending the review in April. The concerns should be addressed during that review. Upon the finalisation of the negotiations, the DHA should appear before the Committee again. He reiterated that the Committee was most concerned about how public money was being spent. The Committee would in the meantime study the contract, which they had received that day only. By the time of the next interaction Members would then be able to make meaningful contributions.
Dr Huang wondered how the BOSASA contract impacted on the contracts with the subcontractors.
The Chairperson said that the DHA did not deal with the subcontractors; that was up to the Lindela group. He requested the Members to study the minutes of the SCOPA meeting referred to as it raised a number of additional concerns. The Committee had also raised most of the issues the Auditor General had raised, such as missing equipment. He requested the DHA to brief the Committee at some point on the additional issues.
Conditions at the Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre
The Chairperson said that the findings of the Committee’s oversight visit to Gauteng would be tabled in September. During the Committee’s recent oversight visit to Gauteng the Committee visited the Marabastad centre. The findings would be contained in the report that would be tabled in September so he would not elaborate on it too much.
The conditions at that office were “appalling”. The office was being run in a chaotic manner, systems were non-existent and the facilities were not welcoming or user-friendly. The offices were poorly furnished and dirty – the Department of Health (DOH) had in fact issued a certificate declaring the Marabastad office a disaster. There was a shortage of staff as well as a lack of leadership and management. There were no programmes that informed the day-to-day running of the office. Applicants had to wait in long queues to be served and there were no shelters or ablution facilities. People often had to wait for two to three weeks before receiving any service. The majority of the people there were African asylum seekers who came from “very terrible circumstances in their countries of origin” only to find themselves having to live outside that office. Even those asylum seekers that had the Section 22 permit were forced to stay within 1km of the office or face arrest. Women and children had to sleep outside the offices so that they could have a better chance of receiving service.
The DHA Head Office was situated less than 5km from Marabastad, and that made the conditions even more deplorable. After that visit the Committee had given the DHA 14 days in which to do something about the state of the office and had even suggested, in a letter, that the offices be closed. Those 14 days had now passed and the Committee, noting that the offices had not been closed, was curious about what had been done to improve the conditions at the centre.
Marabastad Crack Team Project - Presentation
Mr Simons, who made the presentation, said that the Committee could not have visited the Marabastad centre at a more appropriate time. The conditions at that office could not get any worse than what it had been at the time of the visit. The DHA was now faced with a perfect opportunity to show the Committee with what it could do to change the situation there.
His presentation was detailed so that the Committee could see the type of planning and work that had so far gone into turning around the situation at the office. He thought it necessary to point out that the DHA had not been unaware of the situation, nor had it simply ignored it and then sprung into action after the Committee’s visit. The Turnaround Team had in June or July identified the Refugee Affairs Unit as one of the work streams where a ‘quick win’ operation had to take place.
Part of the planning was for six months but also looked at six weeks to completely turn around. The problems stemmed from as far back as 2002 and thus the two-week period the Committee had given was quite tight. He would present what could be achieved within the 14 days. Some of the interventions he would highlight started before the 14 days and would not take only 14 days to become visible. Marabastad was just one of the symptoms of the general malaise that faced Refugee Affairs.
The presentation concluded with an update on the measures that had so far been put in place to turn the entire unit around.
Mr Sibande said that if the measures reported in the presentation had in fact been put in place it was commendable. He was particularly concerned about the cleanliness of the centre – it was important that the service that would be providing the cleaning was made aware that the inside of the buildings as well as the outside premises had to be kept clean. He was concerned that the cleaners that were there worked without any monitoring or supervision. It had even been reported that they came to work when they pleased.
Mr Sibande hoped that action would also be taken as far as DOH’s report on the state of the Marabastad centre was concerned. He said that while one could bring mobile toilets, it was imperative that their maintenance and cleanliness was closely supervised.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC) applauded the work the DHA had done so far at Marabastad. He noted that the City of Tshwane had agreed to regularly clean around the centre while six cleaners would clean inside the building. He asked whether the ten mobile toilets would be situated in or outside the premises – he pointed out that when officials left for the day, refugees would still be at the centre. The Member shared Mr Sibande’s concern about the maintenance of the toilets.
Mr Simons explained that although the letter from the Director-General had indicated that there were four toilets, the DHA had increased it to ten as soon as it realised that four would be insufficient. They were placed in the courtyard and were guarded by security officers. The service provider that provided the toilets also saw its the daily cleaning.
An ANC Member wondered what action was taken against those workers who arrived late for work, did not work when they arrived or did not pitch up for work at all.
Mr Simons said that latecomers were disciplined and staff members were suspended “quite often”. Although caretaker managers had been placed at offices like Marabastad, as soon as these managers made changes they received death threats. The solution was “quite clear” to him – he was working with the Labour Relations Unit and that solution ought to become clear to the Committee in about two weeks’ time. In offices that were rife with corruption radical changes needed to be made. It would not be possible to affect change simply by replacing one person.
Mr Sibande said that it had been reported that many “atrocities” took place in the area around the centre. He thought it necessary that the Department of Safety and Security visited the site to compile a report similar to the one done by the DOH. Security at the office also needed to be better co=ordinated.
Mr Simons said replied that the DHA’s Security Directorate had visited the site. At the moment there were eight officers but three more were needed to manage the queues and street agents at the front of the office.
The DHA would get assistance from the City of Tshwane as far as maintaining security in the area outside of the office. They were committed to give that assistance. A joint operation between the DHA’s security inspectorate and the South African Police Service (SAPS) was held recently.
Mr Skhosana wondered what the DHA’s response to the DOH’s report had been.
Mr Simons confirmed that the report had been taken into consideration.
Mr Beukman said that the Committee’s oversight on that visit was significant and presented a milestone in terms of oversight. He thought the DHA’s response to the matters the Committee had raised with top management was excellent. The fact that the response contained timelines, dates and responsibilities was an indication that the task team was taking effect and that the new Director General was giving the DHA the energy it needed. All of these developments were encouraging. It would be important for the DHA to take action in response to the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee would have to make a follow up visit to the facility in late September. He asked whether Marabastad would now be used as a case study for other refugee centres and other offices. He felt that should the proposed model be successful it could be used for line management across the board.
Mr Simons responded that the improvement of the Marabastad office was but one part of the turnaround programme for Refugee Affairs. The rest of the programme included closing down the Rosettenville office and moving it to Crown Mines and then creating a modal of excellence. There were enough staff and processes in place at that office to make that possible. The plan used at Marabastad was originally intended for Rosettenville. The Rosettenville programme had been delayed so that the Marabastad office could be attended to.
He explained that the integration of the backlog project staff into refugee affairs was key to the turnaround programme. These were about 164 staff members that had been with the DHA for about two years. They had been trained and had senior management skills up to director level. Capacity at Marabastad had increased because the DHA had deployed the backlog staff there. These officials came with a completely different attitude – they have not worked with DHA, but rather on projects. They had project management skills and brought a fresh perspective. The model would be used in all the major centres.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had not yet been convinced of the action that had been taken in the 14-day period the Committee had given the DHA to improve the situation. The presentation spoke little of time frames for achieving the turnaround. Turning to the Director General he said that the Committee had over the years raised many issues that the DHA had failed to respond to. Without adequate management none of the plans could be successful.
Mr Simons replied that he had not intended to imply that the work on Marabastad had only started after the Committee’s visit. The management of immigration and refugee matters within the DHA had to be aware of what was happening in their unit. He visited Marabastad about a month before the Committee and was also “disgusted” by what he saw - the pain and suffering of the people there had a profound effect on him. Management could not wait for the Committee to visit before they took action.
The Chairperson interrupted to make Mr Simons aware of the fact that a director within his unit had called a stakeholder meeting but then failed to attend the meeting herself. She did not even send an apology for her absence. He recalled that the Minister had in a budget speech said that her senior management had let her down, and said that though Mr Simons had good intentions, his subordinates were letting him down. The Committee had requested the director in question to submit a written explanation for her failure to attend the meeting. He asked if the office was able to confidently say that it had put a system in place whereby it could deal with all the issues as well as monitor the implementation of the programmes. He remembered that it was due to Mr Simons’ leadership that the Northern Cape offices were now among the most organised in the country. The Committee still respected him for what he had achieved there, but still had to be convinced that work had started in earnest and that progress had been made in the 14 days the Committee had given the DHA. The Committee would not extent that period unless the DHA convinced them of the need for an extension.
Mr Simons said that it would take six weeks to make the changes. He now humbly stood before the Committee and reported what had been achievable within the two weeks the Committee had given. There were certain things that had been logistically impossible. The shelter could for instance not been erected within the 14 days due to the procurement process that needed to be followed. He pleaded with the Committee to allow the DHA the entire six weeks in which to make the changes.
He reported that the unit was in the process of addressing the management concerns. He could not comment on what action was in the pipeline as the labour relations unit was assessing the matter to see what the best course of action would be. He would meet with that unit on Monday to discuss what action would be taken. It would be foolish of him to say that the plans would work without the leadership problems being addressed. He again pleaded for time so that the problem could be addressed once and for all.
He was aware of the wonderful plans that were often presented to the Committee but assured Members that he was orientated towards implementation. As the procurement processes often delayed activities the DHA had not given exact dates, but rather the week in which an action was expected to take place. The plan was drafted in such a way that it gave some leeway should any delays take place.
In the second round of questioning Mr Sibande said that the major problem related to the lack of monitoring of the implementation of programmes.
He said that the Committee had received information saying that illegal immigrants were approached for cheap labour and when they had to be paid their ‘employers’ reported them to the immigration officers so that they could be arrested.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) supported the efforts to address the challenges at Marabastad. She said that the media alleged that there were many problems at the Lindela repatriation centre, but when the Committee made an unannounced visit they found that the situation had not been as bad as media reports suggested.
She sought confirmation that the mobile toilets at the Marabastad office would be cleaned daily. She said that if maintenance of the facilities would not take place then they might as well not be put in place.
Ms Maunye said that the manager at the Marabastad office had said that he sent monthly reports to the DHA Head Office but received no response. She sought the delegation’s response to these allegations. The same manager had raised concerns about the fact that many of the drivers did not have their public drivers permit (PDP) and thus could not drive the mobile units.
Ms Maunye asked whether something had been done about the furniture at the offices.
Mr Skhosana wondered why the DHA did not dispose of furniture it no longer used or that had been damaged. He felt that keeping furniture that could not be used was merely cluttering the premises and added to the oppressive atmosphere.
Dr Huang wondered why the Acting Deputy Director General had not acted on the conditions he had found at the Marabastad office when he visited it a month before the Committee did. He also noted that although the turnaround programme was expected to take six weeks, nine weeks had already passed since his visit. He thought the practice that action was only taken once the Committee had visited totally unacceptable.
Mr Skhosana agreed that management and monitoring had to be addressed quite urgently. He was concerned that although all members of staff signed in late, all of them stopped work at the official end of the day. This lack of motivation and work ethic was reflected in the fact that the Marabastad office showed no evidence of a mission statement that would remind officials of what they were doing there.
The Chairperson reminded the delegation that the Committee would like an update on what the plans for the five refugee reception centres in the country were. To get to these centres refugees had to travel 500 km inland. A refugee had to cross the Beit Bridge and then had to travel all the way to Pretoria to apply for asylum at the refugee reception centre.
He said that the opposition “had been making noise” about the establishment of refugee camps. The notion was unfathomable. He recalled that when Rhodesia fell and Zimbabwe was born, the majority of the white Zimbabweans who carried dual Rhodesian and British citizenship did not return to Britain but came to South Africa. South Africa had a “wonderful plan” that accommodated them and gave them access to farms and businesses. Before that, when Mozambique became independent, the same was done for those white people who had dual Portuguese and Mozambican citizenship. These ‘refugees’ were not placed in camps nor was there any call for such. The majority of these ‘refugees’ eventually acquired citizenship. He was not ignorant of the fact that at that time the South African government stood to benefit from the arrangement.
His biggest concern was that South Africa was unable to come up with a system of assisting African people in particular, who were experiencing difficulties in their countries of birth. Instead they had to come to South Africa only to go through the pain of having wait outside refugee centres for weeks and months for permits. The refugee smart cards were launched two years earlier and still these could not be issued. He said that the mindset and the manner in which policy was applied had to be changed. As part of solidarity to African people the matter had to be addressed urgently. The Committee believed very strongly that South Africans had a responsibility to ensure that the welfare of their African neighbours was taken very seriously when they were in South Africa. It was important also to understand that the situation our African neighbours found themselves in was not of their own making, but the legacy of colonialism. He was not convinced that the DHA was completely aware of how big the challenge was. His impatience with constantly making recommendations, all in futility, while Director General upon Director General left the DHA. He was appalled that although the Head Office was so close to the centre, very few officials had taken the time to visit it. The Committee had much confidence in the current team and in its ability to carry out their mandate, but he was very tired of “singing the same song” and now wanted to see some real action. The Committee would give the DHA the time they requested but wanted to see action.
Mr Msimang said that there was no excuse for the filth, criminality and poor sanitation that had been found at the Marabastad centre. Regardless of the challenges, such conditions could not be allowed. The DHA regarded them as embarrassing and he hoped that the situation would have improved within the six weeks requested.
The DHA’s problems had much to do with structural fundamentals that needed to be addressed. As the Support Intervention Team report had pointed out all the issues could be related to poor management. Although Mr Simons and himself were trying very hard they were “falling short”. He had accepted the responsibility for guiding the turning around of the DHA, on condition that they be allowed to bring on board, for two or three years, people with the capabilities to reach that goal. The turnaround would require not one person, but an entire team. This fact had always been made explicit and was also explicit in the above-mentioned report.
The consultants who were doing the process mapping and engineering and trying to determine how processes could be run more efficiently, were doing a good job. Once their work had been completed however capable individuals would be needed to manage these plans. These management skills did not necessarily cost the money that the public service normally paid. The challenges he had been faced with so far related to getting the right kind of people who could turn around the institution. What needed to be done was very similar to what had been done to turn the South African Revenue Services (SARS) “from the dog it had been to highly respected agency of Government” it was today. He assured the Committee that his team would not give up. They might require money from the private sector so that they could afford the people who could do the job. He added that one would not be able to get people from properly functioning departments to take much more challenging positions at the DHA, The individuals needed would most likely come form the private sector and would demand greater salaries. He added that an arrangement whereby individuals could be seconded to perform certain tasks could be considered.
As reported management capacity remained a key deficiency. It was an embarrassment to hear that someone could call a meeting and then not attend it. He would have expected that regardless of labour relations policy, such an individual would have been written a letter instantly. Managers ensured that they took action as soon as a problem became evident, not once it had escalated to enormous proportions. He said that the problems would nevertheless be addressed, but that it might take longer.
Mr Msimang said that when people came to South Africa seeking asylum they were “potentially” turned into refugees because they received the Section 22 permits. Should 90% of these permit holders eventually be declared to not be refugees, that meant that 90% of them would be non-refugees in a refugee situation. South Africa had “liberal laws” that were very good but one had to learn how to manage them as they were being abused and exploited “quite extensively”. The DHA would act within the law, despite the fact that it knew that most people who sought asylum were not asylum seekers. This contributed to the problems experienced at centres such as Lindela. He would not be surprised if studies indicated that a large number of the people who caused problems for the DHA were not actually refugees. Faced with this problem, there was an urgent need to devise a system whereby one could determine refugee status at the ports of entry. Biometric systems would assist in preventing the same person going through the process over and over again in the hope of success.
The DHA would still present their strategic plan. He said that that plan was imperfect because it was built around resources that were very weak. There were certain aspects that the DHA would be happy to discuss with the Committee in private but which could not be made public. He was restrained in his response because, public as the subject was, solutions were always subject to what could be negotiated and be done at any given time.
In summary he said that the issues related to management, regulations, legislation and processing systems. He added that one of the challenges of transformation was related to taking care to not put people into positions that had not been meaningfully structured and clearly defined.
While agreed with the Chairperson as far as South Africa’s responsibility to its African brothers and sisters, he emphasised that that responsibility had to be shared among the different government departments. Everyone understood the reason why there were so many Zimbabwean refugees – that country was experiencing a serious economic crisis. Some Zimbabweans came to acquire essentials in South Africa and returned and those who could not buy the essentials remained and became a burden on South African systems (social grants) and infrastructure of health, education etc. One need not create refugee camps, but one could perhaps assist the Limpopo Province to create facilities that would admit people without humiliating them by being put in camps. He agreed that the solution would however not be found in creating refugee camps– however clean and well kept.
Dr Huang pointed out that the DHA was responsible for immigration and refugee affairs. He appreciated what Mr Msimang was doing and hoped that he would be with then DHA for a much longer time than his predecessors.
The Chairperson said the Committee had interacted with its Zimbabwean counterpart and learnt that the majority of Zimbabweans wanted to come to South Africa legally but it took them four years to get a passport and a visa, at a cost of R1 000. They were left with no option but to enter illegally. The DHA would have to come up with a proposal on how to address the matter.
The Committee would at a later stage receive a briefing on how far the turnaround process had progressed. Members supported the idea of the Director General appointing the people he needed to change the DHA. He urged the Director General to alert the Committee if he experienced any problems in this regard.
The meeting was adjourned.