Department’s Provincial Managers Reports & Refugee Amendment Bill: Deliberations on public submissions

Home Affairs

20 May 2008
Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members were briefed by provincial managers from the Department of Home Affairs’ provincial offices of Free State, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape. The presentations by the managers each outlined the organisational structure, vacancy rate, civic matters, office IT security, mobile units, online birth and death registrations, refugee centers and the strategic initiatives.

Members asked the Free State to comment on the Border Control Operational Coordination Committee (BCOCC) and who was heading the BCOCC, and to provide clarity on the common reasons why people registered births so late. The Eastern Cape was asked to comment on why people were still in their positions when there were fraud and corruption cases pending against them. It was also asked to give clarity on the cost of closed circuit cameras, and whether they were necessary. Members noted that CNN and Sky news had been extensively reporting on the xenophobic attacks.  They therefore asked Gauteng to state whether this office had any early warning systems, and what were the contingency plans developed to ensure that the same problems did not recur. Members also noted that this provincial office was responsible for the funding of the OR Tambo airport, and asked for details about the missing stamps.
The Chairperson asked KwaZulu Natal to prepare a report that dealt with the issues that had been raised. The report should be forwarded to the Committee in one month. The Committee would visit the regional offices and would also require someone from head office to attend the oversight visits.

Members stated they the understood the challenges faced by the provinces. The Department wanted to portray an image that it was a wonderful organisation which had been turned around. However it had been established that senior officials were not in touch with what was happening on the ground. It had also been established that money had been taken from provinces to support the turnaround strategy. There were still outstanding issues in which the Committee needed to solve with the Director General and the Minister. The Committee however would not pass the budget until the outstanding issues had been resolved.

The Committee then proceeded with deliberations on the Refugee Amendment Bill, dealing with the submissions made during the public hearings in respect of certain clauses from clause 14 to 27. Most of the suggestions in relation to technical or stylistic changes were acceptable. Under clause 14, the submissions from UCT Law Clinic, Lawyers for Human Rights  and the Law Society of South Africa were not agreed to.  Further deliberation would be required on the new Section 21(B)(5) of the principal Act. It was agreed that time frames should not be included under clause 15. Technical amendments to Section 22(6) would be discussed again. The submissions in relation to clause 16 were not accepted. Clause 27 would be debated further during the caucuses. The Committee would then look again at the Bill, and debate it clause by clause in the following week.

Meeting report

Department of Home Affairs: Provincial Office reports
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Refugee Amendment Bill looked to address the challenges that were currently being faced in South Africa around refugees. There were four refugee centers in the country and it was clear that they were not coping with the influx of refugees.

The Committee would like to hear from the provinces on the initiatives that had been taken to address this matter, as well as their general plans and achievements.

Free State Presentation

Mr Fezile Manyekiso, Free State Provincial Manager, DHA, said the Department strived to ensure the best service to citizens. He said that there were 8 offices in the province, and that they worked with municipalities when it came to obtaining offices for service points. The Department had 16 online hospitals for online birth and death registration, and it should be noted that over 13 000 birth and 11 000 deaths were registered in the province. The Department also had 11 operational mobile units; this was due to the fact that the Department appointed drivers who were able to service the trucks before they drove them. The units serviced 138 points. The Department was working with various stakeholders and Social Development was the biggest stakeholder. Some of the challenges faced were listed. These included the fact that some of the offices were either too small or were inadequate for service delivery. The Department was hoping to have its own offices, as most of the offices were leased premises. In respect of deportations, the Department faced a major challenge because every time it deported individuals, they deportees would always return very quickly. The border line was also not well manned, and since the army was removed, there were fewer people to man the borders, creating a worse challenge. 

Discussion
The Chairperson asked how the survey on the time spent on queues was performed.

Mr Manyekiso replied that people were given a card and asked to fill in a form and before they left the office, they were asked to return their card.

The Chairperson asked Mr Manyekiso to comment on whether he was acting in his post, or permanently employed

Mr Manyekiso replied that he was permanently employed

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked for clarity on how many ports of entries were manned by police.

Mr W Skhosana (ANC) asked for clarity on the BCOCC, and who was heading the BCOCC. In respect of the late registration of birth, the Department should provide clarity on the most common reasons why people did such late registration.

The Chairperson asked for honesty on the challenges that the Department was facing. The Committee, during an oversight visit, found that there were not enough immigration officers in the Free State. Clarity should also be provided on whether performance contracts had been signed.

Mr F Beukman (ANC) asked whether the Department had any anti xenophobic programmes and also asked for its comments on its relations with the Independent Electoral Commission.

Ms F Mathibela (ANC) asked for clarity on the Department’s relationship with other Departments.

Mr Manyekiso replied that the Department had taken over the running of the ports of entries. The main problem was accommodation, as officials had to travel long distances to get to work.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on when the Department took over the ports of entry

Mr Manyekiso replied that the ports of entries were taken over in July last year.

The Chairperson asked whether the BCOCC was present at the ports of entries, and also who was chairing the Committee. He asked for further details on the contingency plans in place to address the issue of staff transport.
 
Mr Manyekiso replied that on all the ports there was a local BCOCC, which met on a monthly basis, and in the province, there was a provincial BCOCC.  The BCOCC was chaired by South African Revenue Service (SARS) and it remained a problematic entity, because it was very difficult for proposals to be implemented. In regard to staff transportation, he indicated that the roads were very bad and they stretched for hundreds of kilometers. The Department had issued 4x4 vehicles to officials.

Mr Manyekiso answered the question on the late registration by explaining that many of those applying for late registration of births were Lesotho citizens, who would get other people would vouch for them. This posed a serious challenge to the Department, and the Department had implemented a system of taking the fingerprints of people who vouched for one another.

Mr Manyekiso then addressed the questions around the xenophobia, stating that the DHA did have an anti-xenophobic office in the province. However there needed to be a huge drive in educating the public against xenophobic behaviour.

Mr S Mathebe (ANC) said that issues of the daily permit needed to be addressed.

Mr Manyekiso replied that the daily permit was a permit which lasted six months, and was stamped at each port of entry. The main intention was that people used the permit every day, and at times they would use photocopies of the permits at the ports of entries. This posed a serious challenge because the permits would be damaged if they were stamped every day, and it was difficult to obtain a new permit.   The Department felt that there needed to be more police officers deployed to the borders, and the Department had been addressing the issues in the Clusters.

The Chairperson said that the systems were not speaking to each other, and asked whether there were any initiatives taken to solve the matter

Mr Manyekiso replied that indeed the present systems were not speaking to each other and the turnaround strategy was aimed at solving the matter.

The Chairperson asked the Department to comment how many times the political heads visited the province

Mr Manyekiso replied that the Minister and Deputy Minister came to the province for Imbizos and the DG came for a fact finding mission last year.

Mr Morwamoche asked Mr Manyekiso to state whether he thought it was right for his supervisors not to provide proper oversight

Mr Manyekiso replied that as a provincial manager, he visited offices from time to time. Managers needed to be on the ground in order to see what was happening.

Eastern Cape Presentation
Ms Sonto Lusu, Eastern Cape Provincial Manager, outlined the vacancy rate, civic matters, office IT security, mobile units, refugee centres and the provincial budget allocation. She noted that the Department had deployed
113 security guards for access control to all offices except Matatiele, as it had been only recently taken over from KwaZulu-Natal.Over the past 12 months there had been an increase in the number of Zimbabweans applying for asylum, and the top three nationalities deported were Zimbabweans, Bangladeshis, and Somalis. The Department was working with the Premier on refugee matters and the fight against xenophobia, and there had been a pledge of R1 million. The Department strengthened participation on all spheres of government in fighting xenophobia.  The Department was also working with various municipalities in order to address certain issues pertaining to service delivery.

Discussion
Ms H Weber (DA) asked why the Eastern Cape did not efficiently utilise the mobile units

Ms I Mars (IFP) noted that the mobile units seemed to be a challenge in the provinces, and the Committee should look into addressing the matter

Mr Beukman asked whether there was any progress in addressing the issues listed in the Auditor-General’s report. Clarity should also be provided on whether the DG and Deputy DG visited the province. He also asked for information on whether the asset verification took place.

Mr Morwamoche asked the Department to state how many ports of entries were manned by the police. Clarity should also be provided on whether the political heads visited the province. He asked for the progress made with the digitisation of ID photos. He further enquired whether the issues pertaining to the communication of the mobile units had been addressed.

Mr Mathebe asked for comment on the immigration trends

Mr S Huang (ANC) congratulated the Chairperson for getting the provincial managers in to speak at the meeting. He asked the Department to comment on why people were still in their positions when they had fraud and corruption cases pending against them. He also asked for figures on the cost of closed circuit cameras, and whether they were really necessary.

The Chairperson said that the issue of the mobile unit needed to be flagged for further discussion.
 
Ms Lusu replied that the Department had been visited by the top management twice. The visits usually involved inspections, and the turnaround team also visited this province in order to address certain issues. With regard to the mobile units, she said that the Department was still awaiting the arrival of licence discs. In regard to issues raised by the Auditor General, she said that steps had been taken against officials. The asset verification however had not been completed; this was due to the fact that new furniture still needed to be barcoded

Mr Beukman asked for the percentage of assets that had been verified

Ms Lusu replied that 100% of the assets had been verified and a report would be provided.

The Chairperson noted that there seemed to be no interaction between the Department of Home Affairs and the police

Ms Lusu said that the Department only manned two ports of entry, and was compromised when it came to the unoccupied border posts. This was as a result of capacity challenges.

Mr Morwamoche said that the Minister had told the Committee that all ports of entries were manned by the police

The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to speak to the Minister to address the matter

Ms Lusu explained that the digitised Identity (ID) photos had not yet been rolled out. The Department was meeting with Telkom and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to address the communication challenges in the mobile units. With regard to immigration trends she said that in Eastern Cape most of the illegal immigrants were Chinese, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi. When the Department arrested illegal immigrants, some were given a chance to leave voluntarily; others had a chance to appeal, and the rest were deported. 

The Chairperson said that the systems still did not talk to each other and it was very difficult to verify false documentation. The number of work and business permits that were on the street did not tally with the numbers that had supposedly been issued by the Department.

Ms Lusu responded that fraudulent documentation was a serious problem and officials had been suspended when fraud was suspected. In relation to the misconduct cases, she noted that about six officials had been suspended. She said, in relation to the closed circuit cameras, that the Department was looking into a total holistic situation.
Ms Maunye asked whether the issue regarding Matatiele municipality had been resolved.

Ms Lusu replied that there was a hand over ceremony in April, and Matatiele was no longer part of Kwazulu Natal.

The Chairperson asked Ms Lusu to comment on how long she would be holding an acting position.

Ms Lusu replied that the whole issue of provincial managers was still under review and would be decided once the turnaround was completed

Mr Mathebe asked whether the post had been advertised,

Ms Lusu replied that the post was advertised and she was interviewed but was found not to be a suitable candidate.

Gauteng Presentation
Mr Raynold Ndema, Provincial Manager, Gauteng Province, in his presentation outlined the main provincial achievements, ID campaigns, financial performance and gave a strategic analysis.  He said that the Department had managed to increase the number of IDs issued by 11% and had reduced the incorrect number of applications by 9%. The Department faced many challenges, which included the upgrading of offices and the filling of vacancies. In order to address the challenges, the Department was planning on appointing immigration officers to various service points in Gauteng, and asked for more funding to be made available in order to address the capacity issues. The Department also urged the Department of Public Works to look into the needs of many of the regional and provincial offices.

Discussion
The Chairperson said noted that the Portfolio Committee had advised the Department against defending the case relating to the Home Affairs employee who had commenced court proceedings against the Department.

Mr Ndema replied that he was not aware of that advice being given

The Chairperson recalled that the Committee did advise Mr Ndema specifically
 
Mr Ndema responded that he thought the advice was being given informally, and the case was handled by the Head Office.

Mr Mathebe said that Mr Ndema should not come and tell the Committee that he was not interested in what was happening in the province, and also should not try and plead ignorance

Mr Ndema said that he would look into the case and inform the Committee at a later stage

The Chairperson asked for clarity on how the national soccer coach received his work permit so quickly

Mr Ndema replied that when the Department received an application, they looked to see whether certain conditions had been met. Once the conditions had been met, then a permit was issued.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the role of the Department of Labour in such a process.

Mr Ndema replied that the DHA considered the requirements and that certain labour requirements could be waived

The Chairperson asked why the labour requirement was waived
 
Mr Ndema replied that the waiver came from Head Office, based on an motivation letter that came from the employer.

Mr Morwamoche sought clarity on aircrafts landing on private airstrips, and asked what was done to try to monitor and address the matter. He also noted that since this provincial office was responsible for the funding of the OR Tambo airport, clarity should be provided on the missing stamps. He drew attention to the fact that more than 15 stamps were still missing.

Mr Morwamoche said that it had also been reported that many airlines still owed funds to Home Affairs, and asked the Department to explain why it took a long time to collect funds from airlines.  The Department should also comment on its failures to pick up on key issues, and why it was always the tabloids who identified the challenges first.

Mr Beukman noted that CNN and Sky News had been extensively reporting on the xenophobic attacks. He asked Mr Ndema whether he or his staff had not had any early warning of these attacks, and, if there were any systems, then what were the contingency plans developed to ensure that the same problems did not recur.

Mr W Skhosana (ANC) asked for comment on the contingency plans that had been initiated in order to address the xenophobic tendencies. The Department should state whether or not it screened officials, especially those who were working with money daily. He also called for an explanation of how the Department dealt with issues.

Mr Huang said that the presentation had alluded to a shortage of immigration officials. Clarity should be provided on what was done to address the matter. He noted that page 19 of the presentation was unclear and the Department should state how much time people spent waiting in line.

Ms Weber asked whether Lanseria airport had enough staff. She asked whether anything had been done to improve working conditions in some Home Affairs offices. Mr Ndema was asked whether Lindela Repatriation Centre fell under his jurisdiction.

Mr Ndema replied that some of the questions would have to be responded to in writing.  On the question of the offices, he said that the Department did intend to move away from the current Boksburg offices as they were not user friendly. The Lanseria airport office formed part of the structure in which 580 immigration officers posts needed to be filled, but all posts had been frozen as the result of the pending new structure.

The Chairperson added that there was a general moratorium on employing people; however there was a 3 month grace period in which managers were allowed to employ. It should be noted that the Department had not employed people for 2 years.

Mr Ndema said that the 3 month grace period was a challenge, as it prevented the Department from acquiring those with the necessary skills.

Mr Ndema explained that the statistics on the queues were obtained by recording the times in the queues for one particular day.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the Soweto office and the measures that the Department had undertaken to alleviate conditions at the office.

Mr Ndema replied that the waiting period at the Soweto office was very high. Everything had been done to improve conditions; however the Department experienced many problems with the Department of Public Works. 

The Chairperson asked Mr Ndema to comment on the recommendations by the Department of Labour regarding the Soweto office.

Mr Ndema replied that the office became flooded at one stage and the Department of Labour said that office must close. After the office had been repaired the Department of Labour overturned the decision
 
Mr Huang commented that he did not like the fact that other Departments seemed to blame everything on the Department of Public Works.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had been busy doing other things, but would deal with public works issues in due course.

Mr Ndema replied that the Department did read tabloid newspapers such as the Daily Sun in order to inform people about what was going on at grassroots level.

The Chairperson commented that there were so many problems facing the Department, yet the Department did not seem to pick them up.

Mr Ndema replied that the Department picked up on the stories that had been reported, and acted on them. However the Committee should note that the main challenges were at Head Office, and the provincial offices were always blamed for matters which pertained to Head Office

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the counter-xenophobia initiatives

Mr Ndema replied that there were only two people working in the office and they worked tirelessly on these matters.

Mr Beukman said that he was not satisfied that he was getting adequate responses on key issues, especially those pertaining to xenophobia in the province.

Mr Ndema replied that the intelligence in the province had let the Department down. The Provincial Office had a meeting with the mayor in order to deal with the issues and look into a way forward. The Department could not sell the idea of ubuntu as the province was still a volatile situation. Immigration officers however, were working with foreigners and were assisting them.

Mr Beukman asked Mr Ndema to assure the Committee that the issue would be monitored.

Mr Ndema assured the Committee that the Department would monitor the issue daily and would report on the matter to the relevant authorities

Mr Beukman asked whether the other Clusters would be involved

Mr Ndema replied that the Department was working with provincial heads of the Security Cluster in order to find ways of dealing with the matter.

The Chairperson said that it was clear that the Department had no understanding of the issues on the ground. The Department of Home Affairs could not turn itself around if there was a lack of this understanding. There needed to be devolution of powers. The Department should comment on how long it took Head Office to respond to a query.

Mr Ndema replied that queries took a long time, and the speed of the response depended upon whom you knew to approach at Head Office.

The Chairperson said that the major problem throughout was that the Department of Home Affairs did not respond to queries. Mr Ndema needed to provide a list of the core problems and challenges faced.

Mr Ndema replied that he would reply to outstanding issues in writing.

Mr Ndema dealt with the question on the borders, noting that his Department already met with other provincial managers, and transfers had already taken place. The Department had good working relationship with provincial managers. The statistics in respect of Lindela were unavailable but would be forwarded to the Committee in due course.
 
Mr Skhosana asked for clarity on who wrote the report before the Committee. He cited the fact that the report had claimed that the time spent waiting in line was 20 minutes, whereas Mr Ndema had now told the Committee that it could take up to an hour.

Mr Ndema replied that the Department commissioned research to determine the time taken while waiting in line
 
The Chairperson said that the research clearly was not commissioned at the Soweto office.

KwaZulu Natal presentation
Mr Monde Maqula, Area Manager, Ethikwini, Kwa Zulu Natal DHA, in his presentation outlined the vacancy rate, civic matters, mobile units and the strategic objectives. He said that the Department had 16 mobile units, and
the trucks had been allocated to various parts of the province to serve the rural communities.  The Department also conducted online registration of births and deaths at various hospitals. There was however a strict monitoring of applications lodged for late registration of births and strict monitoring of marriages between SA citizens and foreigners. The Department urged all offices to report the number of marriages between SA citizens and foreigners.  Managers were required to screen applicants prior to conducting such marriages.

Discussion
Mr Morwamoche noted that the application fee for IDs in certain places was R100, and he asked for clarity why there was no uniformity.

Mr Beukman asked the Department to comment on corruption, security and risk management. Clarity should also be provided on the measures that had been taken for the filling of an internal audit post.

Mr Skhosana noted that the Department had visited five prisons, and he asked for details of the work the Department did in prisons

Ms Maunye sought clarity on whether all offices were working, and were linked to the online systems. 

Ms Weber asked the Department to state how the IDs with the post office were delivered when the contracts were terminated.

The Chairperson asked Mr Maqula to comment on how often he visited the provincial offices. He also asked for further details about the offices at Ethikwini. He noted that this presentation had made no mention about refugees’ reception offices

Mr Maqula replied that he visited the Ethikwini office regularly as it was close to his office, and it was riddled with many problems. The Department wished that it could have a stand-alone office, since there were numerous peripheral activities taking place around the work that the Department was doing. The Department was supposed to have offices in Umlazi and Ndwedwe, but since there was no provincial office; members of the public usually went to the Umgeni and Commercial Road offices.

Mr Maqula added that he could not answer the question on the post offices, because he was not at the Department at the time. He noted, in respect of the hospitals, that Mediclinic was a private institution

The Chairperson asked Mr Maqula to state how long he had been employed at the office

Mr Maqula replied that he had been in his position for one year

The Chairperson said that since the Committee could only manage to acquire the services of an area manager, then the area manager should focus on questions pertaining to the area.

Mr Maqula clarified the reference to the work done in prisons. In his province illegal immigrants were temporarily kept in the prisons before they were shipped off to Lindela. Applications for birth certificates were also taken at the prisons in order to be processed back at the main office.

Mr Maqula said that the Department had no foreseeable problem with the auditing process, and  an accounting officer was appointed to the provincial managers office. He could not answer the question in relation to the fees offhand, because this issue was still new, and he would have to look into the matter.

The Chairperson asked for the interventions that had been made from head office to deal with the Ethikwini office

Mr Maqula replied that he did not know of any

The Chairperson asked for clarity on why the human resources section was non functional, and why, for an entire month, the office was locked and run by an intern.

Mr Maqula replied that he was not in a position to answer the question, as most of the communication went to the provincial manager

The Chairperson said that there was no point in engaging with the area manager as he would be not in a position to provide answers. There was clearly no management in the office. There was a serious problem with the presentation. It had not addressed the measures to counter xenophobia, nor did it address the issues with asylum seekers. There was a need for intervention in the area.

Mr Beukman asked whether any of the top managers had visited the office in the past year.

Mr Maqula replied that the DG had specifically visited the Ethekwini office.

The Chairperson asked whether the DG dealt with the problems

Mr Maqula replied that although the DG did visit the office; however there was no platform where the issues were raised. The DDG and the Deputy Minister also visited the provinces, and the Deputy Minister attended various imbizos. 

The Chairperson asked KZN to prepare a report that dealt with the issues that had been raised. The report should be forwarded to the Committee within one month. The Committee would visit the Ethekwini office and would also require someone from Head Office to attend during the oversight visit.

Western Cape Presentation
Ms Martha Mgxashe, Provincial Manager, Western Cape Provincial Department, in her presentation outlined the vacancy rate, civic matters, mobile units and the strategic objectives. She noted that the Department had implemented an ID campaign at school, and 131 schools were visited in 2007. In relation to the counter xenophobia and awareness, the Department targeted six schools in Southern Cape and Masiphumelele informal settlement. With regard to refugee management, capacity had been increased and there was a document drafted for the establishment of a Model Refugee Office. The Department was meeting with Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to develop a programme to cater for refugees and asylum seekers.

Discussion
The Chairperson noted that there was a lot more content in the original report that was sent to the Committee. This edited report now presented did not address the challenges, and only listed key achievements. It appeared as if the original Western Cape report had been subjected to censorship, and this undermined the manager’s capacity. The Committee would therefore raise questions arising from the first report that was sent to parliament

Mr Beukman congratulated the Western Cape for their good initiatives, and asked the Department to comment on the increase in the numbers of asylum seekers.

Mr Morwamoche asked the Department to comment on why the computers in the refugee offices were not linked with the computers in the provincial offices. 

Ms Mathibela asked the Department to comment on the immigration officers, and provide clarity on how many more officers had been appointed. The Department should also state whether the systems in the refugee and provincial offices spoke to each other

Mr Skhosana asked for clarity on the death registration. He also asked for further details on the drivers for the mobile units, as the presenter had said that 14 drivers were trained but that most of them failed their driving test. He wanted to know who had paid the costs of the test, and whether those who failed were required to pay anything back. The Department should comment on the impact of not having an internal audit. Clarity should also be provided on what were the main issues that the Department discussed with Department of Public Works on a monthly basis.

Ms Maunye said that the attitude of Home Affairs officials at the regional office was terrible

Ms Mars asked how a Head Office could be allowed to incapacitate a regional office, by not paying the telephone bills

Ms Weber asked why the officials were attending counseling. She noted that the mobile unit issue was becoming a problem and asked the Department to state whether money was taken from the provincial budget.

Ms Mgxashe replied that most of those presently applying for status and for documents were Zimbabweans. The Department was dealing with many backlogs when it came to refugees, and the systems between the refugee offices were not linked. The Department was trying hard to address the issues, and so far 15 new immigration officers had been appointed. In respect of the death registration the undertakers went to the offices to register deaths, and there were also 10 officials who went to hospitals to register births and deaths.

In respect of the questions around the drivers, she indicated that it had been made clear that if they were to fail the tests, they would be obliged to pay.

Ms Mgxashe said that the issue of the internal auditor was a real challenge, and there were teams of auditors who performed auditing functions. However it should be noted that these auditors were not qualified auditors. The Department did hold regular meetings with Department of Public Works, but the relationship between the Head Office of Home Affairs and the Department of Public Works was poor.

The Chairperson said that the Committee accepted that there was a problem with the Department of Public Works.

Ms Mgxashe replied that there was a problem with accommodation.

The Chairperson said that he had identified key areas in the original report that was sent to the Committee and the Committee would take those issues from the original report and raise them with the Department.

Ms Mgxashe explained that the counseling referred to in the report was work and family related.

Mr Morwamoche asked for a report in writing on what happened to the funds that were meant to address the fires in the informal settlements.

Ms Mgxashe replied that a report would be provided in writing. 

The Chairperson asked Ms Mgxashe to state how long she had been acting in this post.

Ms Mgxashe replied that she had been in an Acting capacity since August

Chairperson asked whether Ms Mgxashe had a schedule to visit the provinces.

Ms Mgxashe replied that she paid surprise. visits to the provincial offices.

The Chairperson said that the presentation did not address all the challenges faced in the provincial offices.  Therefore there was a sense that key issues were not being raised at the meeting.

Mr Mathebe asked whether it was a coincidence that most of the presentations were so similar

The Chairperson said that he understood the challenges faced by the provinces. He thanked the managers for their time and said that there seemed to be a lack of commitment from senior Departmental officials. The Department wanted to portray an image that Home Affairs was a wonderful organisation that had been turned around. However, it had been established that senior officials were not in touch with what was happening on the ground. It had also been established that money had been taken from provinces to support the turnaround strategy. There were still outstanding issues that the Committee needed to solve with the Director General and the Minister. The Committee would not pass the budget until the outstanding issues had been resolved. The Committee would compile a report based on these engagements, and would make the necessary recommendations.  The issues pertaining to the mobile units would be flagged and would ensure that someone was called to account.

Refugee Amendment Bill (the Bill): Deliberations
The Committee then moved to discuss clauses of the Refugee Amendment Bill, with the researchers and Mr Erasmus Erasmus, Acting Chief Director: Legal Services, DHA making input.

Clause 14
The Committee researcher noted that clause 14 made provisions for the insertion of a new section 21B into the principal Act. He took members through the various submissions by various stakeholders during the public hearings in respect of this clause. 

The Chairperson asked for comment on the drafting style proposal.

Mr Erasmus noted that the numbering had been discussed in the previous sections, and the numbering style had been chosen to prevent confusion with the Act. 

Mr Mzukisi Makapse, Refugee Affairs, DHA that section 21(B)(2) of the principal Act was meant to address the issues pertaining to child registration. According to the law a child had to be registered within a month, and there were provisions made for anyone to register the child, as long as they could attest to the status and identity of the child. Children born in foreign countries would be required to provide a birth certificate from their country of origin.

The Chairperson felt that the proposal by the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) on section 21(B)(2) was a dangerous one, and would open the flood gates to child trafficking.

Mr Erasmus proposed that Section 21(B)(1) should be left as presently worded. He noted that the UCT Law Clinic had proposed removing the word “must”, but the Department felt that it should remain, because when applying for asylum an individual must include the details of his/her spouse in the application.

Members discussed various technical amendments on section 21(B)(3) and agreed to accept the proposals that had been made.

The Chairperson said that he did not understand the proposal that had been put forward by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) to amend Section 21(B)(5)

Mr Erasmus replied that he did not see a conflict with Subsection (3), and noted that if an individual had a refugee permit in terms of the Act, then Section 21(B)(5) would not apply.
 
The Committee felt that further deliberation was needed in order to deal with section 21(B)(5).

Mr Erasmus said that Section 36 of the principal Act already dealt with the withdrawal of the refugee status and the inclusion of a Section 21(B)(6) was unnecessary.

Clause 15
The Committee researcher noted that clause 15 dealt with the amendment of Section 22 of the principal Act. He took members through the various submissions made by the stakeholders during the public hearings in relation to this clause. 

Mr Makapse noted that the new Refugee Status Determination Officers (RSDOs) would be attached to the office of the RSDO, and would perform administration functions and not queue managing as suggested by one of the submissions. With regard to the asylum seeker permit, the idea behind section 22(2) was that if a refugee was informed that he had to apply for a new permit within 14 days, then the previous permit would have to be handed in when a new application was made.

Mr Erasmus said that in respect of the amended Section 22(3) it was incorrect to say that the RSDO would no longer amend conditions. The Committee should note that the phrase was being deleted from the Act, and it was unclear why the Lawyers for Human Rights made the submission. The other submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
should also not be entertained, because the time period would differ from case to case.

Mr Makapse added that there was difficulty in determining what a reasonable time was, as everyone had a different interpretation of the meaning of reasonable time

Ms Mathibela agreed with Mr Erasmus that the time frames should not be included, since many cases took longer than others.

Members then debated technical amendments of Section 22(6), and agreed to flag the issues for further discussions.

Clause 16
The Committee researcher noted that Clause 16 dealt with the amendment of Section 24 of the principal Act. He took members through the submissions made by various stakeholders during the public hearings.

Mr Makapse noted that the submission by the LHR for the insertion of a section 24(2)(C), which dealt with the postponement of a hearing, may lead to the abuse of the system.

Mr Erasmus disagreed with the UCT law clinic submission to amend section 24(4) as there were other avenues that dealt with matters pertaining to Law.

Clause 18
The Committee researcher noted that clause 18 dealt with the amendment of Section 25 and 26 of the principal Act. He summarised the submissions made by various stakeholders during the public hearings.

Members noted that the issue of appeals and reviews was dealt with in another section.

Clause 19
The Committee researcher noted that clause 19 made provisions for the insertion in the principal Act of a new section, after Section 24, to be entitled  “Refugees Appeals Authority”. He outlined submissions made during the public hearings in respect of this clause.

Clause 27
The Committee researcher noted that Clause 27 was to substitute Section 27 of the principal Act. He took members through the various submissions made by the stakeholders.

Members debated the technical amendments of the clause, and it was decided to look into the issues further during the caucuses.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would deal with the outstanding issues during the caucuses, and would deal with the Bill clause by clause on Tuesday 27th May.

The meeting was adjourned.

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