Hansard: NCOP: Unrevised hansard
House: National Council of Provinces
Date of Meeting: 25 Aug 2022
No summary available.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES
THURSDAY, 25 AUGUST 2022
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES
The Council met at 14:00
The Deputy Chairperson took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: All delegates who are logged on to the virtual platform shall be considered present and delegates need to switch on their videos if they want to speak.
Delegates should also ensure that the microphones on their gadgets are muted and must remain muted unless they are speaking. Delegates who are physically in the chamber must use the floor microphones and use the button to switch on their own microphones if they would like to speak. All delegates may participate in the discussions through the chat room.
The interpretation facility is active. Permanent delegates, members of the executive, special delegates and Salga representatives on the platform are requested to ensure that the interpretation facility on their gadget is properly activated to facilitate access to the interpretation services. Permanent delegates, members of the executive in the chamber should use the interpretation gadget on the desk to access the interpretation facilities.
Hon delegates, in accordance with Council rule 2291, there will be no notices of motion or motions without notice. Before we proceed, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Ministers from the Peace and Security Cluster specifically the Minister International Relations and Cooperation and the Minister of Home Affairs.
I would also like to advise that the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation has requested to respond to questions first. We will therefore start with questions to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
Let me make the following remarks: the time for replies by the Ministers to the questions is five minutes; only four supplementary questions are allowed per question; the member who asked the initial question will be the first to be afforded the opportunity to ask a supplementary question; the time for asking a supplementary question is two minutes and the time for reply is four minutes; and the supplementary question must emanate from the initial question.
Good afternoon once again to everyone and we will now call on the hon Minister on International Relations and Cooperation to respond to question 105 asked by the hon B.N Ndongeni and there will be five minutes allowed per response to a question. Over to you hon Minister.
CLUSTER 1C - PEACE AND SECURITY
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much Deputy Chairperson and good afternoon to all hon members. Deputy Chairperson, the answer to the question from hon Ndongeni is as follows:
As part of the efforts to resolve the Israel/Palestine matter, we are of the view as South Africa that the United Nations, UN, should play a more active role in supporting the quest for Palestinian self-determination.
The United Nations has been seized as members know, with the question of freedom of the people of Palestine to almost the entire existence of the UN. The UN has to continue to play an important role in leading efforts to mediate a resolution to the situation which we believe will be upholding international law including the key imperatives of the United Nations founding Charter which includes the right to self- determination and to also honour various resolutions adopted by a number of organs of the United Nations.
There are several initiatives that are being considered at the UN by various Members States including the re-establishment of the Special Committee against Apartheid under the auspices of UN General Assembly.
Hon members would recall that such committee existed when we confronted the apartheid oppression. It is believed that such a committee would assist in highlighting the apartheid policies as recently enunciated by a human rights body which has indicated that the practices of the state of Israel accord with violations that have been labelled the crime against humanity of apartheid in terms of international law.
We are engaging with other UN Member States with regard to this particular action by the General Assembly. We are greatly concerned about the lack of progress with regard to the Middle East process. The world seems silent on this matter and we believe mediation and dialogue are the only viable mechanisms which would resolve the Israeli/Palestine conflict.
We remain resolute in our believe that the two state solution is the only solution towards this problem. We therefore continue to argue for a resumption of peace talks without any party putting forward pre-conditions. I thank you Deputy Chairperson.
Ms N NDONGENI: Thank you Deputy Chair. Hon Minister there is no doubt that the human atrocity association with the Israel/Palestinian conflict by far outnumbers and war that has ever erupted in the post Second World War and this continues to be relegated to the peripheral by the world powers whilst we reaffirm our support of the initiative of the South African government in the Palestinian resolution.
My question is, has the South African government explored engaging the G8 and the G20 countries to provide more meaningful support to the peaceful resolution in the Middle East, if not why not, if so, what are the relevant details? Thank you Deputy Chair.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much again to the hon member for the question. Yes, indeed hon member South Africa continues to argue for increased attention to the freedom and justice struggle of the people of Palestine and we do indeed continue to raise matters just of in the context of the G7 and the G20 but within the BRICS family at the UN level itself and within the African Union.
We are recognised by the people of Palestine as one of the key countries that has remained resolute in its solidarity with the people of Palestine.
This was recently confirmed by the Palestinian conference of ambassadors who are resident in Africa and had a conference that was supported by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation right here in Pretoria.
No other country has ever been trusted by Palestine to host such a conference and we do so in support of the Palestinian people coming together from time to time and at the leadership level focusing upon how they might advance their struggle and just course for freedom.
So indeed we do seek to place these issues at the centre of global attention and we will continue to do so including at the General Assembly meeting in UN in September this year where we are planning along with other partners to host a round table on the struggle of the people of Palestine. I thank you Chairperson.
Mr D R RYDER: Thank you Deputy Chair and thank you Minister for your response. Minister I read your speech from that day, let me quote to you from your speech. You said:
“South Africa will remain steadfast in our report for your just quest for freedom, justice and independence.”
Minister, why are we less steadfast in other instances where freedom, justice and independence are under threat, for example, Ukraine?
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much Deputy Chairperson and I thank hon Ryder for his question.
I do not believe that South Africa is less steadfast with respect to any country that is undergoing the difficult circumstance of oppression. We have consistently argued and the hon member is welcome to study South Africa’s statements at the United Nations which clearly deplore any war that occurs between any nations the very existence of the United Nations is to prevent conflict and to avoid situations of war.
So, we are not less steadfast with respect to the plight of the people of Ukraine but we are resolute that more than seven decades lack of freedom, justice and enjoyment of human rights of the people of Palestine is a matter that requires all of our attention.
The situation of people who are murdered every day and political prisoners equates with our own experience in South Africa. We believe that these decades’ old problem has to be addressed. That does not detract by any means from our concern at the very dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine and I believe that there should be cessation of hostilities and a properly mandated negotiation process between the conflicting parties to find peace.
Our approach in foreign policy is a search for peace; is resolving of conflicts through negotiations; is avoiding harm; and is promoting the interest of all. We remain steadfast in that believe. I thank you. Deputy Chairperson
Mr S ZANDAMELA: Thank you Deputy Chairperson, it’s hon Zandamela, I will take the question.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP. Than you hon Zandamela, you may continue.
Mr S ZANDAMELA: Is the Minister of the opinion that South Africa is mobilising enough global support for Palestinian people so far in ensuring that Palestinians realise their freedom under the pressing changing geopolitics, if so, which engagements are the Minister currently undertaking with other countries in assisting the plight of Palestine. Thank you Deputy Chair.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much Deputy Chairperson. As I have indicated to the response to the supplementary question by hon Ndongeni, we are working with many different organisations as well as bilaterally with a range of countries on the matter regarding the freedom of the people of Palestine.
But as I have said even to our friends in Palestine, what we need to mount is a global campaign to alert the world to the continued suffering of the people of Palestine. This means that we as organisations including the ANC, IFP, EFF and all organisations in South Africa, we should have regular awareness protests, we should be writing petitions to world leaders calling for greater attention to the plight of the people of Palestine. We should work closely with non- governmental organisations, organs of civil society, we should protest when we have human rights organisations labelled as terrorist groups by the Israel government.
So it is absolutely imperative that we not only rely on the South African government but that we as organisations have a very robust campaign linking all of us worldwide. I think South Africa can be the only key leader in this campaign and if all of us as political parties join together, I believe we would see action in response to our global campaigns.
So I continue to work but I need the members’ support from all parties, leaders, trade unions and civil society in order for us to achieve the objective of freedom for the people of Palestine that we dearly desire as South Africa. Thank you.
Mr M A P De BRUYN: Thank you hon Deputy Chair. Hon Minister I will add on to hon Ryder’s question and I will have to ask, why is the ANC government still supporting Palestine even though most Palestinians are in support of ... [Inaudible.]
... Israel. This while the Israelis are mostly just reacting to the attacks from Palestine whereas Palestine reacts randomly continuously and constantly. What is the ANC government’s neutral stance when it comes to the War in Ukraine but the War in the Middle East there is a blatant support for Palestine? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION: Hon
Deputy Chairperson and hon de Bruyn, I think t’s absolutely wrong to equate what is happening in Ukraine as equivalent to the seven decades on slot against the people of Palestine whose land was seized with the support of many western counties without any consultation with the people of Palestine.
This equates to the apartheid experience of Africans in South Africa where land was seized and the creation of Bantustan occurred. This is why Palestine’s suffering has been equated to action by an apartheid state. The people of Palestine have to carry identity documents like a pass, they cannot go where they will, they are limited to areas that are designated by the Israeli government occupation forces.
This does not in any way mean that we are not appalled by the war that is occurring in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine. We have deplored the suffering; we have deplored the humanitarian situation.
So you can’t say you cannot speak about Palestine unless you speak about something else. It is absolutely imperative that ever struggle is given attention and as I have said in very clear terms, you are very aware that Palestine is currently under occupation and there is no way in which Palestine can stand equally against Israel.
No country is giving Palestine very smart weapons to wage the war against Israel. No country is consistently as South Africa does arguing for the freedom of the people of Palestine.
We are of course absolutely clear that we must if we have the opportunity seek a means of assisting Russia and Ukraine to find a negotiated settlement that is in the interest of both countries. This is what we desire and this is what we have called for but the people of Palestine who continue to be killed every day where there is no freedom of expression, where journalists are murdered and assassinated. This cannot be something that we tolerate.
And so I do say hon member, it is critical for us as who today enjoy freedom from apartheid. Let us be resolute in helping others to gain their territory, to enjoy their human rights and have freedom and land security. I thank you hon Deputy Chairperson.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Once
more, I thank you, Deputy Chairperson. The reply to the question. Our department, that’s International Relations and Cooperation, has consistently and publicly spoken out against the security situation that has unfolded in Mozambique, particularly with reference to the coastal district of Cabo Delgado Province. This has been occasioned by the eruption of a tax which has said to have begun in late 2017, which had been carried out by members of an extremist insurgency that is said to include Islamic al-Qaeda.
Our department has utilised a number of platforms to keep South Africans informed of our position, and to ensure that accountability and updates on our actions are provided to the responsible oversight authorities, including the portfolio committee and the standing committees in our Parliament.
In this line, in September 2020, as the Minister of International Relations, I informed the portfolio committee that the emergence of conflict in Mozambique, it was a worrying reversal of the peace that had characterised Southern African Development Community, SADC for many years. I informed them that Mozambique has been engaging with a number of countries. And that SADC, including South Africa, were looking at how Mozambique could be assisted.
The SADC Mutual Defence Pact says that an attack on the state party is considered a threat to regional peace and security and should be met with ... [Inaudible.] ... action, and such will be mandated by summit on recommendation of the Organ. As a signatory to the Mutual Defence Pact of SADC, we support and align ourselves with this position and we support and assist Mozambique as directed by the 40th SADC Summit of 2021.
We have deployed the SADC mission in Mozambique as from July 21, with South Africa as one of the personal contributing country. We are also the force commander. This demonstrate our commitment to the ongoing regional effort to combat and dislodge the terrorist group and to alleviate the spreading humanitarian disaster. We have been serving as the Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, and have continued up to August this year to support SADC efforts in this regard.
Despite the precarious situation in Cabo Delgado since the deployment in July 2021, Southern African Mission in Mozambique, SAMIM and other international forces have dislodged some of the terrorists from their bases. They have been dispersed and we continue to have action by our deployments against these insurgents. I think we have been absolutely consistent in decrying and opposing human rights violations by state against their own civil populations.
In the case of Mozambique, the insurgencies led by non-state actors - and while we’ve criticise their actions - we don’t believe that they represent or acting on behalf of the state. We have been consistent in our call for states to abide by international law, especially the law of war and all states
that act contrary to laws of occupation and relation, civilian population or that occupied territory in contravention of international law. We have stated that we are against such actions as this offends the key prescripts of the United Nations Charter and Security Council resolutions. I thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
Ms C VISSER: Thank you, Deputy Chair. Minister, a while ago the DA asked a question on this issue. And as usual, you were dismissive and evasive. Minister, the situation was intended to be a short lived peace keeping intervention. The fact that it has dragged on is placing massive pressure on the scarce resources of the SA National Defence Force. Minister, what interventions have you made at the level of SADC to find a prompt completion to this operation? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION:
Deputy Chairperson, thank you. In terms of the Rules of the NCOP, I would like to ask that the Deputy Chairperson considers asking Ms Visser to withdraw her remark that I am as usual dismissive and evasive. She is suggesting that I am dishonest and I believe this is absolutely outside of the Rules and I would request that you address this statement by Ms Visser. I don’t recall having any interaction with Ms
Visser beforehand for her to have made such a very serious allegation against me.
Nevertheless, in response to her question. A great deal of action continues to be taken by the forces that have been deployed in Mozambique. So, I don’t know why she is saying that I am evasive when I say that the personnel deployed by SADC countries in Mozambique has begun to repel and displace these insurgents, and that there are significant numbers of displaced community members who are returning to their homes and who are able to reoccupy their homes due to the work of the armies that are sent to that region.
So, I really am puzzled at the ... I won’t say surprised, puzzled at the hon member’s lack of awareness of what has been done. And I would ask, having answered the question, Deputy Chairperson, that the hon member be requested or directed by yourself to withdraw. Should she not be prepared to do so, I would welcome her evidence as to my evasive and my dismissive conduct. I thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Thank you, hon Minister. Hon Visser, I will just be advised by the secretariat on this specific Rule that you have violated. But I think, still, just
a common decency and a sense that there was no kind of occurrence before, it should be adequate that you should withdraw. Particularly, the part that was a bit insulting to the hon Minister. Hon Visser.
Ms C VISSER: Deputy Chair, I will rephrase that part not as dismissive and evasive, but vague. If that is fine with you.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Can you withdraw the part where you have ... because already you have said that. You have already said that. We accept the fact that you said she was possibly vague, but she is experiencing it as insulting. Can you just withdraw the part that is insulting?
Ms C VISSER: Okay, I withdraw.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Thank you very much, hon Visser. I know that you are the kind of member that can live up to, if there is something wrong. Thank you very much. We will continue, and we will then now call on hon Ms A D Maleka for the next follow up question.
Ms A D MALEKA: Thank you, Deputy Chairperson. Hon Minister, thank you for your response that has set the record straight
around the fundamental questions of humanitarian aid and violations of international law and human rights. Certainly, even in international law, 101 students will appreciate the
... [Inaudible.] ... level track record of South Africa in defence of the respect for the international law and human rights.
As we reaffirm our continued government interventions in Cabo Delgado as the ANC, we are persistently concerned about the partisan secretariat and the anti-Mozambican people and government media reports about the turn of events in Cabo Delgado. For instance, some media houses, whether by commission or omission, do not report human atrocities’ suffered in the hands of insurgents, like gang raping of women and girl children.
Hon Minister, my question is where there is an independent media and communication infrastructure and logistics support by the SADC Member States to provide accurate and non-partisan reporting of the events in Cabo Delgado? If not, why not? And if so, what are the relevant details?
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Thank
you again, Deputy Chairperson. Firstly, I want to be clear
because I am worried that its said that we are not answering clearly. Firstly, SADC has deployed a mission to Mozambique. The mission is made up of troop contributing countries. The troops have begun to repel insurgence from areas that they had taken over in that province. People are returning to their homes. I don’t know what’s vague about that.
Thirdly, indeed hon Maleka is right that you don’t often get accurate reporting on conflict. In all countries where there is conflict you find that you don’t get the full story. At times you find one of the powerful parts in a conflict has media embedded with their forces, as you would recall with respect to Iraq. You had what we would call embedded journalists who are with the troops of one country, and reporting in a particular way that didn’t always reflect what was happening on the ground.
However, let me say to the hon Maleka and hon members of the NCOP, there are non-governmental organisations, as well as think tanks that do pay close attention to conflicts in different parts of the world, and they produce very useful, authentic account, of what is happening on the ground. And if we search for such literature, we would find that we get very useful insight with respect to the progress of the war that is
currently underway or the response, the reaction and the mission that is underway in Mozambique supported by SADC and other partners.
Hon members would be aware that there is a bilateral engagement of personnel deployed by Rwanda. There are also forces from other countries that are focused on training. So it will be a small numbers of personnel from France, from other EU countries, from Portugal, which is an old and strong co-operating partner of Mozambique. All of these are on the ground, but the majority are SADC mission personnel. So they have been focused on repelling the insurgents and have carried out a range of operations.
Now hon Maleka, what cannot happen is for us to give details of operations. It is just not possible to do so. I wouldn’t even say to you what number are out there. Where they are allocated because it could endanger our own personnel from our various forces. All we assure you of is progress is being made and that South Africa continues to play a critical role as force commander in the SADC mission in Mozambique. The role of South Africa has been appreciated, not just by the members of the AU, but other organisations worldwide because this region has shown that it will stand up and act should any state be
challenged by a negative force. This is a very important development in our region. I thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
Mr N M HADEBE: Thank you so much, Deputy Chairperson. Hon Minister, in terms of the department’s APP, what has the department done to date to reduce passport and ID fraud? Thank you so much, Deputy Chair.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: I
must say that I did not hear the end of the member’s question. I heard the words APP.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: I will allow. Hon Hadebe, if you can repeat please.
Mr N M HADEBE: Hon Chairperson, I was saying that in terms of the department’s APP, what has the department done to date to reduce passport and ID fraud? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION:
Deputy Chairperson, I believe that hon Hadebe would be directing that question to hon Motsoaledi. There is only one department that deals with passports and IDs and that is the Department of Home Affairs. International Relations does not
have the responsibility in that regard. So I don’t know if there is a particular question on Mozambique that is before us, that the hon Hadebe wishes to pose.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: We will be having the Minister of Home Affairs just after you. Possibly he could swap his question. Hon Hadebe are you clear? Is it fine? Can we pass there?
Mr N M HADEBE: Yes, it is clear, Deputy Chairperson.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Thank you very much. Now the next follow up question will be from Ms S B Lehihi of the EFF.
Ms S B LEHIHI: Ke a leboga Motlatsamodulasetulo.
Minister, noting how challenges faced on the African continent are South African problems, and the problems faced in Mozambique in particular, are also our problems. Which role has the Minister played in ensuring the preservation of human rights in Mozambique?
Ke a leboga.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Thank
you very much again, Deputy Chairperson and the hon Lehihi.
Motl. Lehihi, naga le naga e nale tokelo ya gore e nne yone e e ipolelelang gore ya go tsamaya ka Molaotheo o feng.
Mozambique ba nale Molaotheo wa bona jaaka Aforikaborwa e nale Molaotheo. Se re se dirang rele Aforikaborwa ga ese go bolelela dinaga tse dingwe gore di dire eng ka tsamaiso ya naga ya bone. Re dira polelo e e mo Tšhateng ya SADC ka gore ke yona e e bolelang gore moagi wa Aforikaborwa o tshwanetse gore a tshwarwe yang, moagi wa Mozambique, wa Malawi, le ba botlhe ba ba leng mo SADC. Ga ese Molaotheo wa Aforikaborwa o o bolelelang Mozambique gore o tshwanetse gore o dire eng.
What brings us together is the SADC Charter, and it is the SADC Charter with its protocols that spells out what the human rights standards and approach of each country should be. But you will find that there are distinctions between South Africa’s Constitution and that of Mozambique. But the guide,
the standard, for all of us is the SADC Charter. Thank you very much, Deputy Chairperson.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you again, hon Deputy Chairperson and thank you to the hon Dangor. We have just recently published the National Interest Framework Document. I think most South Africans would be familiar with the principles and values that we have set out in the document since they are derived from our Constitution and from the core prescripts of the Freedom Charter. We have just made these values and principles explicit by framing them within a document that will be the document that guides our foreign policy engagements.
I think even that it is just recently that we have published the document for public attention, it is perhaps too soon to provide definitive answers on the responses of the international community to the issues raised in the document. But I can’t confirm that many of my colleagues have indicated to me they are reading South Africa’s document with great interest. The main reason that they are taking an interest in our document is not because it may contain something that is very new and unknown to the world, it is rather that in the
content of the global changes that have occurred in the last five years, this is the most engaged document with the global crisis that our world is confronted with. It is a document that is focused on current conflicts, it is a document that is published in the post pandemic experience, it is a document that grapples with issues of climate change, with issues of the trade rule regime and the unfairness experience by the developing world. It is a document that encapsulates the opportunities and challenges of the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution. It is up to date and I think its instrument and framework that many countries in the world would draw on as they rethink global relations in terms of their policy standpoints. Thank you very much, Deputy Chairperson.
Mr M DANGOR: Thank you very much Minister for your comprehensive response. Minister, I wanted us to draw attention to one area, South Africa will not supply arms to countries that are in conflict whether due to civil wars or countries in conflict with their neighbours. This is the South African stance that has been taken.
If we are talking about the national interests, other countries have a clash of definitions, they create wars, they create failed states to advance their military industrial
complex to ensure that it works. The wars that will be conducted elsewhere benefits countries that interprets international interests very differently. They look at the economic interests and create wars to advance their economic interest. Thank you very much, Minister.
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: It seem to be just an observation. Do you expect the Minister to respond on that?
Mr M DANGOR: Yes, in that, will we continue not supplying arms to areas in conflict unlike others that do supply, - and in fact create the conflicts?
The DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Hon Minister, over to you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much for assisting, Deputy Chairperson. Yes, indeed, we would continue to act in terms of the commitment we have outlined in the National Interest document. As you know, South Africa has the National Conventional Arms law which governs how the sale of arms internationally is done. And I would think that it is one of the stricter regimes that exist of any country which is a United Nation, UN, member state. At times it may be a disadvantage but we know that we are not
selling arms in order to become embroiled in a war where there is abuse of humanitarian law and where there are practices of real genocide and an offense to the basic human rights that all of us believe in. So indeed, South Africa will not seek to sell arms to countries in conflict with neighbours or to be a country that utilizes the defence sector, of which we have a very big and important one that utilizes the defence sector to prop up our economy. We think that is absolutely disgraceful. And don’t see ourselves acting in that way. I thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
Mr M A P De BRUYN: Deputy Chair, Minister, my original question was actually covered by your answer, but I will ask this, does South Africa supply weapons to Palestine or donate weapons to Palestine?
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you, Deputy Chairperson. No we don’t.
Mr K MOTSAMAI: Thank you, Deputy Chairperson, Minister, do the various principle and goals mentioned by the Minister also include imitating and promote peace policy, which promote solidarity with the rest of the African continent. If so, which measures has the Minister taken recently to promote a
united states of Africa with one currency, one economic and Parliament as the currently exist as political ... [Inaudible.] ... between South Africa and the rest of the continent?
TONA YA DIKAMANO LE TIRISANOMMOGO YA TSA BODITŠHABA: Ke
itumela thata go go bona Ntate Motsamai gore wa phela ...
... and you are active. Hon Deputy Chairperson, this is a very different question in terms of the question that I am responding to however, allow me to respond. Indeed, we continue to plead solidarity with the African continent. The hon Motsamai is asking what actions we have taken which reflects this consistent solidarity. Firstly, I believe the reference I have made to South Africa’s contribution to the Southern African Development Community, SADC, Mission in Mozambique is an important contributor. Hon Motsamai asks a bigger question of a united Africa. We play a very active e role in the African Union as South Africa and make significant contributions. In the AU we are one of the top five contributors of resources to the AU.
The third example would be during the chairship of President Ramaphosa of the AU he steered along with other leaders the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area, thus bringing Africa closer to real intra-African trade to lift us from the current situation where only around 26% of trade in Africa is intra African and to get us to the position we aim for where 60% at least, of trade between African countries should be intra African. So the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area was an important advance to order a more united Africa.
The third example is that we continue to play a role in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of South Sudan. I am hoping, along with other Ministers that I lead in the sub-committee of the five countries that we shall be in South Sudan in October this year to seek to find measures to assist that country to address challenges that confronts it.
The final example is that President Ramaphosa has been the facilitator of the Kingdom of Lesotho helping that country to arrive at a peaceful political framework for the practice of democracy in Lesotho. The President has succeeded along with the facilitation team in getting agreement on an amended Constitution and a new electoral law which would be the basis
of election in Lesotho in October. This has led the parties for the first time in Lesotho reaching agreement universally on an ... [Inaudible.] ... that will be the future constitutional guide of the Kingdom of Lesotho. These are examples of the work that is being done by South Africa along with other African member states of the African Union. But the unity hon Motsamai refers to will only arise when we successfully implement the continental free trade area because it would be at that point that we begin to look at issues of common currency at an African central bank and other matters that are currently in discussion and still at an early stages of framing. I thank you, hon Deputy Chairperson.
Mr D R RYDER: Thank you, Deputy Chair. Perhaps hon Nchabeleng in his capacity of the Chairperson of the Co-Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence can invite hon Dangor to the next presentation from that Conventional Arms Control Committee, he can learn some more in answer to this question.
But I will digress hon Minister. Minister, in your speech at the launch of the National Interest Framework Document and its advancement in a Global Environment, you made the following point very clear and I quote:
We confirm that as the Government of South Africa our main responsibility is true South Africa.
Minister, further on in the document it defines South Africa’ national interest as, and I quote:
The protection and promotion of its national sovereignty and constitutional order, the wellbeing, safety and prosperity of its citizens and a better Africa and the world.
That is what the document says. As the international community threatens action against those that have chosen to side with Russia following the invasion of the Ukraine. Will you protect the economy my denouncing the invaders or will some of the members of the Cabinet again embarrass you and push you into protecting their personal interests?
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Deputy Chairperson, I think there is no one who can embarrass me except if they go into the international stage and make statements that embarrass themselves. I try to represent our country in the best way possible and I hope I will continue to do so.
Let me say to the hon Ryder that indeed I am perturbed, it’s not the international community, it is one country the United States of America, USA, the House of Representative has accepted a piece of legislation that was crafted by the Gregory Meeks, one member and has been adopted by the House. We believe this is the most unfortunate piece of legislation. It is not a legislation coming from the Government of the US, it is from a member. So it’s like a Private Member’s Bill in our own Parliament.
We have pointed out our concern should this Bill become law. It is currently in the Senate and I have arranged that I will meet the Chair of the foreign relations committee of the USA when I am in the USA next month in order to indicate our concerns. I shall also meet other members of the foreign relations committee. I also would expect that the Members of Parliament of South Africa will indicate their own displeasure. Because to have a piece of legislation that seeks to blackmail any continent in the world is absolutely disgraceful.
I think we should not be gentle when we speak about this particular Draft Bill that has come out of the House of Representatives. It’s absolutely shocking that any country can
say if you abstain in the USA, which abstention is provided for by the United Nations Charter and any voting system in any institution worth its weight worldwide. Of you say if you abstain I will ensure that I deal with you, this is absolutely blackmail, threatening and it falls outside of the UN Charter and it is something that we are going to fight as far as we can. So indeed, we will continue to fight this Bill that comes from one country, the USA, and only one House which is the House of Representatives. And yes, indeed, we are going to resist. Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you again, Deputy Chairperson, in reply to the hon Arnolds, I wish to report as follows. We have taken a number of steps to strengthen relations with Cuba which is a country with which we enjoyed very strong and solid bonds of friendship. In 2012, South Africa and Cuba signed an Economic Assistance Agreement unlocking a R350 million economic assistance package. South Africa enjoyed a trade surplus with Cuba until 2021, which can be attributed to the extension and implementation of that past agreement between South Africa and Cuba.
Facility A was a grant to R40 million, R5 million for the purchase of seeds from South Africa and the remaining
R35 million for the purchase of seeds either from South Africa or any other part of the world. This was successfully implemented. We then had facility B, which was a grant of a R100 million for the purchase of goods from South Africa. This was successfully implemented. Then we had facility C, which was a credit line of R210 million again for the purchase of South African goods so that entire R350 million Economic Assistance Agreement package was spent in South Africa.
The agreement co-ordinated by the department of Trade and Industry has made a meaningful contribution to increasing South African exports to Cuba, especially agricultural products, plastic resins, trucks and tyres. Through the package our exports increased, jobs were created and retained. There were also reinvestments in key industries, consumer support to the manufacturing sector and payment channels from Cuba were established.
Further details the EAP expired in July 21 and repayment by Cuba of the final tranche has been extended to 2026. The Cuban Minister for Foreign Trade and Investment Mr Malmierca in 2021 made a request for a new EAP under similar terms for the
period 2022 to 2026. We are currently considering the request as the government of South Africa.
We have a number of political linkages between South Africa and Cuba. Chairperson, if I were to go into those, it would take me longer than the five minutes. Suffice to say beyond the political there is person to person or people to people co-operation between South Africa and the people of Cuba.
Our Deputy Minister, Botes, recently chaired the 16th Joint Consultative Mechanism and met with various ministers in Cuba and agreed that we will develop a program of action to implement the cultural co-operation agreement, which has recently been entered into between South Africa and Cuba to enhance co-operation in dance, film, literature, theatre and music. I thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
Mr A ARNOLDS: Thank hon, Deputy Chairperson and let me say thank you to the Minister for the comprehensive response and I know it was a lot of information on the Question that was asked, but thank you for that. Minister, there are about over
30 signed bilateral agreement in place between South Africa and Cuba and also covering a vast area of co-operation for example arts and culture, defence, education, science and
technology, health services, and housing which is also commendable to say. But you have also mentioned now in terms of the question that I want to ask in relation to the frequent engagement in terms of bilateral matters regarding implementing programs and projects. Are there any further plans to further strengthen relationships between the two countries? Thank you, Deputy Chairperson.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank very much, Deputy Chairperson, If I may ... Deputy Chair, I will assume you are allowing me and let me say to the hon Arnolds, indeed, we continue our interaction with the people and government of Cuba both at the level of bilateral exchange, but also co-operating in the context of the G77. So, we continue our collaboration and I think, you should keep track of what we’re doing. You know that we have a case at the moment with AfriForum saying that we cannot provide humanitarian aid that Cuba had requested from South Africa.
We approached the Constitutional Court on this matter, because we believe this is interference with executive obligations that we are granted by the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has said it is too early for them to hear the matter at this stage and we should continue through the system of the
High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal. So, we have submitted the petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal. We believe that it is the right of the government to form and execute international relations and it can’t be AfriForum that tells us who and with whom the government should interface on the basis of humanitarian or any other area of activity in international relations. I thank you, hon Deputy Chairperson.
Mr E M MTHETHWA: Thank you, hon Kenny, Minister allow me to salute the South African government, especially under your leadership for strengthening the relation between South Africa and Cuba. You have just mentioned a number of programmes from programme A to programme C which is worth more than
R350 million. We really appreciate that, Minister. For those who do not know South African relationship with Cuba is encrypted in the shared blood and suffering of the oppressed and the colonised people of these two countries in the common struggle against imperialist, domination and racism. Minister, has the government of South Africa in collaboration with Namibia, Angola and Cuba government considered erecting the African continental anti colonial heritage site and international museum in Cato carnival in the lasting memory of heroic Cuban and ...[Inaudible.] who occupied the frontline battle, French in defence of South Africa, Namibia and Angola,
people against racism, apartheid and military aggression? I thank you, Minister for listening to the script.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much, Chairperson, I thank the hon Mthethwa for the question. Indeed, I confirm that within the context of SADC the former liberation movements as well as the SADC itself have agreed on what we call a liberation heritage route which will consist of a number of memorial sites, institutions as well as sculptures of heroes, heroines, museums, literature and whole host of cultural artefacts, which reflect the history of the struggle for freedom in our region. So, we are in discussion with our comrades as to what form of commemorative institution we should put in place. We’ve done very well up to this point and I think there are more plans but I would believe the detail could be provided by the Minister of Arts and Culture. I am really thrilled that we are now almost completing the statue of former President Nyerere, one of the founders of SADC and the leading figure in the struggle against apartheid through his support, as one of the frontline states for the fight against colonialism and apartheid. And we will continue to develop these heritage instruments to ensure that unlike some members that we have in our various Houses, we do remember that we have a glorious
history of struggle, determination, sacrifice and commitment. I thank you, hon Chairperson.
Mr N M HADEBE: Thank you, Chairperson. Hon Minister, given South Africa’s financial position and with regards to R50 million worth of humanitarian aid donated to Cuba recently. Does the department and the country have enough capacity and resources to offer this kind of assistance to Cuba? If so, would it be plausible considering rendering the same assistance to our neighbouring countries going through similar circumstances? Thank you, Chairperson.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION: Thank
you very much, Chairperson. Firstly, let me report to the hon Hadebe that very sadly due to the decision of the court, we’ve not been able to respond to the request of Cuba for humanitarian aid. AfriForum approached the court to stop us from taking any action in aid of Cuba despite their suffering from the blockade by the United States of America. So, there’s not been any action because it’s still a matter we are pursuing in court. With respect to our neighbouring states, indeed the hon member would be aware, let me say that in terms of the budget of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, we have an entity called an African Renaissance
Fund, which is established by an Act and its very purpose is to provide support for humanitarian crises and other initiatives that have a developmental character to them. We use the funds and they are very limited. They are not significant like USAID or the British International Development Fund, but indeed, we are able from time to time to provide assistance where needed. We were able to assist Zimbabwe over a year ago when they had massive hunger in areas that had been affected by Idai a hurricane that really caused massive damage even in the agrarian land in that region. We provided maize and this was through the African Renaissance Fund. We are also hoping once we’ve overcome this case, to assist displaced communities that are returning to their land in Mozambique to help them to initiate agricultural projects. The ARS fund is designated for assistance outside South Africa. We have other funds within budgets of other departments that are for development assistance to communities in South Africa. The budget for all of this approved by Parliament each year. The idea that we are taking this money away from the people of South Africa is a selfish attitude, which doesn’t accord with the reality of a South Africa that has a Constitution, that says we will always promote friendship and support to others when they need it just as we were supported by others even to the point of their sons and
daughters dying on African soil so that we might enjoy freedom. Indeed, hon member, we have a difficult financial situation as South Africa, but since we do have a few Rand that we can utilise to assist others, we do from time to time provide assistance on a small, but a scale that I believe other countries appreciate. I thank you, hon member and I thank you, hon Chairperson.
Mr M DANGOR: Chairperson, the Minister has answered ...
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Thank you, hon Dangor. Minister, we now come to Question 108 asked by hon Visser.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much, hon Acting House Chairperson. The reply to the question from the hon Visser is the following, we continue to encourage all parties and do so within all relevant international mechanisms as well as in bilateral meetings that they should seek to find a lasting solution in the current situation in Ukraine. We believe that this call is in full compliance with the United Nation, UN, Charter and universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.
As South Africa and as the representative of South Africa, I will continue to emphasise that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy are the only means to end the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Therefore, Acting House Chairperson, I’ve noted recently that many more leaders are saying this as to be a negotiated solution. As we said in our statement in the United Nations General Assembly two months ago wars end when dialogue begins and wars endure when there is no dialogue. We, therefore, will continue to urge and encourage all members to go to the negotiating table and to approach dialogue with the spirit of compromise in order to move the process forward without accusing any party and such accusations we believe that are not helpful in the efforts to resolve the conflict. We would like as South Africa and I’ve said so many, many times I’m sure hon Ryder who seems to be reading my speeches would confirm that in my speeches I’ve called for intensified efforts at increased diplomacy, I’ve called for use of the United Nations, particularly the secretary-general as well as other leaders who may have the weight in terms of ability to persuade the interlocutors to negotiate a settlement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This is the position that we’ve held.
Therefore, hon Visser, I don’t believe that there are other alternatives to this approach that South Africa has held the freedom you and I enjoy today results from this very approach, and I believe that this is what we need to pursue as the representatives of South Africa. I thank you, hon Acting House Chairperson.
Ms C VISSER: Thank you, hon Acting House Chairperson. Indeed, Minister, we are grateful about the negotiations that took place and still are. Have you ... [Inaudible.] ... met them with the ambassador to the Ukraine? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you, hon Visser. It’s not in my practice to meet with all the ambassadors, but I do encourage my department to meet with ambassadors and, indeed, hon Ambassador of Ukraine has met several of my officials at the most senior levels. The contact with me has been through Tweets that have been most unfortunate, and I have directed my heads of mission of our country never to tweet about a Minister in the country in which they represent South Africa. However, the hon Ambassador of Ukraine has had copious opportunities to meet the most senior levels of my department. I thank you, Acting House Chairperson.
Mr M A P De BRYUN: Thank you, Acting House Chairperson. Hon Minister, a senior South African has a neutral stuns regarding the war in Ukraine. Does your department and yourself realise that firstly, when our Defence Minister visited Russia to attend the 10th International Security Conference; secondly, South Africa abstaining from the UN adopting the resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council; and thirdly, the Russian exports centre who are still in trade talks in South Africa. This ... [Inaudible.] ... extremely negative impact on the international relations with South Africa and I would ... [Inaudible.] ... have justified to the rest of the world when you said that South Africa has neutral stuns regarding Ukraine and war. Thank you.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you, Acting House Chairperson. The hon De Bryun and a host of other commentators have chosen to label my statements on Ukraine as neutral. This is their choice I’ve never not one speech, and you can ask the hon colleagues where he can source my speeches you will not find the word neutral ... [Inaudible.] ... even once. We are not neutral; we abhor war. We believe that war does great harm. We don’t support invasion of the territorial integrity of another country by any other
UN Member State. We have made this exactly clear in all our statements. That’s not neutrality.
We believe that there should be negotiations. We believe that United Nations must play a key role as I’ve said a few moments ago in such a process. We believe that the fact that Nelson Mandela agreed that he will sit around the table with his own compatriots with those who had appressed and victimised him and arrived at a settlement that has given you and I freedom. We believe that this can work for the challenges that are confronting Ukraine and Russia at this time. We don’t believe that it is our soul in our interests to promote war to say that we choose one and we choose the other. What does that mean? This is why we have said that voting to say that Russian is wrong and Ukraine is right doesn’t resolve the conflict and this is why we have abstained because we’ve said that the resolutions are not directed to assisting the situation that directed at naming and name-calling and for us that is not a helpful way of addressing what is a very complex and difficult situation.
I don’t have to remind the hon member about past agreements where there were particular agreements with respect to the security of Russia and to the security of Ukraine. There were
guarantors of this means agreement on previous agreement. I won’t remind the hon member about statements by the former Secretary of State of the United States many decades ago pointing to the dangers of neglecting the security concerns of any state and referring at that time to Russia. Therefore, hon member, I’ve never ever use the word neutral. I believe that the war must come to an end.
There should be a cessation of hostilities, but that problems will remain, and hence there must be a negotiation where an agreement that addresses the security concerns of Ukraine and security concerns of Russia that this agreement would encompass all of that and it is at that point through negotiation. Therefore, hon member, I believe that you will be able to judge this neutrality you label me with when the parties will be sitting around the table. We believe that this will only come to an end through negotiations. Thank you, Acting House Chairperson.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Thank you very much, Acting House Chairperson. Hon Acting House Chairperson and hon Minister, allow me to rise on behalf of the African National Congress. Sorry, Acting House Chairperson, I’m in the hotel that’s why I’m registered now. Can I go on, hon Acting House Chair?
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): You are, indeed, audible, hon Bartlett.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Okay. Sorry for the video, Acting House Chair. Hon Minister, allow me to rise on behalf of the African National Congress not only to support your statement, but to call upon you, the government of South Africa and the peace- loving international community to repeal the position that there is no alternative to peaceful dialogues. War is a language or the barbarians and the antithesis of human progress ... [Inaudible.] ... who are political deaf. Yes, ... [Inaudible.] ... hearing aids. Hon Minister, for us in the African National Congress a fundamental question is whether South African government has made a ... [Inaudible.] ... offers to both Russia and Ukraine for the peace ... [Inaudible.] ... I thank you, hon Acting House Chairperson and I thank you, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much, Acting House Chairperson and thank you to the hon Bartlett. Indeed, President Ramaphosa in his engagements for the UN Secretary-General with President Putin of Russia and with Mr Zelensky the President of Ukraine expressed the readiness of South Africa should it be so
desired to assist in any way it can in helping a negotiations process.
This is being made clear and communicated in various phone calls for our President to the leaders of these countries. Therefore, we continue to make the call and to seek to persuade those that are involved in the conflict even if it be indirectly through supplying our arms that we stand ready as South Africa to assist should it be required in the process of negotiations. We also wherever we can stress the need for identifying competent and trusted interlocutors who could play a role in the search for peace. I thank you, Acting House Chairperson.
Moh S B LEHIHI: Ke a leboga, Modulasetilo.
Noting the Minister’s stuns in outlining, South Africa’s position in relation to the military operation Russia has in Ukraine, why has the Minister not communicated this message with the Ambassador of Ukraine and call her to order in light of her recent tantrums that South Africa a peace-loving country is supporting a war?
Ke a leboga, Modulasetilo.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION:
Thank you very much, Acting House Chairperson. Hon Lehihi, I believe that the ambassador is fully aware of South Africa’s statements and views. She is of the belief that we must choose a side which we believe would be wrong to do to say that, you know, this one or the other. Then we become embroiled in the inferno of conflict rather than being a country with the ability to offer a solution.
I think it’s most unfortunate some of the statements that the ambassador has made they certainly have not assisted relations between her mission and ourselves. However, we continue to allow her an opportunity to continue to function in our country and as I said we advised our own representatives throughout the world that they should conduct themselves rather differently from what we have experienced. I thank you, Acting House Chairperson.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Thank
you very much Chair. Sorry, my papers are all getting mixed up here. Again, this is a question on Russia and Ukraine. The reply I wish to table to hon Ndongeni’s question is as follows: I wish to indicate that there has not been any ambiguity or change to our official position regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. We remain deeply concerned about the continuing conflict, the loss of lives and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Ukraine. We maintain that in conflict zones, civilians, civilian infrastructure, and other non-combatants must be protected in keeping with the principle of distinction and other protective measures of the Geneva Conventions.
We are committed to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, which are related to the unlawful use of force, the respect for territorial integrity and in the unfortunate event of war between countries, that the laws of war, including the principle of distinction are respected, so that civilians and others are not killed. We remain convinced chair that the resort to war is never wise, even in circumstances that are deemed to be lawful, which can’t be a decision of the Security Council. Wars, we believe end when
dialogue begins. So, our view is, it is best to pursue dialogue from the beginning.
To this end, we call for dialogue as I said before, between Russia, Ukraine and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO to provide mutual security assurances. We called for this before the war began, and we believe this is still key to ending the war and the loss of life that is so terrible. We will continue to call for intensified efforts and increased diplomacy using the United Nations, particularly the good Office of the secretary-general who has done so well, with the movement of grain from Ukraine and Russia. We also believe there are other leaders of significant former heads of state who could play a role in persuading the interlocutors to negotiate a settlement to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. [Interjections.] That is not my call placed on hold. I am not sure who it is. Thank you, Chair.
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Thank you, hon Minister. It is ... [Inaudible] ... from Northern Cape. I hope he will be muted or administered.
Ms N NDONGENI: Hon Minister, thank you very much for your elaborated response to this critical question on South
Africa’s long standing official foreign policy position. As the hon Minister may be aware, those who take sides on the basis of narrow ideological interests in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, are the loudest in accusing the government of South Africa for siding with Russia in this war. My question is, has the diplomatic channels persuaded by South Africa for the sensation of hostilities between NATO, Ukraine and Russia yielded any positive results? Thank you, Chair.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Thank
you Chair and thank you hon Ndongeni. We have not had any positive results yet, except perhaps to inform hon members that President Ramaphosa recently held a meeting with the President of the European Union Commission, and they discussed working together to secure agreement on movement of grain from Ukraine and Russia. A few weeks following that engagement, which was here in South Africa, we have had support from President Ramaphosa for the efforts of the secretary-general of the United Nations as he negotiated this grain transport issue.
So indeed, South Africa continues to play a role. However, we haven’t as yet arrived at a point where there’s a negotiations process underway. I believe this is going to be a significant
subject at the United Nations General Assembly meeting next month. I am hoping given the gathering of leaders at that general assembly, that there may be as an outcome the beginnings of a process that would lead toward genuine negotiations. I thank you Chairperson.
Mr N M HADEBE: Hon Chairperson, hon Minister, recently the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans accepted an invitation to Russia and attended the 10th Moscow Conference on International Security. It has been stated on numerous occasions by government that South Africa takes neither side. Can we assume now by the action of Minister that, South Africa is ... [Inaudible] ... in support of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, at a time when the geopolitics in Europe is at a critical juncture? Why was the Minister there? Thank you so much.
The MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION: Thank
you very much Chairperson. I think that; that question may be should be asked of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. I am not the Minister of Defence and military Veterans, nor do I approve her travel. But I want to make it very clear that, South Africa is not in a conflict with Russia. South Africa is not in a conflict with Ukraine. I
think it’s important that we make that extremely clear, because the perception that, because there is a war between Russia and Ukraine and certain countries in Europe and the United States of America are involved with supplying arms and other material, that does not imply that there’s a conflict that involves all of us.
So, I want to make that clear that, we are not in conflict with any country. I would suggest that you may wish to ask the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans why she attended a conference that you may have felt, is one she has a great deal of interest in, given its focus and subject matter. I had not had any opportunity to discuss such a conference or meeting with the hon Minister. I thank you Chairperson.
Mr I M SILEKU: Can you hear me?
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Yes, yes very audible hon Sileku.
Mr I M SILEKU: Thank you very much for the opportunity and also good afternoon. An advancement in the global environment clearly states and I quote:
South Africa subscribes to peaceful means of conflict resolution and dispute settlement, through negotiation and diplomacy.
Minister, I am immensely proud that the leader of the official opposition chose not to rely on media reports, but went to see for himself, and saw an invasion in progress. The images we see in the media were confirmed. Your colleague as you have stated, Minister Thandi Modise, then attended an international conference on international security at the invitation of Russia, the aggressor in the invasion and delivered a diatribe against war mongers, calling for them to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table of peace.
Mphathiswa ngokuzithoba ...
...who does South Africa see as the war monger in the Russia Ukraine incursion? Thank you very much.
UNGQONGQOSHE WEZOKUXHUMANANAMAZWE OMHLABA NOKUBAMBISANA:
Ngiyabonga mhlonishwa ubaba u-Sileku.
Andinakuze ndikwazi ukuphendulela uMphathiswa wezoKhuselo naMagqala oMkhosi.
I cannot respond for the Minister of defence and Military veterans. I guess you will have to ask her who she was referring to.
Kulo umba wokundwendwela i-Ukraine njengoko eyinkokheli, uye wanethamsanqa yokubhatalelwa ngabanye oosomashishini ukuze aye kuloo ndawo. Thina asinabo abathi basibhatalele ukuze sihambele iindawo ngeendawo. Kodwa ndiyavuya xa nawe umvuyela kuba loo nto yenziwe ngemali yabantu abangoosomashishini, kwaye ndiqinisekile ukuba bayamnceda ngezinye iindlela. Kodwa andikwazi ukuphendulela uMphathiswa uModise, ungambuza wena.
Izolo ebekhona eNCOP ngowumbuzile lo mbuzo, andikwazi ukumphendulela mna. NdinguNaledi Pandor kwaye ndiphethe phaya kwiSebe lobuDlelwane beZizwe ngeZizwe neNtsebenziswano, andiphethanga kwiSebe lezoKhuselo naMagqala oMkhosi.
Thank you very much Chairperson.
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Thank you hon Minister. Hon members, we have come to the end of the questions to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. I would like to take this opportunity and express our gratitude on behalf of the House to the hon Minister for availing herself to answer questions.
Le kamoso ...
... hon Minister
TONA YA DIKAMANO LE TIRISANOMMOGO YA TSA BODITŠHABA: Ke a
The House suspended at 15:39 and resumed at 15:52.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Thank you, hon Chairperson. The question from hon Shaikh is about the progress that was made
since our appearance on the portfolio committee on 27 January 2021. The department has launched a system called Branch Appointment Booking System, BABS, as part of our war on queues. The initiative is to counter opportunistic individuals who queue by posing as clients in the early hours of the morning and sell their spots to other clients.
They Department of Home Affairs has deployed the counter corruption team to those hotspots to deal with this phenomenon. Recently, the launched BABS has worked very well. It has been extended to 56 offices and since it started in June, 117 000 clients have used it. We are also increasing our footprint by securing office space at selected malls across the country. We are of the view that this initiative will provide some of the relief for clients due to improved queuing conditions. That means not being exposed to the wind and the sun in uncovered areas, but also to secure parking.
We are hoping that they will start with the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre in Pretoria next month if the landlords who promised us that they would have finished doing the arrangements there. The department is also working with the State Information Technology Agency, SITA, to improve network infrastructure because part of the long queues is caused by
that systems are always down. As I am speaking, SITA is spending R400 million to revamp its information technology, IT, infrastructure.
However, we are still having a problem, Chairperson, for example, on the week of 15 to the 19 August offices connecting through Modimolle and Polokwane including the Mhala Office in Bushbuckridge were affected by the ... [Inaudible.] ... centers that were down. The SITA service provider Broadband Infraco had to replace the cables that were alleged to have been damaged. Also, the issue of cable theft, very recently Middelburg, Potchefstroom and Mmabatho offices were down because 500 meters’ cable needed to be replaced because it was stolen and damaged.
Chairperson and hon member, we are also capacitating our department. Treasury has just given us R260 million. We are hiring 700 staff members to capacitate the department. On the issue of the challenges, yes, we are experiencing various challenges, some are external and others are internal. The external challenges that Home Affairs have, unfortunately, depend on the performance of other entities, especially SITA and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. This is a very serious challenge.
However, as I said, we are trying to talk to them to try to deal with these issues. We are trying to put mitigation plans to make sure that we reach our targets in terms of our strategic plan. Thank you very much.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Yes, Chair. Thank you very much, hon Minister. Hon Minister, we, the ANC ... [Inaudible.] ...
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Hon Bartlett, you are not very audible. Also, don’t be in a hurry. Can you commence with the follow up question?
Ms B M BARTLETT: Okay, Chair, I am sorry. Maybe it is where I am seating. Hon Minister, we the ANC acknowledge the shift in targets that underscore the strategic and operational terrain of the Department of Home Affairs and rise to reaffirm our support to the departmental strategic plan. Hon Minister, can you please, take the people of South Africa into confidence about the major shifts both in the internal and the external operating environment of the department that has impacted on the successful implementation of the strategic plan and how the department has impacted on the effects of such shifts? I hope I was audible enough, Chair.
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): No, I think the biggest challenge is that you are too in a hurry. You are too fast. If you can just take your time, hon Bartlett, so that you are more pronounced and more audible.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Must I repeat?
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Yes.
Ms B M BARTLETT: No problem. Hon Minister, I am asking that in the ANC, we acknowledge the shift in targets that underscore the strategic and operational terrain of the Department of Home Affairs and rise to reaffirm our support to the departmental strategic plan. Hon Minister, can you take the South Africans into confidence about the major shifts both in the internal and the external operation environment of the department that has impacted on the successful implementation of the strategic plan and how has the department mitigated the impact of such shifts? Was it okay, Chair?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Chairperson, the shift in targets, as you know the external factors, the main external factor was the issue of COVID-19 where we had to close some of our offices and as such we could not meet the targets. Where
we have to stop some of the services whereas in our strategic plan and or the annual performance plan, we have put the targets there but we have to suspend them because of COVID-19 where some people who had comorbidities have to stay at home and as such it was difficult for us to meet our targets.
However, after COVID-19 we tried to put people to work overtime. There was a time when the Home Affairs offices were closing after 7:00 in the evening to try and cover up. The other external factors that affect us, I have already mentioned that when I was answering the first question, being dependent on other government departments, especially SITA and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
Unlike schools, clinics and police stations whereby were built for that purpose, the Home Affairs offices were not purpose built because we hire them from a particular individual. We go to a particular building which was built by somebody else for something else and we hire it and when it does not meet our purposes it becomes a problem. Now, we are busy building offices on our own, which are purpose built, but we have also submitted a list of 15 high impact offices to the presidency infrastructure programme so that we build them via public
private partnership. That is why I also mentioned the issue of going to the malls.
Now, on the borders in our border gates we also have that problem whereby sometimes there is no water and toilets are not maintained. Now, that work is no longer going to be done by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, it is going to be done by Border Management Authority themselves because it affects them directly. Thank you very much.
Mr I M SILEKU: Good afternoon.
Ndiyavakala? Mandibulise nakuMphathiswa.
Hon Minister, the long queues at the Home Affairs are exacerbated by the regular response from your staff. Minister, the information technology, IT problems are at the heart of your service problem to our people. [Inaudible.] ... know that the budget drives behavior. What have you proposed to the Cabinet to prioritising the budget and in your department’s key performance measurements? I thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Yea, hon member, during my budget speech I outlined 13 steps we are taking to deal with the issue of long queues because it is not one particular factor, it is a multiple of factors. However, I can assure you the issue of IT is at the center of that problem. Yes, the budget, five years ago or at least seven years ago, yes, Treasury instructed that the budget on compensation of employees is blowing out of the ceiling and we must stop replacing people when they retire.
That, of course, has affected the Department of Home Affairs in terms of capacity, where our staffing capacity reduced dramatically, we were able to write a plan which we submitted to the National Treasury and they understood us. That is why in this financial year, they supplemented us with R266 million specifically to capacitate the department. Out of that money, about 600 posts will go to our offices to try and deal with this issue of staffing so that we reduce the lengthy queues and the rest will go to immigration services. Thank you.
Man B T MATHEVULA: Ndza khensa, Mutshamaxitulu.
Minister, in terms of administration which progress have been made regarding the lack of efficiency and service delivery which has become the norm across all Home Affairs offices found in the country?
Ndza khensa, Mutshamaxitulu.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Mathevula, I am sure that yesterday or today you have read that we dismissed a chief director for inefficiency, dereliction of duty and also for gross negligence because we have taken a view that unless there are consequences, we will not easily get public servants to do what they were supposed to be doing. They need to know that if I don’t do my work, there will be consequences. That is why we do that.
However, we don’t just start by firing people. They are taken through training programmes. We do have meetings with them. We are now busy signing a memorandum of understanding with an institution which will help us by sitting with our people and training them. That institution is a government institution called Productivity South Africa, because everybody must know
that when they come to work they have to be productive. Thank you very much.
Mr N M HADEBE: Thank you so much, hon Chairperson. Hon Minister, what budget is allocated in terms of the annual performance plan, APP, to secure these legalised documents from fraud? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: If you heard the question, can you repeat it for me, Chair?
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Hon Radebe, can you, please, take your time and repeat the question?
Mr N M HADEBE: Yea, hon Chairperson. The question is, what budget is allocated in terms of the annual performance plan to secure the legalised documents from fraud? Thank you, Chair.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Chairperson, did he say, to secure legalised documents or illegalised documents? He said, what budget on the annual performance plan ... to secure something about documents? I am not sure whether the word is legalised or illegalised.
Mr N M HADEBE: Legalised, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Well, I will assume that you mean the identification documents, passports, birth certificates and death certificates which are all legal, or unless you want to talk about documenting immigrants who come into the country. It will all depends in what way are they coming to the country and there are many different forms.
If they are asylumseekers, when they arrive at the borders and announce themselves officially, I am not talking about those who jump through the fence illegally but those who announce themselves. They are given what we call a section 23 permit They are given that in terms of the Immigration Act and that section 23 permit lasts for five days until they arrive at the nearest refugee reception center. We have five such centers in the country. One is in Musina, the biggest of them all. The Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Center in Marabastad, Tshwane. There is one here in Cape Town, there is one in Gqeberha and there is one in eThekwini.
When you arrive there, we then issue you with a section 22 permit. That is section 22 of the Refugee Act 1998, which says that you are allowed to be in South Africa for a period of
three to six months while you are applying to become a refugee. That document is renewable. You can go, for instance, to Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre you will find a kiosk there where you can renew the document without even talking to Home Affairs officials.
If you successfully apply for refugee status, then you will be given what we call a section 24 permit. Then, the other documents which you can ... are about 17 visas and permits.
Depending on whether you want a work visa, a relative visa, a visitor’s visa, a study visa, a critical skills visa, a retirement visa, a corporate visa, etc. So, those are all the legal documents which we issue in the Department of Home Affairs. Thank you.
The ACTING CHAIRPERSON (Mr K M Mmoiemang): Thank you, hon Minister. I will now hand over to hon Nyambi to proceed with the next follow up question. Hon Nyambi.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Thank you, hon Mmoiemang. Greetings to the Minister and hon members. Hon Minister, we now come to Question 109 asked by hon Visser. Hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: The question from hon Visser is about the nonoperational border posts that were closed during the time of COVID-19. Hon member, as a country, we do comply with existing operational protocols, frameworks and procedures which are critical for the successful port operation.
Currently, this is enforced by the operational structures within the Border Management Authority, BMA. These are operations committee in the National Border Management Coordination Centre.
Now, hon member, on 1 August 2022, I gazetted that 26 of the
29 ports of entry be opened on that particular day. However, since the issue of ports involves more than one country, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation wrote to her counterparts, informing them about South Africa’s intention to open 26 ports of entry after COVID-19. To this end, confirmation was received from our neighbouring countries indicating their readiness to also open their ports of entry from their side.
However, Chairperson and hon member, due to the collapsed bridge and high water levels in the Limpopo River, between South Africa and Botswana, the Zanzibar Border Post could not
be opened. Furthermore, Sendelingsdrif Border Post, it’s a difficult name for me to pronounce, between South Africa and Namibia, could also not be opened due to high levels of water in the Orange River, where a pontoon used to cross the river. In terms of the 26 reopened border posts, there are systemic challenges that were experienced, because many of them were not functioning for over two years.
You are also aware that if the IT systems are not functioning for a long time, they create a problem. However, SA Revenue Services, SARS, is currently repairing those affected systems to ensure their optimal utilisation. In the meantime, alternative processing method have been implemented to ensure movement of travellers in and out of South Africa. In terms of airports, hon member, the Pilanesberg International Airport could not be opened, due to the ongoing refurbishments that are ongoing at the airport. Thank you very much.
Ms C VISSER: Thank you, hon House Chair, and thank you, hon Minister, for giving us a brief of what’s happening at the border posts, because there is no reason why all the South African border posts should still be closed, and whether they are opened, they are not optimally functioning. I have visited three border posts through North West where the IT systems are
down and stuff like that. Some border posts currently are gate ways of smuggling and crippling our economy. Minister, would you acknowledge that this is a problem, and, will all the South African border posts be opened and be functioning as they should?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon member, I have already acceded that, some of them were not functional because their IT systems were not optimally functioning since there were inactive for more than two years during the COVID-19. Also, I have said that SARS is busy working around the clock to make them work optimally. The second thing I have said, hon member, is that, a border post is not only run by one country, you’ve got to work with your counterparts.
Quite a number of times they tell us that, they have sent people elsewhere, they need time to come and re-circle. So, these are very early days of reopening our borders. But up to so far, we are happy with the progress that they will be where they were. Lastly, hon member, we noticed, especially during COVID-19 that, some of the border posts do not have the requisite staff, that’s why we easily close them. You just find one policeman or policewoman there with one immigration
officer. That is when the smuggling you are talking about happens.
The MEC for Safety and Security in the Free State once phoned me about the border post he believed is just serving to steal cattle from South Africa into Lesotho. Such border posts shouldn’t be functioning, because they are causing us very security risks. But at the moment, we have spoken to our counterparts, we then agreed which border posts must be opened, and we have agreed on the dates when to do that. Thank you.
Mr M DANGOR: Thank you very much, hon House Chair. Minister, we’re talking about border posts and we’re talking about tick box things. How effective or efficient are border posts, and how are they being serviced, and how are they servicing the public efficiently now?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon member, you would remember that this House helped us to pass the Border Management Authority Act which came from the General Assembly and got stuck here, and you helped us to change some of the wrong things that happened in the National Assembly. You helped us to correct them to establish a Border Management Authority.
The reason that the Border Management Authority was established, it is because, about a decade ago, the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee, NICOC, which is a co- ordinating committee of all the intelligence services in the country, the Military Intelligence, Crime Intelligence, State Security, Financial Intelligence Centre, when they were doing their security estimates or intelligent estimates, they pointed out that the border is an area where there are challenges and problems in terms of human beings, goods and everything else.
Also, they are the one who recommended that, an institution called the Border Management Authority should deal with our borders to be opened, so that they become more efficient. This is a structure that we are implementing. I am sure that you have seen on 14 July how we launched the first group of 200 cohorts of border guards, to try and make sure that the efficiency you are talking about is there, and that is exactly what we are talking about. Fortunately, the Commissioner who has been appointed in November last year, who is the Commissioner of our borders, he has got the same status as the Commissioner of the Police, but his job is only at the borders.
Fortunately, a decade ago, when NICOC came up with this phenomena, he was the Director-General of NICOC who was co- ordinating all these things, and he is very good. He is the one now that is going to implement the plan which was designed by the structure that he was chairing. We believe that, because he knows the gap, he will be very much of help to make our borders efficient. Thank you.
Mr M A P De BRUYN: Thank you, hon House Chair. Hon Minister, we welcome the 200 border guards that were deployed by your department. It is surely a step in a right direction. But Minister, as we know, when it comes to the infrastructure, I believe that, that is the biggest challenge that we have when it comes to securing our borders. I am not speaking about only the border posts, but the borders as a whole. So, my question would be, what plans are on the table for your department together with other departments, to raise the issue of infrastructure, especially between the South African and Zimbabwean borders, and South Africa and Lesotho? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Thank you, hon De Bruyn. Indeed, I have already answered part of this question. The problem with the infrastructure at the borders is that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has got a sole
responsibility to put up infrastructure at the borders, be it a fence or road maintenance through which the defence force will patrol and all that. Now, in terms of the Act which I said was passed by this House, that work will now be vexed in the Border Management Authority, they will decide for themselves, what needs to be built and what needs to be maintained.
Therefore, the plans to transfer such a function from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to the Border Management Authority, is on course. It starts with the transfer of land, and that is already happening. The second one which you have mentioned, it’s the border post itself. Remember that, South African Border Posts were built and designed during an apartheid era, when the relationship between South Africa and the neighbouring states, even in terms of business and trade, was not that strong.
So, most of them, I remember that, after an EFF member visited
Beitbridge Border Post, I suspect that this was the first visit, he came to joke that he thought it was a roadblock. He said that it doesn’t look like an entry point to another country. Now, what we have decided on is to choose six of the busiest border posts, that is, Beitbridge, between us and
Zimbabwe, Lebombo, between us and Mozambique, Oshoek, between us and Eswatini, Maseru and Ficksburg, between us and Lesotho and Kopfontein, between us and Botswana. Those are the six busiest border posts that we have chosen.
We are going to rebuild them in what we call, one-stop border post. We are going to spend a total of R6 billion, which will be in the form of Public-Private Partnership, PPP. We are already far advanced. What we are waiting for, is a Technical Advisor in Treasury to give us a go ahead, so that they can be completely rebuilt. Now, that fence, which people used to make a joke about as a clothing line or something like that, it is the area in which it is. It is one of the areas where this massive infrastructure project of one-stop border post will be built. Therefore, we think that the problems that we are facing will be solved in that manner.
The rest of the border line will then be taken over by the Border Management Authority. Remember that, at the moment, the Border Management Authority is just incubated as a branch in the Department of Home Affairs. But come April 2023, it is going to be what we call a 3A stand-alone entity, in term of the Public Finance Management Act. In other words, we are going to have an entity which stands alone, and its job will
be to deal with the borders away from all the other government departments. That entity will get its political mandate from
10 Ministers in an Inter-Ministerial Committee, IMC, on borders.
As you are aware, the Inter-Ministerial Committees are chosen by the President, but this is the only Inter-Ministerial Committee that is not chosen by the President. It is chosen by an Act of Parliament passed by the Members of Parliament, MPs. That Act clearly says that, the Ministers who must take political responsibility for borders, is the Minister of Home Affairs who will be the Chair, then the Ministers of the following departments, Police, Defence, Treasury, State Security, Transport, Health, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Finance and Trade Industry and Competition. If you look on all those ministries, they are all affected by what is happening at the borders.
So, they have formed a statutory body, which will meet four times a year, statutorily or as required, to make sure that things are going well at the borders. We are hoping that the future, in terms of how the borders are managed, will be
bright, so that all the things can go according to the way we have planned. Thank you.
Ms S B LEHIHI: Thank you, House chair. The continued closure of border post, brings into focus this department’s xenophobic contempt towards African people. As they currently exist, there is no substantive business as to why there are no services provided at some of our borders. Minister, which measures have been put in place to ensure that once they are operational, borders will be managed efficiently in a way which facilitates movement of African people?
Ke a leboga, Modulasetilo.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon member, you are right. But if you were to read the Act which was passed by this House, you will realise that the issues that you are raising, actually appears in the Act. Concerning the functions of the Border Management Authority, many people think that they are going to stop people from coming into South Africa. That is far from the truth. If you look at how borders are managed everywhere in the world, you will find out that, there are
goods and services that goes through borders, but there are also counterfeit goods.
Goods are also being smuggled, and there is also smuggling of precious metals between the countries that the Border Management Authority needs to take care of. There is also human trafficking, especially of women and children, which needs to be taken care of. Now, some people ask me about the border guards, whether we are sealing our borders from our neighbouring countries. We clearly said no. The function of border guards is not to stop people from coming into South Africa, it has never been, but it is to show them the right places to use when they are crossing through, even during their illegal crossing.
There is an official border gate that is used, where one goes to be finger printed and be photographed, in order for their details to be taken, so that they can be known that they are in the country. That is exactly what is going to happen, and we believe that there will be a lot of efficiency. Hon member, let me tell you why NICOC realised that there are problems at the borders, before we have put up the Border Management Authority. About seven government departments were working at
the borders in silos, and all of them doing their own things. Between them, they had to apply 58 Acts of Parliament.
For instance, Health had its own Act, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development also had its own Act, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries also had its own Act, I have already mentioned all the other departments. Now, that was extremely inefficient because, there was no clear one Commander who would command people on what to do. Also, the reason that we established Border Management Authority is that, even our neighbouring countries, because I did meet them in 2019 when I went to most of the SADEC countries, I explained to them, how the Border Management Authority is going to work.
Many of these countries welcomed this entity because they said, they did not know who to talk to when they were having problems in the borders to South Africa because there were so many entities. For instance, when I arrived in Eswatini, they told me that they have taken a decision that their borders will be managed by their Revenue Authority of Eswatini, and that they needed a counterpart in South Africa that they could talk to when the need arises. I then told them about the Border Management Authority. Indeed, meetings have already started between the Border Management Authority Commissioner
with our neighbouring countries, to discuss how are we going to work together. Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Yes, hon Bartlett, the question here is the impact of long queues at our offices. Hon member, I believe that I have already responded to part of this problem about the issue of long queues but as I said I will remind members that when I read Budget speech here, 80% of it was on this issue of long queues. I have already mentioned the capacitation of staff by 266 million. We have got a new programme which was announced by the President during the state of the nation address on 10 February that the Department Home Affairs will be hiring or recruiting 10 000 unemployed graduates those who come from University of Technology and Tvet colleges and have done courses and completed them in Information Technology, Documentation and Information and Record Management.
I am happy to announce that two weeks ago we issued an advert to recruit the first 2 000 and we are busy now with that process.
In October, we will issue another advert to recruit the next
4 000. And in December, we will issue an advert to recruit the last 4 000 because once these records are digitised people will no longer go to Home Affairs. One of the contributing factors to the long queues as hon De Bruyn said is not only IT. Yes, is also the fact that people have to come back many times because the records I am talking about are paper records. And to scan through them and find information is sometimes a night mare because our paper records, they numbered 350 million and they stretched as far back as 1895. Not 1995 but 1895. So, is quite a lot of work and officials have to work through that manually. That’s why they need to be digitisation.
Second thing is our mobile unit. We are deploying lots of mobile units into the rural villages so that people shouldn’t go and queue at Home Affairs but they will find services next to their home. Last week on Thursday, I spent the whole day in Matlerekeng Village in Ephraim Mogale Municipality where we were issuing IDs, birth certificates and all the documents that people could apply for. And so for this reason, we are increasing our mobile units. Every financial year we will buy new mobile units. More so, we are working towards a situation where we no longer going to allow school kids to come to Home
Affairs during school hours because we rather send a mobile unit to their school to help them out.
Hon Chairperson, I have already mentioned the issue of Branch Appointment Booking System, BABS. And then I have already mentioned the issue of stabilisation of the IT systems by Sector Education and Training Authority, Seta, renovating their networks and by Home Affairs buying new routers and switches. Thank you very much.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Thank you very much, hon Chairperson. And thank you very much, hon Minister, for your comprehensive report. But hon Minister, over the recent past years the department has partnered with the banks to rollout the provision of Identity Document .... Am I audible, House Chair?
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Yes, you are audible.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Identity Document and other relevant documents. Firstly, hon Minister, has the impact of this intervention be assessed in terms of reducing the long queues which I know you already answered? But if not, why not? And if so, hon Minister, what are the relevant details? I thank you, hon Chairperson. Thank you, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Yes, we announced here in this very House that we are going to get engage with the banks to issue some documents for us, especially passports and IDs. And the banking industry was very excited because they said if they help us to issue, especially the smart cards to as many South Africans as possible the banks will save R15 million in Identity fraud because is difficult to defraud the Smart ID Card. Now, the reason that the process has not moved as fast as we have wished is because many banks are worried of their repletion because of this issue of IT system downtime. Even if you go to a bank you still have to get into the National Population Register. And the IT system through which you are going to get there is the same Seta system which I have already said it has got problems. So, many banks did not like the embarrassment of a person entering the bank queuing there and when they try to get into the National Population Register they can’t go in because the system is down. They believe the good name of that bank with clients. And banks are very sensitive about clients. So, we are very confident that once Seta finish the work of revamping their network for this amount of R400 million the banks will open their doors because everything will run smoothly. And that’s why banks themselves help us by giving us eight IT engineers to come and helps us to deal with this problem of downtime. Thank you very much.
Mr N M HADEBE: Thank you so much, hon Chairperson. Hon Minister, as the BABS system does not cater for bookings more than a month in advance and slots within this time frame remain unavailable particularly for those within urban areas. What can be done to increase bookings availability? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: The BABS System is new and we choose selected offices where we want to pilot it. And as I have said Home Affairs has got 412 offices in the country. But the BABS system is only operational in 56 of them because we extend it gradually. It’s not something that is an event that is just going to happen the following day. It’s being gradual. We want to see how it works. More so, hon Hadebe, that even if the BABS System is working very well, I have told you 117 000 have already utilised it since June. In some offices you find
100 people who come through this system. Others is as slow as
20. Part of the problem being that we won’t be able to implement the BABS System for everything you need in Home Affairs. We are definitely doing it for a passport. We are definitely doing it for a Smart ID. We can’t do it for instance, for a birth certificate or a death certificate because nobody makes appointments for such things. If there is a death you can’t make an appointment to come later for a death certificate. So, it is still a hybrid model but for
those who come for IDs and Passport in the offices where is implemented is working very well. Thank you.
Mr S ZANDAMELA: Thank you, House Chair. Will the Minister admit that his department is losing the hope on queues? Does Home affairs offices across all provinces continue to have long queues then our people resort to sleeping outside offices in order to gain access to services despite the Minister having declared ...
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Hon Zandamela? You are muted, hon Zandamela.
Mr S ZANDAMELA: House Chair, can you hear me now.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Yes.
Mr S ZANDAMELA: Thanks, House Chair. Will the Minister admit that his department is losing the hope on queues as Home Affairs offices across all provinces continue to have long queues and our people resort to sleeping outside offices in order to gain access to services despite the Minister having declared the war against queues and the offices are always off line? Thank you, House Chair.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Well, hon member, we might have lost a few battles in terms of war on queues but we have certainly not lost the war. That I deny with the contempt it deserves because all you are saying is that forever that is going to be a situation. I have just announced to you what I announced here during my Budget speech – the steps that are being taken. If all those steps are taken and still, there is no improvement then I will definitely agree that we have lost the war. I will say so personally. I told you that Seta is revamping its networks. They didn’t just do so. There was a joint portfolio committee meeting of the Department of Home Affairs in the National Assembly together with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies and Seta whereby the members in the National Assembly ask us to outlines step by step what each entities is going to do in order that there is no system is downtime as I said the IT system is the biggest one that causes long queues. And we outlined and during the Budget speech I was giving you a report of what has been done.
Apart from the R400 million renewal or revamp of networks by Seta I mentioned that Home Affairs is buying new switches and routers which will also help. Seta is also revamping what they call switching centres that serves our offices whereby they
are putting what is called redundancy. Redundancy means, I have mentioned here offices in areas like Mhala which were down because the switching centre in Polokwane was down. But if they put the redundancy, redundancy means you don’t depend only on one switching centre. When one switching centre is down you rushed to the next one which is connected. Now all that is been tried to fight the war queues. And I have already told you about BABS. If you ask the 117 000 people who used BABS, they don’t have to queue. They are told to come at the particular time. And when they come at that time they get served because we realised that when 200 people all arrived at
6 o’clock in Home affairs they are going to have to queue but if they come at different times because they were given different slots that also will help. If we lose the war on queues, we may as well close the civic service of the Department of Home Affairs. So, at the moment I accede to the fact that we lost a few battle and we are still using them but certainly not the war. Thank you very much.
Mr I M SILEKU: Good afternoon, House Chair. My apologies, my network is a little bit unstable. Minister, in 2021 BABS was pioneered by your department to address the issue of long queues at the Department of Home Affairs offices. We heard Home Affairs confirming that those who book online will be
given first priority. What steps has the department taken to accommodate the elderly or citizens who have no access to the Internet to use the online booking system. Thank you very much.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Well Chairperson, there are several methods that are used and they are in our website, only that I don’t have it off my head. But when elderly people approach Home Affairs Offices where the manager is cautious because we did treat them to be cautious about elderly people, we ask them to give them priority. And we also don’t want our elderly people to be standing in queues over a long period of time. So, we have now ordered chairs worth R1 million which are going to be distributed to Home Affairs Offices so that they can sit down. Bu I have also informed you that we are going to make malls available. We are going to have our own offices in the malls whereby the person would not have to stand in a queue. You arrive there. They give you a ticket.
You move around the shopping mall do whatever you want. There would be an announcement to call you and you rush to the office to be served. So, we are using quite a number of methods because we don’t want to lose this battle of war on queues. And BABS method in areas where is working has help to foil the corruption that was going up there where some people
wake up in the morning and then stand in the queue and come and sell it to you for R200 or R300. There won’t be any need for you to buy a space on the queue from anybody because you came at the right time when you are supposed to be served. So, many of those thugs there are already having no work because of the BABS System. And we think if we can make sure that people know about BABS and we popularise it, it will really help solve many of our problems. Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Du Toit, you are asking about the number of people who came illegally in the country and were deported since 01 January 2021. The people who were deported were 58 199 since 01 January 2021 and your next question is, in which location they were arrested? It is a lot of locations and I will mention a few: In Gauteng, we have got Middelburg, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Carletonville, Benoni, Springs, Germiston, Randburg, Bronkhorstspruit and many others. In KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Eshowe, Phongola, Richards Bay, Kokstad, Msinga, Mtubatuba and many others. In Mpumalanga, Witbank, Nelspruit, Bethal, Middleburg, Mashishini, Baberton and many others. In the Free State, Kroonstad, Sasolburg, Welkom, Bethlehem, Bloemfontein, Ficksburg, Maseru Bridge, Van Rooyens, Phuthaditjhaba and many
others. In the Northern Cape, is the Calvinia, De Aar, Springbok, Kimberley, Kuruman, Upington and many others. In North West, it is Rustenburg, Mmabatho, Taung, Klerksdorp, Breedt, Potchefstroom and many others. In the Eastern Cape, Mthatha, Humansdorp, Lusikisiki, King Williamstown and many others. In Limpopo, Modimolle, Makhado, Tohoyandou, Giyani, Seshego, Polokwane, Tzaneen and many others and in the Western Cape, Malmesbury, Cape Town, Khayelitsha, Vredendal, Oudtshoorn, Paarl, Caledon and Beaufort West.
The other question that is here is to which countries? Hon members, there are many and if I may mention them very quickly: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Chile, China, Congo- Brazzaville, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guyana, Hungary, India, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Tanzania, Switzerland, Uganda, Thailand, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Hon Chair, while hon Du Toit is still busy, I noticed that I did not answer the last part of his question. The last part of
his question was whether anyone of those people deported came back. The answer is from January 2021; we did not notice any such person who was detained again after having deported. The last part of the question again, my apologies, he said how many illegal immigrants are currently in the police holding cells and what are the relevant details in that regard of deportation.
The number of illegal immigrants currently in the police holding cells is 1043. I want hon members not to confuse them because there might have been a confusion here. People who are in the police holding cells are those who are in trial but those who are being sentenced and are in correctional services are 18 000. Two weeks after anyone has finished his or her sentence, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development would write me a letter and give their names and we would arrange for their deportation.
There are also 324 suspects who were being involved I the illegal mining, the present zama zama saga. We have got 324 people who are in police holding cells and are awaiting the trial for entering the country illegally. Thank you.
Mr S F Du TOIT: Hon Chair, thank you Minister, for the comprehensive answer. Minister I want to know if there is any arrangement in place between your department, the SAPS and the correctional services with regards to the arrested illegal immigrants that are awaiting trial. Since the current issue seems to be a dilemma because it is alleged that the correctional services does not want to take in these illegal immigrants before they are sentenced. The Department of Home Affairs cannot deport them because they are awaiting trial and the SAPS holding cells do not have the capacity to hold these individuals for long periods of time. Thank you, Minister.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: In terms of the law, Chairperson, when the law enforcement agencies come across a person who is illegal in the country, if we have got a capacity in terms of logistics and all that to deport that person within 48 hours, we do so. That depends from the people who are our neighbours. If the person is going to take more than 48 hours, that is when we then arrest them. The law says within 48 hours they must appear in front of the magistrate, failing which we will be forced to release them. If in appearing in front of the magistrate, the magistrate then agrees that the person needs to be deported, that person is taken to the Lindela Repatriation Centre where we call their
ambassadors and talk to them and say, here are your people from your country. The magistrate has given an instruction that they be deported and this is what we are going to do. We then start working with those ambassadors. If on the hand, the magistrate refuses to confirm the deportation, then that person is released immediately in which case police arrest them for other offences.
If a person is arrested by the police first and they have committed a criminal offence, we cannot deport him until that case has gone through the courts. For instance, we are already aware as we are standing here that the documents to be in South Africa that were obtained by Pastor Omotoso who is going through a trial for alleged rape in Gqeberha were fraudulent. He can be deported at any time but we cannot deport him because he is still going through a criminal case. When that criminal case is over, if he gets acquitted, we deport him immediately. If on the other hand he is not acquitted, he is sentenced, we will wait until he has completed a sentence. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development will write to us and tell us two weeks before he gets released and we will arrange for deportation. Thank you, very much.
Mr D R RYDER: Hon House Chairperson, Minister I think until now the biggest reason that South Africa has had illegal immigrants is that the Department of Home Affairs’ systems and regulations are so complex, often offline and so corrupt that it makes it difficult for immigrants to apply. Now Minister, with the proposed termination of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit, is the department planning on deporting 4 million people in January 2023?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: I would accept that we do have problems in our systems and that is exactly the reason why we are reviewing them. You will remember that after Pastor Bushiri escaped from the country, we discovered that his documents were fraudulent and they were issued by Home Affairs. We acceded to that. We are the ones who told you actually. None of you knew that his documents were fraudulent. We are the ones who told the public that and the Chief Director who issued those fraudulent documents had gone through disciplinary action and he has been fired.
When I learnt that the documents of Pastor Omotoso were also fraudulent, my question is, how many more of priests, pastors, prophets and any other prominent people are here with fraudulent documents? While I was still milling around that,
something terrible happened in the department. The people in permitting, of them, wrote a petition to me. We have just hired a lady who was in the police force who eventually became an advocate. So, she both have skills in police work and being an advocate. She is heading our anticorruption unit and she is arresting people, make no mistake. These 14 people wrote me a petition and said that counter corruption unit must stop investigation because it is investigating our errors and they signed a petition.
Now, my concern is, I am working with people who are openly telling me that they are committing errors in bringing in people in the country and please do not look at these errors. These second concern is, are these really errors or they are afraid to say corruption and they call it errors because is a softer word?
I then put up a team, headed by the former Director-General in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, working with the former Scorpions, working with analysts, the Special Investigating Unit, SIU and people who were working in the state capture commission who were and investigator of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. I kept them together and said all the permits and visas that were ever issued from 2004, go and review them and
tell us what is happening. Of course, they did find out that
12 of the 14 people who signed the petition were not committing errors. It was deliberate corruption and we are busy with that.
Now, if you look at that report, which we handed over to the NA, it was read there in one of the portfolio committee meetings. They are giving proposals on what to do. Some of the proposals are that, we need to change legislation because it is being abused. For instance, South Africa has got a Retirement Visa. That report shows that there are people who are 25 years who came to retire in South Africa. There are people who are as young as 16 years but they came to retire.
When you confront officials they say in the Act it does not mention the age of retirement. Sixty-five years is an Act in South Africa but it is not in terms of the Immigration Act. So, this shows that it is an abuse but I reject completely the notion that when systems are difficult then we are justified to do fraud or to bribe or to do corruption. That I will never accept. Any decent person can never do that and say because it is difficult to get visa then I am going to steal because if you allow that, then any action of a criminal in the country will be allowed. Somebody can stand up and say I find it very difficult for me to be loved by women so I raped. Then we will
say the process of getting a partner is difficult. I do not accept that. People must obey the law and we will be able to help them. At the moment we are trying to review our systems in order to help them but they must never get corrupt because we will arrest them. Whether they are South Africans or they come from other countries, we will arrest them. For example, what was happening in Krugersdorp, we will definitely arrest them. Thank you.
Moh S B LEHIHI: Ke a leboga, Modulasetilo.
Has there been any correspondence initiated between the South African government and government’s efforts and their counterparts in order to resolve immigration challenges? If so, with which states and what did they resolve? Thank you.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Lehihi, the child there behind you is not very convinced of the question. [Laughter.] Hon member, let me start with SADC which has got an organ on defence, politics and security. Ministers of the Departments of International Relations and Co-operations, Home Affairs, State Security, Defence and Police all belong to that organ
and sit all the time to address these issues. I have attended the meeting twice already since I came into Home Affairs and the meetings have been stopped because of Covid-19 and I believe they will resume again. We also know that in the AU we also have such structures but recently I have just announced here that we have got a programme of the new commissioner of border management authority meeting counterparts all around.
If I am not mistaken, this week they are in Mozambique to meet the counterparts there about issues of immigration and issues of border management and so on and so forth. So, there are quite a number of fora where these things are discussed. Thank you.
Ms N NDONGENI: Hon House Chair, hon Minister while we in the ANC appreciate the strides made by the departments in addressing the challenges of the illegal immigrants, we equally note the legal obligation imposed on South Africa in terms of dealing with the challenges of the illegal immigrants into South Africa. Has any review of the relevant international convention on immigration and their impact on the current challenges facing South Africa been undertaken? If not, why not? If so, what are the relevant details? Thank you, Chair.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Indeed, there were but because government takes its cue from the ruling party. You will recognise that during the recent conference there was a discussion document about overhauling the whole immigration system in the country. We outlined areas where we felt ... [Lost in the changing of Tapes.] One of those areas was to relook at the international conventions we have entered into and where we think that there are mistakes. We have noticed something very serious that the United Nations Convention of 1951, article 7 of it allow countries to put exemptions and reservations on part of the conventions that are not suitable.
They might not be suitable or suitable because of the economic conditions, religious, cultural beliefs and or politics. They put those reservations there. From 1951 when Parliaments around the world started rectifying those resolutions of the conference we noticed that South Africa could not because the United Nations was not recognising South Africa as a state.
So, the rectification only happened in 1996, two years after the democracy. But we noticed that many countries to those reservations South Africa is the only one that somehow did not need to put the reservations.
That thing is a very big weakness and we say it must be reviewed because all other countries have got reservation in one way or another in terms of their economy, religion, social activities, beliefs and we believe South Africa cannot be an exception. That is why we need to review all those things.
Thank you very much.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: This is the issue of intensifying South Africa’s passport and the measures we have taken. House Chairperson, this is a very important question. Some years back South Africa’s passport used to be respected all around the world but now it is doubted. People laugh and make jokes when they see stories on social media. For instance, there is a joke that was made about a gentleman called Lebogang Ndlovu of Bangladesh where the name, the ID number and the fingerprint belong to a South African called Lebogang Ndlovu but the photo belongs to a gentleman from Bangladesh.
This is what we discovered in our Krugersdorp offices where we found a kingpin from Pakistan who recruited 13 young South Africans and 13 nationals from Bangladesh and Pakistan. They organised a corrupt home affairs official and visited the
office of that official at night. The South Africans that are recruited are people that are most likely to not leave the country and they are asked to apply for a passport. They write their names, date of birth, ID and take fingerprints. When it is time to take a photo they are pushed aside and someone from Bangladesh or Pakistan comes and take that photo. They travel all over the world as South Africans with those passports.
When they are caught, that country starts losing confidence in South African passports because of they think who else. That is why our ambassador to Portugal was called in and confronted that there is a South African in jail in Portugal who is selling drugs. They were very angry and irritated that they are trying to fight drugs and somebody from South Africa comes and sell drugs among their children.
When the ambassador arrived he found that that gentleman is actually from Bernini and not a South African but the passport he is carrying carried a name of a chap who, on investigation, we found that is from Atteridgeville. When we approached him we found that he has never left the country before. Now, these are the problems we are faced with. We had to sit and ask what went wrong and where.
We discovered that there is something that we do to facilitate travel which is allowing people to apply for a passport here in Cape Town and collect it in Pretoria enroute to the airport. We are now taking that away. We know it will inconvenience people. When you apply for a passport you can only collect it in the office where you applied - that is number one - so that we can see that it is you and not somebody else from another country.
Secondly, when passports were printed, they used to be activated very easily at quality assurance. We have taken that away. The passport won’t be activated until you come into the office and put your fingerprint and activate it. If you get it before that by some dubious means it will not work. They will arrest you at the airport because that passport will not be of any effect. When you put it under a machine it cannot be read.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, said that countries must only bring machine readable passports. The machine will not read it because it will not be activated. How will it stop Lebogang of Bangladesh? On the day you come to collect it you must put your fingerprint and then we get in the national population register to check your photo and look at your face. So the fingerprint you put there, the photo and
the fingerprint in the national population register and your face must all correspond for you to get your passport.
This will definitely cause problems to travellers but we believe that is the prize South Africans must pay to secure our passport because we want it to be respected once more.
The second part of the question is about transit visas. Again, in South Africa, trying to be a friendly country, we said that people who transit through our airports to other countries, people transit here through Cape Town International Airport and OR Tambo to the neighbouring countries, and we said that in order to be friendly and efficient they do not need transit visas; they can just come because they are coming to South Africa.
I am sure you saw what happened at the airport on the night of
15 June where nationals from Bangladesh and Pakistan on their way to the transit lounge in the airport somebody directs them by phone. They dodge, detour and move around. They found passages that are for fire hydrants and they got in there. I went through that passage and found a long rope going up to the ceiling and they climb through that rope to the ceiling,
walk through the ceiling of the airport and they are in South Africa illegally.
We immediately called a meeting of all the law enforcement agencies including ACSA and one of the solutions, the others are security and I will not mention here, one of the solutions is that we must impose a transit visa on them. In other words we have the right to agree whether they must go through South Africa or not when they go to neighbouring countries. We have also discovered that some of them go through the transit lounge, take a flight to the neighbouring country, arrive there and come on foot through our porous borders and enter South Africa illegally.
So, because we have names and we have seen, we have decided that now there must be a transit lounge so we can agree on who can come through South Africa. We then asked the Minister of Department of International Relations and Co-operation to write to Bangladesh and Pakistan and tell them that unfortunately because of the activities of their nationals we are forced to impose a transit visa. We have written them those letters and we have started imposing a transit visa on the nationals of those countries. It is unfortunate but we
have to because we need to secure the security and safety of our country. Thank you.
Ms C VISSER: Hon House Chair, thank you to the Minister for the details that you just shared with us with regards to the integrity of our passport and the security thereof. I am glad that you could make a plan in the interim stages because we really have to see that we get a grip on this and see that the integrity of our passport is a priority for the department.
In terms of that, you almost covered my follow-up. In terms of that I just want to ask you about the officials that are participating in this corrupt fraudulent practices and helping these people to obtain illegal passports of South Africa. What is your timeframe to implement the needed measures to deal with corrupt officials and how are you going to do this to stop it because if we do not stop it within our structure it will continue because they are receiving financial benefits from that. Thank you, Minister, only that.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Thank you, hon Visser, you are indeed correct. The South African corrupt home affairs officials who were recruited in this process I have just mentioned where the poor South African whose name is used gets
only R500 for giving away their identity, the South African home affairs official who facilitates this gets R5 000 per passport and the Pakistani kingpin gets R40 000 per passport. Now you can see R500 to somebody who uses their identity, R5000 to somebody who sells their country and R40 000 to somebody who buys that.
We decided without consequence management this will not stop. As I am speaking here all the people who were working with that Pakistani have been arrested. Thirteen young South Africans who were selling their identities about eight home affairs officials, the last of which we are still looking for because when police went to his home we found that he has run to a sangoma maybe hoping that he will get some muthi to escape the police. We are still looking for such people. One of them, this is very unfortunate I must say, one of them even involved his young son who is about 20 years or so in this corruption. The poor boy did not know what he was doing. He was given a car to go and collect these people during the night and sending them to the office. That young man helped us because he said this is being done in the Krugersdorp office. He actually drove some people to Limpopo in Burgersfort taking them from Johannesburg because they have to choose offices where somebody who is corrupt will work with them. He said he
did not only transport people to the Krugersdorp office but also to Burgersfort and then we checked the home affairs official in Burgersfort who was involved. So we have arrested them. We have arrested them but they got bail. The Pakistani kingpin is still in jail and not allowed bail. The lady who issued the passport to Lebogang of Bangladesh is working in our Benoni office. We arrested her immediately and said part of the problem in government is to take many months with a person on suspension while earning. We immediately arranged with correctional services and the police that if they put her in correctional services facilities we go there and do a DC and dismiss her from correctional services. Fortunately or unfortunately she was given bail and we immediately went for her and said while we are waiting for a trial, we are taking you through this DC.
We also have an official who was posted to our office in Namibia. He was selling visas to Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in Namibia to come to South Africa illegally. We arrested her, we took her through DC and fired her and we gave the case to the Hawks and something happened which still confuses me. Just when the Hawks were around about to arrest her, she passed away. We don’t know if there was foul play there or not. We don’t know but she is gone. Just before the
arrest. We do not know what happened but on our side we have already fired her.
So, we are forced to act very harshly against our people but if we do not act harshly these things will not stop. They will keep on continuing. But lastly, because human beings are human beings, we are adding more technology. At the moment all of you hon members the biometrics which we have for anybody who has an ID or a passport the biometric which we have for you is a fingerprint and a photo and those things are swapped and stolen. Now in this era of technology we are changing. That biometric is on a system called HANIS or Home Affairs National Identification System. We are now upgrading to a system called ABIS Automated Biometric Information System. Whereas HANIS has only a fingerprint and a photo, ABIS has a fingerprint, a photo, iris recognition, it can recognise with the eye that this is hon Visser and not Motsoaledi, there is also facial recognition, it can also recognise your face when you appear in front of that machine it recognises whose face this belongs to. We are also putting a palm print so that we have five biometrics. We are also going to put legislation here it is far advanced that young kids must no longer wait up to the age of 16 to take an ID, we want them to take an ID at the age of
10. We will bring that here for the House to pass as
legislation. Why are we doing that? We are tired of police cars going to a crime scene, taking fingerprints and not find an owner because someone sent a child there who is less than
16 and not on our database. So we want all the kids in South Africa to be on our database with fingerprints from the age of
10 and we will be able to fights these issues of fraud. Those are the things that are in the pipeline. Thank you.
Mr S F Du TOIT: Hon House Chair, to the hon Minister, we appreciate your comprehensive answers. The initial question spoke to the security of South African passport and also the transit visas, but I want to know, referring to the security measures, legal and illegal entry into South Africa as well as the department’s efforts to streamline the home affairs operations. Minister, under the current South African visa regulations there are roughly 30 nations around the world whose citizens can gain visa free entry into the country for up to 30 days. Another 90 countries globally that are permitted to enter South Africa for up to 90 days without a visa. However, Taiwan is among the countries whose citizens require a visa to enter South Africa for any length of time.
Now currently, South Africa is in dire need of international investment and tourism to stabilise the economy, and in 2019 the Taiwanese citizens made more than 17 million trips for the
one year abroad spending an average of about R457 billion only for that year on tourism. Minister, I want to know when the visa free agreement with Taiwan will be put in place. If not, why not?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: This is a very long statement and I missed some of the issues but the little I heard, House Chairperson, let me say this. When countries give visas or visa free entry of particular nationals all countries all countries around the world look at three things: firstly, they look at the safety and security of its citizens, if people from that particular area are allowed to enter the country visa free. Secondly, the look at the sovereignty of the country. Thirdly, they look at the developmental needs of the country. Different countries have different developmental needs. One will say because of our developmental need this is what I will do. For instance, there are people who argue about something called reciprocity that you must reciprocate if I allow you visa free entry in my country you must reciprocate and also allow me visa free in your country. It does not work like that in a straight line; it is not mathematics. It is not a mathematical formula; it is economics and politics which are more complex. So, we are not just going to say I am reciprocating.
What am I trying to talk about? Most countries when they go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia they need visas because there are so many people going there and they have to be given appointment that you come after two years, three years etc. and so the levy visas. But we allow people from Saudi Arabia to enter South Africa visa free. We don’t have a problem of Meeca like them but we need them because they spend Meeca bucks here in our country. They have never shown to be doing illegal things. So we allow them visa free.
Now, every SADC country is allowed visa free in South Africa. You do not apply for a visa when you go to Lesotho or eSwatini or Botswana or Mozambique nor do they need visas when they come to South Africa. It is visa free. The countries which have to apply for visas in the country we are reviewing them every year and increasing them. I have just increased that I think in the budget speech in 2019 where we gave visa free status to Cuba, Ghana, Cape Verde, I think there about six countries that we added and every year we are reviewing which countries can come visa free in South Africa. That is what we are doing and we are doing that to help tourism, but those who need visas we are now implementing an e-Visa which is very smooth. You apply online if they allow you, you don’t wait for the visa you go to the airport and when you arrive there they
give you the visa. That is the e-Visa system. We piloted it in Nigeria, India and China because the three countries constitute one third of the world population but we were disturbed by COVID but we are going on with that and that is exactly how we are going to promote tourism but at the same time looking at the safety and security of our country. Thank you.
Ms B M BARTLETT: Hon House Chairperson, thank you very much hon Minister for setting the record straight on this critical question that borders and security of our country, hon Minister ... Sorry, sorry Chair, I do not know what happened. Hon Minister for setting the record straight in this critical question that borders are the security of our country. Hon Minister, are there any comparative studies conducted to draw best practices and morals in relation to passport security, and why not. If so, what are the relevant details? Thank you, hon House Chairperson. I am not sure if I was clear.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): It’s clear.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: The issue of best practices whether you compare and do best practices does not really arise, hon Bartlett, because all passports around the world
are regularised and controlled by ICAO, International Civil Aviation Organisation. They are the ones who make the rules about passports and so it has to be standard. I have just earlier mentioned one of them. It has to be a machine readable passport and they will tell you if the passport doesn’t have two extra pages and all that the person must come in and if your passport is handwritten it should not be allowed into that particular country. Now ICAO members, and South Africa is one of them, have annual meetings about security and how passports must look like. For instance, one of the laws is that you cannot repeat the same passport. When we renew your passport we do not repeat it, we throw it away because it is finished. You are given a new passport altogether with new numbers because if we keep on repeating them there will be fraud. All those I am saying we do not need to compare because we are told by the International Civil Aviation Organisation eventhough sometimes the udges think otherwise. We had a lady from Venisuela who was coming here to Cape Town because her partner was here and she came with a handwritten passport and we rejected it because we have to respect the laws of the International Civil Aviation Organisation that a passport must be machine readable but then they told us that Venisuela ran out of papers to print passports. So, they just do it handwritten. Now, our dilemma is that the international body
says that a passport must be machine readable, here is a sister country that has run out of paper, what do we do? But the matter in court the Judge insisted that we must allow that person in with that written passport. So, these are some of the things that are happening internationally but I want to say that there is no need to go and copy from anybody because we are members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Thank you.
Ms S B LEHIHI: Ke a leboga.
The notion of cancelling visa transfer gives rise to possible illegal activities as one will have more than one active passport. Has the department considered permanent passport numbers? If not, why not? If so, please provide details.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: House Chairperson, please help. Did the member say there are people who have two passports?
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): No, she is saying the cancelation of visa passports and you will end up having members that will have two.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Two passports, Chair?
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr A J Nyambi): Yes. She is saying instead of renewing the passport you cancel it and then you issue another one with a new number. That is what she was saying.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Yes, that is what we are doing. It is not South Africa it is Civil Aviation Organisation. One of the liberation heroes of one of our countries, because I did not ask them for permission I will not mention their name, one of the presidents of a sister country who just got liberation before us when they started their new country the passport of that liberation hero who was a leader of course a liberation movement, his passport was number one in that country. He has long retired obviously, but because of sentimental attachments to liberation he asked that that passport number one be reissued again. The rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation doesn’t allow, and the Minister told him so, he got very angry he thought the Minister was being funny. So, the poor Minister phoned me to help because he said that the Minister is refusing and if you are willing I will get my passport. So, we had to intervene and say that hon president, it is not the Minister who
determines the laws, it is ICAO. Even if the Minister can succumb because you were a head of state and give you this passport, you will not be able to pass through other countries. They will not accept a passport that has worked before and expired. So, every time you apply for a passport you get a new one. Your passport expires after five years.
Let me take this opportunity. When I said that we are safe guarding our passports one of the problems we are having especially from hon members, and I got it mostly from you here in Parliament, is to apply for an emergency passport. Minister there is a trip in Parliament and it is very important politically and I have just discovered that my passport has expired. Please give me an emergency passport. There is nothing called an emergency passport, hon members. When you leave this country to another country, there is nothing called emergency passport. It does not exist. We have to print that passport from the beginning. If you are lucky we will do it within 24 hours and charge you, but there is no emergency passport. What they are referring you and calling it an emergency passport is if you stranded overseas, if you visit another country and they steal your passport or you lose it in whatever way, you need to come back home. Then you go to the embassy they write you a transit document. That is what is
called an emergency passport. It is handwritten and only allows you to return to your country. The moment you alight the airplane at the airport its usefulness is over because you are now back home and don’t have a passport. That one International Civil Aviation Organisation accepts it because they can’t allow you be stranded in another country. Who will take care of you, especially if you do not have money? So, they allow that. It is just a document to arrive home, but we can’t write you a document to go and visit another country.
So, please hon members, especially because you travel a lot, check your passport every month or every forth night at best to check if it has expired. Sometimes I get phone calls of people on a queue at the airport. When they give their passport to the airline and the airline hostess will say but sir or madam this passport has expired you can’t travel. They start phoning me and say the Minister of Home Affairs can give us permission he knows me I am an honourable member. Then they call me and I will say, hon member, you are honourable here in South Africa not in other countries. If that airline takes you there the other countries will arrest you. You are honourable in Parliament here not around the whole world and that’s what people must understand. So, apply for your passport on time.
Thank you very much.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Chairperson and hon Mthethwa, the question is, has the department made progress in adhering to the legislative and policy imperatives that were raised by the Auditor-General in order to ensure prudence spending? You mentioned a sum of R284 million. Hon member, to our knowledge the amount that was flagged by the Auditor- General is R280 877 475 million. This amount was paid for hardware, software and professional services. I need to give you the history of this amount because it is quite long.
Back in 2016, the department wanted to upgrade their biometrics -I have already mentioned that - from the Home Affairs national identification system, Hanis, to the automated biometric identification system, Abis, which I have told you about. To do that you need a service provider. In terms of the government rules, Home Affairs is not authorised to issue a tender if it is information technology, IT, related. The only entity that is authorised to issue tenders for IT services is the State Information Technology Agency, Sita. The Home Affairs Department went to that agency and asked them to do the process of creating Abis and migrating all South Africans from Hanis to Abis. That tender was issued by Sita to a company called EOH. But when the Auditor-General
was auditing Sita she flagged this tender as irregular. The Auditor-General said that, because the people who will eventually pay the money is not Sita, but Home Affairs as Sita was issuing it for Home Affairs, then Home Affairs must do a forensic audit on this company called EOH.
Home Affairs did exactly that. We went to a company called Nexia SAB and T to conduct forensic audit. They did so. We called the Nexia SAB and T to come to the portfolio committee in Parliament to read their findings and results of the forensic audit. Their findings were that indeed this tender was awarded irregularly.
As I am speaking in front of you, hon members, we have handed
it over to the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, and other people are going through the disciplinary committee, DC. The department also opened a criminal case, Case Number 145/2021, at the Pretoria Central Police Station on 04 March 2021. But we also gave and handed over a detailed report to the Hawks on 15 April 2021.
During this process some of you might have noticed from the Zondo Commission that the company, EOH, has been flagged there. The company then decided that it is pulling out of all
government contracts including the Abis contract. They pulled out. But when they pulled out work had already been done. They have already bought hardware, they have already bought software and they have already done work worth R56 million.
That is the money we have paid. But then the Auditor-General argued that even if they can see the hardware, the software, and prove has been given that a service worth R56 million was provided, but because the forensic audit shows that originally this contract was issued irregularly, then the expenditure becomes irregular. So we have to do all this work.
After doing it and handing over everything to the Hawks, we are allowed by law to take that information to the Treasury so that they can regularise the tender because it is a technical irregularity. We have paid for things that you can see but from a tender that was originally irregular through Sita. We have written to the National Treasury on 13 April 2021 to regularise. That is where we are.
Hon member, we believe that we have adhered to all the key legislative and policy imperatives that were raised by the Auditor-General. Thank you.
Mr E M MTHETHWA: Thank you very much, Minister. Sometimes it is good to listen to you because you lecture us instead. You take questions into task and give it in details as sometimes it is difficult to come up. My follow-up question, Chair, is that I want to know, was whatever the Auditor-General highlighted been implemented and also been done, Minister?
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Mthethwa, I am not really lecturing to anybody. I am in a department where I am getting information which you don’t have, and you are hon members who need to have some of this information because people might ask you.
Mr E M MTHETHWA: And I appreciate it, Minister.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Yes, I am sharing with you what I know. I deal with passports every day, and you don’t. That’s why I am sharing.
Hon member, yes, we are adhering to the orders given by the Auditor-General. That’s why we took all these steps as I am saying here. We presented to the members of the National Assembly. We even gave them names that so and so has been presented to the Hawks, so and so to the NPA, so and so is
going through DC in both Home Affairs or in Sita. All that is happening. That’s why we were able to present that information to the Treasury so that they can see that those steps are being taken in terms of how the Auditor-General has ordered.
Man B T MATHEVULA: Ndza khensa, Mutsahamaxitulu.
I will take it on behalf of hon Luthuli. Minister, your department, like many others, is facing financial distress which is a result of improper planning and spending. Which measures have you put in place to change all habits of spending of state resources so that legislation is actually adhered to? Thank you, Chair.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Hon Chair, I was about to jump and arrest hon Mathevula because you said Luthuli and she stood up, and I don’t remember her coming to Home Affairs to change her surname. I thought it was fraudulently acquired. But fortunately she has explained it.
Yes, hon member, you are right. Again, it comes to the issue of consequence management. This gentleman who we have just fired this week lied to us that the switched and routers that have been bought were being deployed to end the systems’ downtime and they were actually in the storeroom. We charged him for dereliction of duty. But one of the things he has done is that he has approved invoices of Sita of the work that was not done. We can’t stand for such things and that’s why we are taking action. This is the state money that is being wasted.
The three people, the deputy-director general, DDG, chief- director and the director who are now on suspension at human resources, HR, also did things like that. You fire a person following normal processes. That person goes to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, CCMA, and win the case. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration says bring them back. It is not nice, but it is the law. The law says that if you reject the findings of CCMA you appeal. You go to the Labour Court and say I don’t agree with what CCMA is doing. These officials did not appeal, but they just refused to put the person back. The person went to court. By the time they arrived in court after so many years, we are owing the person R6 million. This is a junior official. We must pay R6 million of the state’s money because one
official was doing stupid things. We said no, we can no longer work with such people. We charged them and they are going through DC because they have spent the state’s money prudently. You don’t just go on wasting money. It is very easy for the officials to do so because it is not their money.
Anybody who earns a salary cannot do that with their money. This is public money. People must know that there will be consequences and we act, hon Mathevula/Luthuli - we act. We act very harshly. The next official must know that even if I have a job tomorrow I might find myself out of it. Thank you.
Mr N M HADEBE: Hon Chairperson, the Minister has partly covered me in one of the responses. But my follow-up question would be that, the Auditor-General reported that management did not consistently and correctly applied the adopted accounting policies specifically in relation to the impairment of receivables and the impairment of accrued departmental revenue. What steps, if any, have been taken to rectify this internal oversite deficiency? Thank you, Chair.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Chairperson, the Department of Home Affairs conducts quarterly performance assessment and expenditure reviews against the annual performance and operational policies. These meetings are chaired by the
director-general, DG, and reports are presented to the portfolio committee quite periodically.
The part about revenue which I remember was an issue between the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, Dirco, and ourselves. You are aware that some of the people apply for passports and all that at Dirco missions around the whole world where we have embassies. They apply for them. They must collect that money and give it to Home Affairs. There was a situation where it is true that they never did so and the amount of money at some stage which was supposed to be revenue for Home Affairs was R880 million. I wrote to my counterpart at Dirco. They brought in part of that money. The other amount was not brought in because there were problems. We did a forensic audit and we have just found the results last week. I haven’t yet gone through about what actually happened. The Auditor-General is flagging it in Home Affairs, but it is something that is happened at Dirco regarding the missions around the world. That forensic audit was actually dealing with that. That is the part that was a problem in revenue.
The other part for which we reprimanded our officials is that, when an airline illegally brings a person to South Africa and they are caught at the airport, such airline is charged
R15 000 per passenger and they must fly the person back to their country at their own cost. This doesn’t happen only at the airports, but it also happens at the ports of entry.
Some of the people who you say are illegal in the country don’t jump a fence, but they come by bus - a bus that has been given license by the cross border authorities in the Department of Transport to transport people across borders.
But they also smuggle illegal people. We charge them R15 000 per passenger. That’s what happened to a Zimbabwean bus company called Rimbi Travel and Tours. We have charged them R450 000 because they are bringing in illegal passengers. They have to pay that money and I have given instructions that they must never be allowed to enter South Africa.
I am not the only one. When we met bus companies in Zimbabwe they were very unhappy with us. They said we are allowing a person to convey illegal people. We are following the law, this man is competing with us and he is breaking the law, and you in South Africa are doing nothing. That’s where the collection of revenue came in, hon members. The bus companies in Zimbabwe said we expect you to act when one of us do illegal things because they are competing us illegally and our
businesses are going to collapsed. That’s why we charge them and we collect that revenue.
This is one of the reasons why I refused when you passed the Border Management Authority Bill. It was saying that the SA Revenue Service, Sars, must also fall under the border management authority while Home Affairs is still struggling to collect its revenue. I said, no. You are the ones in this House who helped us by reversing that. It was passed by the National Assembly and we reversed it and sent it back. That’s why Sars is a stand-alone entity in revenue collection. Home Affairs will collect the little bits of revenues which I have just mentioned. Thank you.
Mr I M SILEKU: Thank you, “baba” [sir]. Minister, thank you very much for the background in terms of when Abis was supposed to be implemented and the challenges that you have experienced as the department, and what you have done in terms of consequence management. When I listened to your background in terms of what has happened with this particular project, it gives me an idea that the implementation of this particular Abis is behind schedule. One would want to know; what steps have been taken by the department to ensure full implementation of the Abis project? Thank you very much, baba.
The MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Indeed, hon Sileku, it is behind schedule – badly behind schedule. This is very regrettable because we had to go through the forensic audit, etc. The portfolio committee in the National Assembly said that because of the importance of Abis, we must rescue the programme – we must do everything to rescue the programme. We went back to the drawing board and decided to cede it to a new company called Idemia to do it. Idemia has been busy on the project and we are expecting the finality very soon. I do accede that it delayed. It was quite unfortunate. If Sita did not issue that contract to EOH, I’m sure we would be far by now. All South Africans would be in the Abis system. But at the moment it is still part of the South Africans. We are still left with a few to finalise. Thank you very much.
The Council adjourned at 17:50.