ATC150820: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on the oversight visit to the Northern Cape Province, dated 18 August 2015
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on the oversight visit to the Northern Cape Province, dated 18 August 2015
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, having conducted an oversight visit to the Northern Cape Province from 21 – 24 July 2015, reports as follows:
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (the Committee) conducted an oversight visit to the Northern Cape Province from 21 to 24 July 2015. The purpose of the oversight to the ports of entry and offices of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) was to see if DHA has the capacity to deliver services. The Committee visited one Large Office, one Small Office and three Ports of Entry (POEs).
The delegation comprised of the following:
African National Congress (ANC)
Mr BL Mashile – Chairperson
Mr DM Gumede
Ms DD Raphuti
Ms TE Kenye
Democratic Alliance (DA)
Mr AM Figlan
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)
Ms SJ Nkomo (joined the delegation on 22 July 2015).
Mr E Mathonsi – Committee Secretary
Mr A Salmon – Content Adviser
Ms N Maxhegwana – Committee Assistant
Mr EM Molepo – Communication Officer
1.2. Welcome by the Mayor of //Khara Hais Local Municipality and Introduction by the Chairperson
The delegation was welcomed by Her Worship Ms L Koloi: the Mayor of //Khara Hais Local Municipality. She indicated that the Local Municipality has a population of approximately 93 500. The municipality commended the good working relationship it had with the DHA. Municipal staff and the Mayor were able to come to the Upington Large Office at any time with inquiries. The Mayor was accompanied by Mr J Olyn and Mrs M Eiman, Mayors of Kai! Garib and Rietfontein respectively.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee indicated the purpose of the oversight which was to focus of service delivery and capacity challenges. He then allowed members of the committee to introduce themselves.
1.3. Tour of Upington Large Office
After the welcome, Mr N Makey, guided the Committee through the Upington Large Office indicating the various services offered, infrastructure available and procedures followed. The office was clean and the staff were smartly dressed with name tags visible. Issues discovered included that the office was not very busy; that a number of uncollected passports and smart ID cards were not securely stored during office hours and a security metal detector was delivered but not installed.
1.4 Overview by the Provincial Manager
Mr A Mvula: Provincial Manager gave an overview of the Northern Cape background and services. He reported that the Northern Cape Province has an estimated population of 1.15 million and the unemployment rate is 27 percent. The literacy rate was reported as 77 percent; lower than in other provinces. The surface area of the province is 372 889 km2 covering 30 percent of South Africa. It is estimated that 54 percent of the population speak Afrikaans, followed by other languages such as Setswana, Xhosa and English, with the minority language being Khoisan. The number of households had increased from approximately 231 000 in 2002 to 312 000 in 2014. It was reported that approximately 53 percent of the households benefit from social grants.
The Northern Cape is divided into five districts, namely; Frances Baard, Pixley Ka Seme, JT Gaetsewe, ZF Mgcawu and Namakwa. The Committee conducted its oversight visit only in the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality. This district has a population of approximately 237 000.
The majority of the people in the Northern Cape Province walk when traveling to work. More than half of the workers in Namakwa and Pixley Ka Seme districts walk to work (around 60 percent) and 27 percent in Frances Baard walk to work.
Each district has a District Manager Operations (DMO). The Namakwa District has an Acting DMO and the Provincial Manager acts as a DMO for JT Gaetsewe District. The province has 70 offices that includes the provincial office, three Large Offices, seven Medium Offices, seven Small Offices, 11 ports of entry, three Thusong Centres, 28 health facilities and 12 mobile offices. In ZF Mgcawu District Municipality, there is one large local office, one medium local office, one small local office, six health facilities, three mobile offices and five ports of entry.
It was reported that eight of the mobile offices’ satellite dishes had been damaged but all vehicles are in partially functional condition and offering collection of applications and delivery of documents. The province reported needing a better mobile solution, which head office officials indicated that it was being addressed.
2. HOME AFFAIRS SERVICE POINTS IN ZF MGCAWU DISTRICT
The service points that were visited in the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality were the Upington Large Office, the Groblershoop Small Office, the Nakop port of entry, the Twee Rivieren port of entry and Gemsbok port of entry. The Committee was not able to visit the Rietfontein port of entry as planned but received a briefing on it.
2.1. Upington Large Office
Mr Nicoleas Makey: the Office Manager made the presentation. He indicated that most of the services offered at the Upington Large Office are to citizens. The opening hours are from 07:30 to 16:30 during the week and 08:30 to 12:30 on Saturdays.
The office has an approved structure of 51 employees of which 38 (74 percent) are filled and a further two are funded. The Office Manager was at Deputy Director level and was assisted by an Assistant Director in charge of immigration. The office have only one cleaner and there were no inspectorate to conduct inspections. It was reported that it was difficult for the cleaner to clean alone at the office and she was about to reach retirement age. The Office was looking within the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality for an additional cleaner. The current cleaner works flexi hours and each employee is required to clean their own office space.
There are regular visits to all clinics in Kenhardt, Keimoes, Kakamas, Rietfontein, Groblershoop and Upington in order to raise awareness for the need to register babies within 30 days after birth. Hospitals are connected online to register births and deaths. The hospitals are visited weekly on different days. The Large Office has a Stakeholder Forum Activity Plan to promote births being registered within 30 days and persons under the age of 16 are also encouraged to apply for identity documents.
It was reported that the Upington Large Office has a good working relationship with the Department of Education and the local municipality. The annual target for registration of births within 30 days was 2820 in the first quarter but the office managed to register 850. Dr Harry Surtie hospital is the biggest hospital in the municipality and the only one which does not yet have 100 percent registration of birth within 30 days.
With regards to Late Registration of Births (LRBs), the Manager reported that the office had an outstanding balance of 92 applications. The office adjudicates when applications are first made as often as possible to counter backlogs from recurring. The number of amendments to documents was 35 and there were no duplicate ID cases reported.
2.1.1 The Smart ID card
The quarterly target for the Smart ID Cards was 3970 but the office only achieved 2016. The office was struggling to meet this target. It was reported that the main challenge was inadequate public transport and related costs in the province. The members of the public have to travel long distances to reach services of the DHA and this is particularly a challenge for pensioners and the unemployed. All qualifying members of the public can apply for Smart ID cards irrespective of birth dates.
2.1.2 Unabridged Birth Certificates (UBCs)
From 1 June 2015, the Upington Large Office took 156 Unabridged Birth Certificates (UBC) applications and issued 284 Certificates as well as 31 equivalent letters. Equivalent letters are issued by the office in cases where it cannot issue the applicant with a UBC on the spot or in time for travel. An Office Manager, or higher, is responsible for issuing the equivalent letters. In the province an estimated 56 percent of births were currently recorded within the required 30 days.
The Provincial Manager added that there were 17 million children under the age of 18 years who needed UBCs in South Africa as of November 2014. In relation to travel under the new regulations there were approximately 1 million South African children with passports that still needed UBCs. Numbers were not available at provincial level due to people moving between provinces.
The DHA has a pre-modification programme whereby children with passports born before 2013 are having UBCs pro-actively allocated on the National Identification System in case issuance is required (those born after 2013 are automatically allocated UBCs). There were 136 000 children that still had to be pre-modified by the deadline of 31 July 2015. Parents are required to apply for UBCs at the same as applying for passports for their children that do not have them.
South African children who are abroad, were reported as being a problem since there was no system to pre-modify documents abroad. The DHA was still dependent on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in missions abroad and the turnaround times were a challenge.
During the first quarter of 2015 there were no fraudulent births that were investigated in the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality. There were 140 of illegal foreigners detected and 54 were deported to their countries of origin. There was one transgressor charged in April, 108 in May and 21 in June. Operation Fiela was conducted in May and June 2015 and combined with newly appointed control immigration officers assisted in detecting more illegal foreigners. Deportations are done after a ruling by the courts and detainees are either transferred to Lindela within 20 days or deported directly to neighbouring countries within 30 days. There was however a challenge reported of courts withdrawing cases of undocumented migrants and those employing them.
The Provincial Manager added that South Africa has approximately 700 inspectors and the Northern Cape Province has 33 inspectors. National Treasury has given the DHA additional funding for 170 inspectors. Out of the 170, the Northern Cape would be given 17 inspectors for a combined total of 50 inspectors. It was indicated that even with the additional capacity, there are not enough inspectorate for the services required from them.
2.2. Groblershoop Small Office
The office opened on 1 June 2013 and is approximately 116 kilometres from Upington. The office manager, Mr Mgavu, a Chief Administration Clerk, was appointed in 2013. The office operates from 07h30 to 16h00 from Monday to Friday and every last Saturday of the month from 08h30 to 12h30. The office was still supported by the Upington Large Office in terms of banking collected revenue. The office services nine areas of which the furthest is 60km away. In support, the District DHA deployed one of only two mobile service point vehicles to this and other areas on a rotational basis. Prior to the appointment of Mr Mgavu the office was only serviced by seconded staff from Upington and the mobile office.
The office has one staff member performing all tasks. Mr Mgavu reported that a small office like this was supposed to be manned by four officials. A front Office Clerk position was vacant but it was reported that the related interview would be conducted on 27 July 2015. The office provides IDs and registration of births and deaths and it does not process passport applications (which are only done in Upington). The office has good relations with stakeholders in the community including schools with the learners from Groblershoop High School assisting to clean the office on occasion.
The following were reported as challenges:
- Shortage of staff;
- No separation of powers for the current Chief Administration Clerk; and
- Lack of public transport or funds to travel long distances.
3. PORTS OF ENTRY
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs visited Nakop port of entry, Twee Rivieren port of entry and Gemsbok port of entry. The Committee also received a briefing on the Rietfontein port of entry. It was indicated that all ports are maintained and cleaned by the Repair and Maintenance Programme (RAMP) of the Department of Public Works in addition to appointed cleaning staff. There is thus a duplication of cleaning services.
3.1. Nakop port of entry
Nakop port of entry is located 130 km north of Upington. It is a border shared with Namibia. The Namibian port of entry is 17 km into Namibia. Nakop operates on a 24 hours basis, seven days a week. The port is the second biggest commercial port in the province and it has the following stakeholders: South African Revenue Service (SARS), South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Port Health. The port experiences its peak periods during the Easter holidays, hunting season (May to July), school holidays and festive seasons.
The port has 14 staff members out of an approved establishment of 59. This equates to only 23% of the approved establishment. The Port Manager, Mrs Mashiane, is at assistant director level with four Control Immigration Officers, 8 Immigration Officers and one cleaner under her control and supervision.
The Port processed 14 500 citizens who arrived and 12 920 who departed South Africa in the first quarter of 2015. The number of foreigners arriving were 15 198 and departing: 14 970. The differences in the number of arrivals and departures was reported as travellers that may use other ports of entry to exit the country and travel across reporting periods.
Mrs Mashiane reported migrants departing the country who had overstayed the duration of their permits are recorded as undesirable. They would not be allowed back into the country for a specified period. In the first quarter of 2015, there were 48 persons declared undesirable. In addition there were 38 refusal to enter on arrival. It was reported that six people were detained. The number of persons refused departure for the period were 33. These were primarily minors without the newly required UBCs. This however only comprises four percent of all minors departing. In contrast only three percent of arriving minors (29/1602) were refused entry. This indicates the public were mostly aware of the new immigration regulation requirements.
The Committee was also briefed by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) who responded to questions of security, risk and infrastructure. It was indicated that infrastructure was in a relatively good condition and regular meetings were held with all stakeholders at the border. SAPS indicated that the main security risk was the long distance of the border line that needed to be patrolled. There are also inadequate measures to monitor persons traveling on the trains or walking across the border on the international railway line.
The challenges reported by Mrs Mashiane were as follows:
- Lack of inspectorate at the Port relying on the SAPS for inspections;
- There is no boardroom and no holding room for suspected illegal foreigners;
- There is no public transport;
- There are twenty bachelor flats available for DHA near the border post. This was a challenge for mothers with small children;
- Uniforms were last received as far back as 2008 and 2010.
3.2. Twee Rivieren port of entry
The Twee Rivieren port of entry is located 250 kilometres North of Upington allowing access to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is a one stop border post that facilitates the movement of all people between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The port operates from 7h30 until 16:00, seven days a week. It is a non-commercial port, which means that it does not facilitate the movement of goods between South Africa and the two neighbouring countries. Other stakeholders are SAPS and South African National Parks (SanParks). The port experiences its peak period during Easter holidays, school holidays and festive seasons.
During the first quarter of 2015, there were 1 114 citizens who arrived into South Africa and 1 561 who departed into Botswana and Namibia. There were 674 tourist arrivals and 709 departures. There was only one person who was declared undesirable due to overstaying. Two adults and three minors were refused entry. The refused children comprise 3 percent of the 115 minors arriving. Only three South African adults and three minors were refused departure. The minors refused departure comprise 2 percent of the 183 minors departing.
There are two officials manning the port, namely the Control Immigration Officer in charge, Mr Van Rooi and an Immigration Officer. These two staff members alternate duties occasionally overlapping for additional capacity.
Challenges raised included:
- Lack of inspectorate to conduct inspections in surrounding areas;
- No boardroom, waiting room and extra store room;
- Accommodation for officials is still pending the signing of a formal agreement with SanParks;
- Shortage of Uniforms.
3.3. Gemsbok port of entry
The Gemsbok port of entry is approximately 200 kilometres from Upington on the border with Botswana. It operated from 8h00 to 16h30 seven days a week. A Control Immigration Officer, Mr Williams managed the port assisted by an Immigration Officer and a cleaner. The required staff establishment is seven, however, it only has three employees. It required two more immigration officers and two inspectors. The current cleaner also serves as a handyman for other services. It was indicated that if border crossings were required after opening hours they had to be requested in advance or if requested at short notice there was a charge of R400.
In the first quarter of 2015, there were 623 citizen arrivals and 675 departures. The number of migrant arrivals were 2 219 and departures were 2 205. There were no detentions or refusals of entry. There is no public transport that crosses the border. In June 2015, there was 12 minors that arrived and the number increased to 38 in July 2015. The minors that departed were 12 in June and 42 in July 2015.
The Port Manager mentioned that a cross border committee existed and met regularly with Botswana counterparts in police, customs and home affairs.
The challenges reported were the following:
- Lack of inspectorate at the Port;
- The office still used the old Movement Control System (MCS); and is awaiting installation of the equipment for the Enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS). The equipment is already delivered.
- Long outstanding supply of new uniforms;
- Staff shortages;
- No public transport; and
- No internet access.
3.4. The Rietfontein port of entry
This port of entry was not visited but a presentation was made on it at Gemsbok port of entry. The Rietfontein port of entry is located 280 north of Upington and it facilitates the movement of people between South Africa and Namibia. It operated from 8h00 to 16h00, seven days a week. It is a non-commercial port and the only other stakeholders are SAPS who execute the functions of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and SARS. The Port has four staff members; namely the Control Immigration Officer in Charge, Ms du Plessis, two Immigration Officers and a cleaner. The RAMP cleaner assists SAPS to clean. The Port is made up of prefabricated buildings and park homes. It was reported that there was no staff accommodation available.
The Port Manager reported an influx of travellers during Easter holidays and hunting season, (from May to August), school holidays and festive seasons. Others travel between the two countries for the purpose of the funerals and weddings.
The number of citizen arrivals in the first quarter of 2015 were 1 472 and departures were 2 193. The number of foreign arrivals were 1 807 and departures were 2004. The Port uses the enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) on the one service computer. The number of minors reported arriving in the period were 311 and 321 departures. There were no refusals of entry of minors on arrival and there were four refusals to depart.
The following were reported as challenges:
- Lack of inspectors at the port;
- Prefabricated buildings and park homes are not suitable long term accommodation;
- Lack of supply of new uniforms; and
- Another cleaner needed.
4. COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS
In its engagement with office and ports management and officials as well as other stakeholder departments, the Committee observed the following in addition to what was presented.
Despite the challenges workers encountered, staff moral was high.
4.1 Upington Large Office
- Immigration inspectors operate from this office for the entire district.
- The monthly rental of R174 000 per month is too high for an office servicing only 93 000 persons.
- Limited public transport and long distances inhibited delivery of services such as Smart IDs both for officials and clients.
- Uncollected Smart IDs and Passports were not stored securely during office hours.
- Entry metal detectors were delivered but not installed and the efficacy of security staff was satisfactory.
- Monitoring of meeting minutes including on mobile offices add value to the processes of the DHA.
- The centralised budget for repairing mobile offices is creating delays in their maintenance in Northern Cape.
- Mobile offices are a major contributor to service delivery in Northern Cape Province.
4.2 Nakop port of entry
- The port of entry is kept impressively clean and the structure of the ports is client friendly.
- There is a cleaner as well as RAMP servicing the port of entry.
- The border post is significantly understaffed.
- Inadequate border control and borderline patrols for the international railway line is a concern.
- Accommodation at the port of entry was inadequate for senior staff and those with young children.
- The port of entry has no boardroom and holding room.
- Transport for staff to and from the port of entry is inadequate.
- More substantial medical provisions are needed for such isolated facilities.
- The port manager is appointed at only Assistant Director level despite the significant responsibilities required at the port of entry.
4.3 Twee Rivieren port of entry
- Lack of uniforms are a challenge.
- There is an outstanding agreement between DHA and SanParks on accommodation for officials at the port.
- Staff work challenging shifts of 10 days on and four days off and were not able to take longer leave due to only having two staff. Relief staff had to be arranged by the province for longer leave.
- The operating hours of Home Affairs are not aligned with that of SanParks which causes operational challenges.
- Public transport from places of residence and the port is a challenge.
4.4 Gemsbok port of entry
- Staff shortages.
- No inspectorate at the port.
- Limited staff and inspectorate restricts participation in joint operations in inspecting areas surrounding borders.
- Staff work challenging shifts of 10 days on and four days off and were not able to take longer leave due to only having four staff. Relief staff had to be arranged by the province for longer leave.
- Lack of uniforms are a challenge.
- Public transport for access to the port is a challenge.
4.5 Rietfontein port of entry
- The areas near the border post needed better communication of the mobile civic services offered by Home Affairs.
- Ports of entry visited have only a small percentage of entry/departures refused due to the phasing in of the new immigration regulations related to children requiring UBCs when travelling.
- Lack of uniforms are a challenge.
- No inspectorate at the port.
- Staff shortages.
5. COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
Emanating from its engagements and observations during oversight to the Northern Cape, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs recommends the following to the Minister of Home Affairs:
- More proactive communication and engagement with communities around Upington is needed to encourage them to apply for and collect Smart ID Cards irrespective of month of birth.
- The lack of public transport and long distances between service points requires that the province have more access to vehicles and mobile offices to provide services to communities.
- Better security measures are needed for safeguarding all uncollected civic documents (such as Smart ID Cards, Identity Documents and Passports) behind the counters at the Upington office during office hours.
- The uninstalled scanner and metal detector at the Upington Office must be installed as soon as possible.
- The DHA should consider the significant need to address human resource constraints in the Northern Cape.
- Civic and Immigration Officials should be provided with new uniforms as a matter of urgency.
- A method needs to be found to better specify the number of children in each province with passports that could need UBCs, in order to improve planning.
- A more efficient method for keeping mobile offices fully functional is needed in the Northern Cape.
- Review the Provincial Manager also acting in a district manager capacity.
- Whilst appreciating additional allocation of inspectorate to the Province, there is still a need for more additional capacity in this regard.
- The security and passport control of the railway line crossing the international border at Nakop needs to be significantly improved.
- The Memorandum of Understanding between the DHA and SanParks concerning the residential accommodation of the officials at Twee Rivieren port of entry needs to be formalised and finalised.
- The operating hours of Home Affairs need to be aligned with that of SanParks at Twee Rivieren port of entry to address operational challenges.
- Provision needs to be made for boardrooms, holding rooms and storage spaces in the infrastructure plans of ports of entry.
- The Rietfontein port of entry infrastructure and accommodation is inadequate and needs upgrading to more permanent structures.
- The roll-out of the eMCS to Gemsbok and other ports of entry needs to be prioritised.
- The contracts of Home Affairs appointed cleaners need to be re-evaluated at border posts where RAMP cleaning services are present.
- More substantial medical provisions should be provided for isolated ports such as Nakop.
- Realistic targets should rather be set for the number of inspections to be conducted rather than amounts of persons detained or deported in order to improve security and reduce wrongful detention.
- Re-evaluate the level of the Manager at Nakop port of entry to be commensurate with duties.
- Improve the provision of accommodation for senior staff at Nakop port of entry.
- Devise an efficient deployment system of inspectorate to all ports of entry and small offices to deliver services.
5.23 The Northern Cape provincial administration to consider the provision of public transport to enhance access to services as commuting in this province is unreliable and costly with private vehicles.
Report to be considered.
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