ISSUE 12 | 2015
FRAUD AND CORRUPTION MUST BE UPROOTED
Fraud and corruption in the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) must be punished! This is our firm stand and commitment.
It cannot be tolerated and we must all be resolute that we spare no effort to expose and punish it from whatever quarter it comes.
About two weeks ago, I announced the launch of Operation Bvisa Masina, “Cleaning the rot”, which is a critical element of our Moetapele Initiative. This campaign is aimed at flushing out of the DHA all those that do not live according to the principles of ethical conduct we have set ourselves. Rot expresses itself in the public service in many ways, not only through stealing public funds, but also through, among others:
selling South African documents – visas, identity documents, passports and birth certificates – to foreign nationals that do not qualify to access them;
selling birth certificates of children to people who are not the parents of these children; or forging such certificates for non-existent children so that the fake parents can access child support grants;
registering fraudulent marriages or conniving with members of the public in doing so;
conniving in registering marriages of convenience;
conniving with those that generate fraudulent South African documents;
taking a bribe in order to accelerate a particular service or move someone up the
as in the past, leaving your computer station on so that someone else can enter their own access-code in order to produce fraudulent documents.
However, this is not an exhaustive list of all frauds committed in the Department. We must also be very clear that those who drag their feet in providing a service a client deserves or who miss work on a Monday because they were too drunk over the weekend are equally corrupt and involved in an act of defrauding the Department and government.
Often, there is a very thin line between poor service to a client and corruption. When one, maliciously and with contempt, provides poor service to a client, they are not different from someone who is engaged in theft against that client himself / herself, government and the public as a whole.
Those of us who have been in the Department for long, including those who had served in other government departments, in the private sector or were still studying, will vividly remember the screaming newspaper headlines, “HORROR AFFAIRS denies someone their ID!” We will remember the times when torrents of damning articles about our Department were the order of the day, decrying poor service as well as fraud and corruption. There was a time when fraud and corruption at Home Affairs were blatant, naked and just plain arrogantly and maliciously pursued.
Then there was that sad day early in 2009 when we learned with shock and horror that a fellow South African, Skhumbuzo Mhlongo, had hanged himself at Nqetho, outside Hillcrest in Pinetown, because a Home Affairs official in Pinetown had torn up his ID application form and thus denied him an ID. Mhlongo’s parents had died while he was young and needed an ID because, he said, he had lost his job precisely because he did not have it. In his suicide note, he said that he was hurt each time he saw his friends go to work and yet he did not want to become a criminal.
A callous disregard for his rights and complete lack of compassion for his plight had denied him access to his rights and thus a chance to make a living for himself. Conscience demanded that we take the sternest action against the said officials and they were subsequently dismissed after an internal inquiry. Our vision of the Home Affairs we were creating could not co-exist with such uncaring individuals who negated everything we sought in our new cadre of public servants.
Perhaps, the passage of time has healed the wounds of his family as well as those of us in the public service whose conscience could not stomach such callousness; who were saddened, shamed and horrified by that callous incident. To us, and surely to his family, Mhlongo was not a mere statistic but an important South African whose aspirations were the very reason we had pledged to serve our people. In granting him his ID, a vital service, we would help him improve his life and, in so doing, all our lives would get better.
But, perhaps the passage of time has created the risk that we may relapse into the same smugness that resulted in Skhumbuzo Mhlongo committing suicide. When the time passes, and people begin to forget the injustices of the past, they enter the realm of risk that may cause them to repeat the mistakes of the past. Nothing could be worse.
We must keep the memory of Skhumbuzo Mhlongo alive so that we never repeat the mistakes of yester-years. It is precisely for this reason that we must find ways to immortalise the memory of Skhumbuzo Mhlongo in the Department and the Moetapele Initiative, and within it, the Operation Bvisa Masina intend to achieve exactly this objective.
It must be emphasised that rooting out fraud and corruption in the Department cannot be pursued only through instilling the fear of hell – a prosecution-led mechanism – among our officials. Furthermore, this is an objective that cannot be achieved only through the laudable initiatives of the Eagles of our Department. Both the Moetapele Initiative and Operation Bvisa Masina require the active and passionate involvement of all our officials, regardless of who they are, what position or rank they hold, or what remote corner of the country they are at. Your name, rank or geographic location does not matter; but the service you deliver does! Ultimately, this is what matters!
I dare each one of you to become the agents of the change we seek as the Department, who lead, deliver quality and professional services and combat fraud and corruption. We must fight fraud and corruption not because we are scared of the Eagles and prosecution, but more so because we are patriotic public servants committed to serving our people both through offering them quality and professional service, as well as through jealously safeguarding the resources of the people we serve.
During the 2014/15 Budget Vote, we made a passionate plea to all South Africans to also carry out the responsibilities that come with their rights,
Firstly, to prize South African citizenship by zealously safeguarding our documents and not contribute, wittingly or unwittingly, towards extending citizenship to people who do not deserve it;
Secondly, to register the birth of all children before they leave the hospital, or within 30 days of birth, in order to help us secure our National Population Register; and
- Thirdly, to apply for their identity documents at 16 years of age in order to enhance their ability to access government services.
I believe the same plea applies to all our employees, particularly the one referring to prizing our citizenship and zealously safeguarding our documents.
I trust we will not let the memory of Skhumbuzo Mhlongo to dissipate into thin air and drop our commitment never to repeat the errors of the past, which led him to commit suicide in anger, pain, dejection and loss of hope for the future!
Malusi Gigaba MP Minister