ISSUE 12 | 2016
A reimagined Home Affairs is a key engine of a capable state
The famous African and Nigerian author, Ben Okri, says: “When you can imagine you begin to create and when you create you realise that you can create a world that you prefer to live in, rather than a world that you are suffering in.”
On this matter, the Dubai Ruler, Sheik Mohammed bi Rashid Al Maktoum says in his book, My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence, a vision “allows you to capture the future”, and might I add, today!
He says further that: “While vision is not a science, it is not an abstract idea either. It is a living extension of the visionary, pulsating with life just like him, growing and maturing with him, widening its horizons and deepening its experience along with him, jumping for joy when celebrating a success and feeling sadness with every failure.”
Of course, in our case, ‘him’ could be assumed to be reference to our people as a whole since the National Development Plan has been so overwhelmingly supported by our people and can safely be presumed to represent the collective will of the future of all South Africans.
One of the most valuable aspects of the National Development Plan (NDP) is that it forces us to step back from the daily responsibilities and challenges of government, indeed from the suffering and limitations of the present, to think about the future and capture it.
It enjoins us to aim to “eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.”
At the time of formulation, the NDP asked us to look forward 20 years, and imagine the best possible version of our country. Vision 2030 is the result. Having agreed on a common vision, government stakeholders in particular had to look at our strategic plans and operations to see how they could best contribute to the Vision.
This has been a great opportunity for our Department, as it comes at a time when we are re-imagining Home Affairs. The Department of Home Affairs has long been perceived as a slow, moribund department offering low-value services.
We have been perceived as a department of omabhalane, clerks, producing and issuing civil registration documents in the most resentful manner imaginable.
Over time, South Africans resented this Department that came to epitomise government as we knew it of an indifferent institution that resented the people by whom it was established, the very people it was established to serve, and its modus operandi of a shallow and narrow definition of its mandate, seeking to do as least as possible, in the quickest way possible, and in as indifferent and resentful attitude as possible.
This philosophical culture of the organisation, brutally implemented by its leadership through decades, reflected on its officials and systems and was even more brutally replicated by them as they discharged their responsibilities.
However, we have come to believe that Home Affairs is much more than the issuing of documents, and certainly much, much more than the sum-total of these low-value services we have over an extended period of time come to associate with it.
Our formal mandate is twofold, that is, to efficiently determine and safeguard the identity and status of citizens, and to manage immigration for development, security and fulfilment of our international obligations. In practical terms this means that we have two major branches in terms of services delivery.
Firstly, we have civic services which offers civil registration services to South African citizens and permanent residents, registering birth, citizenship, marriage and death. Secondly, we also have immigration management which regulates all movements in and out of the country, as well as the entry into and stay of foreign nationals in South Africa for short visits, temporary residence and permanent residence.
Defining its mandate broadly in terms of the National Development Plan, the Department of Home Affairs can make four critical contributions to Vision 2030, namely, as,
- an enabler of economic development;
- a contributor to national security;
- an enabler of the capable state; and
- a contributor to nation-building and social cohesion.
DHA enables economic development in several important ways
The NDP envisions an industrialised and knowledge economy, with a high level of economic participation. Our issuing of birth certificates, identity documents and passports enables citizens to gain employment, conduct business, study at our universities and colleges towards the skills critically needed by our economy, travel internationally to seek investment opportunities that bring foreign currency to our country and helps increase our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), open bank accounts and even enter into all forms of economic transactions, as well as to even earn social grants that help to empower both poor individuals as well as the economy itself with some useful disposable income that can circulate in the market again as they procure goods and services they otherwise would not be able to.
Just a few years ago, South Africans were used to waiting 4 months for an ID book or passport. Now, 90% of smart ID cards and passports arrive within two weeks, and most often in less than one week. Our identity documents provide the platform of trust which underpins our country’s sophisticated financial system, for example, by simplifying ‘know your customer’ (KYC) processes for financial service providers.
The fact that our financial services institutions trust our national identity document is a key factor in their ability to offer sophisticated transactions remotely and online, in contrast to many other developing countries. Our online fingerprint verification partnership with banks and insurers, through the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), has been successful in combatting fraud and identity theft. The industry recently estimated that this system prevents as much as R322m in losses per month, approximately R3.8bn annually.
Our management of immigration and efficient processing of millions of regular travellers entering the country annually facilitates tourism and conferencing revenue, inward investment and the entry of skilled workers all of whom are critical to our economic growth and development.
DHA contributes to national security
The NDP stresses the importance of safety, security and good border management. The National Identity System is critical to the nation’s security, as is effective immigration management, underpinned both by an effective border management authority (BMA) soon to be established as well as the management of entry into, stay in and exit from our country through the system of visa management. For these reasons, Cabinet decided to fully integrate Home Affairs into the Security Cluster.
Home Affairs is mandated to regulate the entry and exit of persons across our borders. In other words, we are responsible for deciding whether all prospective visitors to our country are allowed to enter, a responsibility we take very seriously.
The vast majority of travellers to South Africa, mainly those from our neighbouring countries, do so regularly, in accordance with our laws, with goodwill and in good faith. A small minority do so irregularly, and a small minority still, are criminals or otherwise dangerous people involved in crime, terrorism and human trafficking among other ills. Thus far, the greatest security challenge faced by our country, besides international criminal activities, is radicalisation and recruitment of the youth by the radical elements elsewhere in our world, as well as the use of our country by sleeping cells of these organisations in order to raise, traffic or clean their ill-gotten money.
We have the unenviable task of proactively preventing these few from entering SA, without barring or overly inconveniencing the entry of regular travellers. The nature of a security department such as Home Affairs is that we are criticized by those who have the luxury to worry only about their own inconvenience or economic concerns. We receive deserved criticism for the few criminals who slip through our net – such as with the White Widow several years ago – but receive no praise for the many we prevent. It is often said in security circles that we have to get it right all the time, whereas the bad guys only have to get it right once.
We take it for granted in South Africa that we do not have to worry about terrorism. I do not mean to sound overly ominous when I suggest that most countries probably feel the same way until they do suffer an attack. Unfortunately, terrorism and instability are still a reality in many places on our continent and our world. Countries in North, East and West Africa have suffered terrorist attacks in recent months and years and certainly, like us, at once they did not expect this.
Devastating as the loss of life is, incidents of terrorism also cause fear and economic disruption from which it takes long to recover. We cannot assume that just because we do not have obvious enemies or enemies we know of, we will be forever immune or that there are no groups or individuals intending to cause malicious harm to our nation and people. We must also be concerned as a relative safe haven and host country of refugees from all over the world that combatants may try to settle scores against foreign nationals residing in South Africa. We have seen such assassinations and plots and must ensure they do not become a feature of life here.
So we should be cognizant that security is a factor of economic competitiveness. One of the factors which encourage businesses and organizations to trade, invest and base themselves in South Africa, is that they know it is peaceful and stable. Long may this be the case. Thus, it is and must be our responsibility to balance national security and economic, social and moral imperatives.
DHA enables the capable state envisioned by the NDP
The NDP envisions a capable and developmental state, which provides the institutions and infrastructure necessary for the economy and society to operate. To provide effective governance and administration, this capable state must plan proactively, and make intelligent use of technology. The NDP stresses the need for government to have accurate demographic data.
Excellent civil registration, underpinned by universal early birth registration, is a critical tool for government to have accurate, real-time data on the total number of citizens and their age profile. This is of enormous importance to government planning, particularly in areas such as education, health and labour. We have made great strides on early birth registration in recent years. From registering 39% of all births within 30 days in 2010/11, in 2015/16 we registered approximately 67% of all births within 30 days.
The main challenges preventing universal early birth registration are: parents who do not bring their ID to the hospital; who do not bring two sets of names for the baby for each possible gender; mothers who are too young to have an ID themselves and mothers who do not register the baby because they are waiting for the child’s father to acknowledge paternity.
These are human factors that can only be addressed if all citizens are conscious of their importance and act to change them. Home Affairs will continue working with the Department of Health, community stakeholders and the media to address these challenges, in order to reach 100% early birth registration.
E-Governance – for which the Smart ID Card is an important enabler and platform – enables simpler and more convenient interaction between citizens and government. We would like to see the Smart ID Card, and eventually also your fingerprint, become the universal passport for interacting with other government departments. It has the capability to carry the driver’s license, verify you as a social grant recipient, help you collect medicine from a clinic, and any number of other applications. These are significant opportunities that our local ICT sector can use to leverage the capabilities of the Smart ID Card, just as local companies were involved in its development.
By determining and identifying the citizenship status of all South Africans, DHA helps government departments and agencies know who is entitled to which services. It helps the Department of Social Development know who is entitled to social grants. It helps local and provincial authorities, and the Department of Human Settlements, know who is entitled to housing assistance.
As a country with a unique constitution guaranteeing basic and socio-economic rights, our government carries significant obligations to citizens. DHA’s ability to both correctly determine identity and citizenship and provide documents which definitively confirm these, ensures that our scarce national resources go only to the people that are entitled to them.
Re-imagining Home Affairs consequently means we must not only modernise the Department, but must re-package and position it firmly as a pivotal pillar for the pursuit of these four critical areas, and a reliable partner for ordinary people, government departments and the private sector in pursuit of these goals that are so central to our dreams as a nation. This extensive view of Home Affairs will enable critical partners in the public and private sector to identify their needs and partner with us to fulfil them in the national interest.
DHA contributes to nation-building and social cohesion
Our first and primary contribution to nation-building and social cohesion is through our custodianship of single citizenship for all South Africans.
We ensure that all South Africans have their identity and citizenship status recognized. We take this for granted, but challenging the citizenship status has been an issue of division which has played a divisive role in presidential elections in countries as diverse as Cote D’Ivoire and the United States of America. Of course another major area where we contribute to nation-building and social cohesion is in the management of international migration.
This month we released for public comment a new Green Paper on International Migration. It will provide the country with a new vision for managing international migration as a largely positive phenomenon and form the basis of a new national dialogue on our connectedness with our region and continent and integration of foreign nationals. We will need to reframe our discourse on nationhood, from one which seeks to unite Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Whites, to one which expands to include those new South Africans from all over the African continent and world.
These are some of the critical contributions Home Affairs will make to Vision 2030. To do so, we will need to re-imagine ourselves as not just a bureaucracy churning out identity documents, visas and permits, but as a key engine of the capable state, which contributes to development, security, nation-building and social cohesion.
Perhaps Ben Okri was writing of us at the moment we adopted the NDP when he wrote in his book, Astonishing the Gods, that: “It was the day when the people promised to the heavens that out of their agony they would make a wonderful destiny. With the sweetest and solemn vows, they pledged to create a civilisation of light and justice. They pledged to initiate on earth the first civilisation where love and wisdom would be as food and air… To realise a little heaven on earth, that was the glory of their promise.”
[Based on a speech delivered at the 2016 Vision 2030 Summit]
Minister of Home Affairs