Chairperson of the Select Committee on Social Services Mrs RN Rasmeni MP
National Council of Provinces MPs
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan MP
Last weekend, under the theme Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, the African Union and member states marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Many will recall the words of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in a famous speech he gave on the founding of the OAU in Addis Ababa on 25 May 1963.
He said: “unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can here and now forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone and an African central bank.”
Fifty years on, the unification of Africa remains a visionary ideal. It has proved immensely difficult to form an effective political union let alone one bound together by trade and investment. Most African exports go to markets in OECD countries; only 10% go to other African countries. So there is much work to do in the free movement of goods, and the free movement of people.
Twelve years ago the OAU became the African Union and it has played a key role in reshaping what was pejoratively called the ‘hopeless continent’ into a continent that is now full of hope for the future.
One of the areas in which we must build hope is that of recognising that we are one people in Africa, divided by colonialism and apartheid yet ready to be united as one powerful continent in seeking peace and development.
South Africa was reviewed by the ARPM and was (report released in January 2011) found wanting on its policies and actions taken to prevent xenophobia. Home Affairs established a counter-xenophobia unit (as required by the Immigration Act) and a communications programme. We are working with UNHRCR, the EU and some NGOs on developing a programme to build unity and peace in diverse communities. I think we need to strengthen our interventions and move with speed to reach out to communities.
As I speak, five years to the month after the outbreak of anti-foreigner violence that left 62 dead and thousands displaced and damage running into millions of Rand, there are signs that more needs to be done given recent violence in parts of Gauteng. The violence against vulnerable African foreigners is totally unacceptable and must be rejected by all peace loving South Africans.
Home Affairs has a role to play in building tolerance and peaceful communities. There are actions that we can and must take. We need to conduct sustained campaigns for building peaceful and diverse communities, as mandated by law (Immigration Act). In addition we have in place stakeholder forums across the country, primarily to promote issues to do with citizenship. These forums can play a role in promoting harmony between citizen and foreigner and in shaping a more tolerant climate in our communities.
We need, as the National Development Plan directs, “to adopt a much more progressive migration policy in relation to skilled and unskilled migrants. Immigrant workers can make a substantial contribution to economic growth and job creation. However, the threat of xenophobia could destabilise communities. In this regard, effective planning for migration and urbanisation is important.”
The National Population Register
One of our top priorities in Home Affairs is to create a secure trustworthy national population register.
Our first step is to register the birth of every citizen on the National Population Register (NPR). Our second step is to issue 16-year-olds with an ID and add their fingerprints to the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS). We record any change in a citizen’s status - through marriage or death - on the NPR. Our third step is to protect the Register against fraud or corruption.
Under apartheid officials often neglected to register the births of Africans and this neglect unfortunately continues to this day in communities that are remote or marginalised. So we established a late registration of birth process to provide these citizens the opportunity to register and acquire enabling documents.
Our one objective is to reach those citizens whose births were unregistered and those with birth certificates who had never applied for an ID. Another objective is to inform and mobilise South Africans about the importance of the Register, the early registration of birth and the fight against corruption over fraudulent birth, death and marriage registration. National and international syndicates working with corrupt officials seriously compromise the Register by selling and duplicating identities. We have recently suspended 9 officials in the Eastern Cape for corrupt practices related to acquisition of permits and identity documents.
As part of our campaign strategy we have launched more than 250 stakeholder forums covering the majority of district municipalities and metros. The stakeholder forums identify needs and the needy; support and monitor the Department and hold us accountable.
Stakeholder forums are strictly non-partisan and focused on service delivery. They work with the support of the three tiers of government and all political parties. The enthusiasm with which communities and their representatives have embraced the work of the forums is humbling and inspiring.
Another key aspect of the strategy was to develop close cooperation between Home Affairs and relevant government departments, such as Education, Health, Social Development and SAPS. This drew on the positive example of this type of cooperation during the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. The support of government at all levels has also been crucial.
The support of members of the NCOP and stakeholder forums is critical. We continue to draw inspiration from the support of members of this house in assisting the department to rid our country of the legacy of late registration of births. It is my proposal that we should end late registration by 2015.
In the 2012/13 financial year, Home Affairs registered 602,530 births within 30 days of delivery. This was made possible by the steady expansion of our national footprint that reaches into the most rural and far flung areas through the use of 389 provincial and district offices and 117 mobile offices. In addition, we have connected 347 heath care facilities across the country of which 85 hospitals in various provinces were connected in the previous financial year.
According to the 2013 mid-term population estimates there were 1,095,669 births in 2012 (not the financial year). So that suggests that 6 out every 10 births were registered in our target period.
In the 2012/13 financial year, Home Affairs issued 1,039,862 identity documents to first time applicants. We will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to mobilise our youth to apply for identity documents.
Home Affairs remains concerned at the problem of duplicate identity documents. We have publicised in all print media and in all provinces a list of over 49,000 people affected by duplicate IDs to come forward to the Department for assistance. Yet few of those listed as affected by duplicate IDs came forward. We cannot continue with this legacy. We intend invalidating all duplicate IDs by December this year. Those affected can approach us between now and December for assistance
The ID smart card will be issued from July 2013
The Home Affairs IT Modernisation Programme is currently underway. It will radically improve service delivery levels to citizens, government and the private sector. This programme will introduce a paperless environment within the Department as well as live data capture, e-visa and permitting, the Trusted Traveller Programme, the Enhanced Electronic Movement Control System, the National Identification System (NIS) with biometric features, and the smart ID card.
Between July and September this year Home Affairs will introduce the phased roll out of the smart ID card in 27 regional Home Affairs offices with live capture capacity across the country.
The first issue of ID smartcards will be free of charge and thereafter it will cost R140, the price of the current green book. We will replace 6 million a year or 500,000 a month.
That means that the smartcard machines will produce 3,000 per hour, or 24,000 in an 8 hour day, or 480,000 per month. This rate of production can be increased in future years if required by adding a second 8 hour daily shift to bring production to 960,000 per month or nearly 12 million cards per annum.
Immigration policy review
Another of our top priorities is the effective management of immigration. We will pay close attention to key aspectsof immigration. Critical challenges include asylum seekers and refugees; attracting international migrants with scarce skills; and dealing with flows of SADC migrants with lower level skills who currently work illegally or are abusing the asylum seeker process.
Our overarching concern is to manage immigration in support of development priorities while not compromising our sovereignty or security. We want every citizen, including every official, to welcome immigrants and at the same time to be vigilant in regard to national security and the corruption that undermines it.
Immigration is a growing human activity that enriches and develops nations and regions such as SADC.
However, citizens must also understand that the protection of our sovereignty, our state and our society is paramount and immigration that is not effectively managed brings serious risks, including that of social instability.
To realise the benefits of immigration while minimising its risks requires that South Africa must put in place the laws, systems, processes and people that are needed to manage immigration effectively. Such an approach requires the active and coordinated participation of many departments and civil society partners.
Asylum seekers and refugees
We are working through a number of issues to do with asylum seekers and refugees. First, I want to say a few words about the issue of risk assessment. We allow asylum seekers to enter SA without determining their identity or making any assessment of possible risks and threats. The current admission approach is based on mere compliance when it should be based on a well-informed assessment of risk. This is not what happens in other countries. For example, if an asylum seeker enters Germany by air, his or her application is processed within the airport’s transit area. We don’t do this. We are working on a strategy to allow us to carry out early security and identity screening processes.
Second, the vexed issue of the determination of asylum and the location of refugee reception centres. At the moment reception offices are not at ports of entry but in urban centres. They were located there, because it was thought that only genuine asylum seekers would come to SA at the time the Refugees Act was passed some twelve years ago. That’s not what happened and our asylum system has been overrun by a mixture of economic migrants, and smuggled and trafficked victims.
In other countries UNHCR and other stakeholders play an active role during the refugee status determination phase. We are looking to develop practices to allow the UNHCR to play a greater role in our asylum management processes.
It is our intention to initiate studies on migration so that we have a more informed data based perspective on these matters to support future amendments and policy development.
Third and last, we are considering the introduction of a SADCC quota of permits for economic migrants. We think a more effective means of distinguishing from job-seekers and economic migrants.
The current permitting regime (policy, legislation and strategy) does not enable the regulation and management of work-seekers from the SADC region in spite of actual and historical labour flows. As a result these work-seekers are abusing the asylum seeker system. A SADC work-seeker permit will be carefully matched against adequate protection for South Africans. Any permits issued will also be conditional upon bilateral agreements reached with each SADC country that participates. Such agreements should be in support of national and regional development; strengthening immigration systems, and jointly developing measures to strengthen security, and curb irregular migration.
To achieve the objectives I have outlined to this house our budget for the 2013/14 financial year has been set at R6,7 billion that will be utilised as follows:
- Departmental programmes receive R4,8 billion of which R 1,8 billion is allocated to our provinces.
- The Film and Publication Board receives R82 million.
- The Electoral Commission receives R1,6 billion.
- The Government Printing Works receives R134 million
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan, the Director-General and senior management of the Department for their support.