8 March 2017
The media briefing on the Cabinet-approved business case, meantto reposition the Department of Home Affairs, was scheduled during Human Rights Month, which is March. It is in this month that we focus sharply on human rights issues. This year’s theme is “The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights.” The focus should therefore be on raising awareness and promoting respect for human rights for all people.
Currently, the Department is only able to deliver against part of its mandate because of historical constraints. A repositioned Home Affairs will be a critical enabler of delivering mandatory services, economic development and national security.
The current developments, and related challenges impacting on social and economic relations here and abroad, made it extremely urgent for us to recommit unflinchingly to the repositioning of this department. Thus the need arose for us to share information openly and earnestly on the new business case we have developed, conscious of the strategic role that Home Affairs can and must play in the South African state and wider society.
We use the term “repositioning” deliberately because it implies movement. The first is a shift in understanding of the mandate and vision of the department. The second movement is from the periphery of the state and society, to the centre. The vision of the department will continue to be “a safe, secure South Africa where all of its people are proud of, and value, their identity and citizenship.” A home affairs department that is not secure puts every individual and the nation at risk and undermines the value of our identity and citizenship.
A secure department can play an important role in the security system of the state, and it should be located within that system.
The mission of the department is “the efficient determination and safeguarding of the identity and status of citizens and the management of immigration to ensure security, promote economic development and fulfil our international obligations.”
As the Green Paper on international migration proposes, South Africa must have the capacity to manage immigration in a way that is strategic, risk-based and fully observant of human rights. Immigration that is not effectively regulated leads to abuses of human rights, unstable communities and threats to national and personal security. Repositioning the department means building the capacity to manage immigration effectively and securely.
Questions may be asked, like, ‘Are we succeeding in fully supporting the creation of a safe, secure South Africa?’ Or, ‘To what extent is there efficient determination and safeguarding of the identity and status of citizens and management of immigration to ensure security, promote development and fulfil our international obligations?’ And, ‘is the department properly structured and well-resourced to discharge its mandate as the nerve centre of government?’
Currently this department is neither in a position to adequately defend itself from the ever present threats, such as criminal syndicates and cyber-attacks, nor to play its full role in working with other departments in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster, in keeping the nation safe and secure at all times.
In a highly dynamic, globalised, digital world, full of risks and opportunities, the nation would benefit from having a Department of Home Affairs that serves as the nerve centre of security and the backbone of the digital platforms their lives depend on.
To get there, the department should be rooted firmly in the security system of the state, with one pillar of its core mandate being to play its part fully in that system. Just as important are the other pillars of its core mandate – to be a key enabler of delivering mandatory services and economic development.
It was against this backdrop that a new business case with proposed measures for repositioning the department was developed, and accordingly processed.
The Department first approached Cabinet in February 2016, stating that it was constrained by legacy systems, capacity and budgets and thus could not be secured and carry out its full mandate as a critical enabler of security and development.
In the same year, 2016, Cabinet announced the full integration of the department into the JCPS cluster. It further resolved to have the department develop a business case that would set-out how it could achieve its vision, of becoming a secure, modern, professional organisation capable of delivering against its full mandate. Cabinet’s directives were carried out to the letter.
Accordingly, Minister Jeff Radebe announced that on 1March 2017, Cabinet approved the proposed measures set out in the business case to reposition the department.
Now that Cabinet has approved the business case, the next step will be to make it available for public discussion and engagement in the form of a discussion paper by the end of April 2017.
The discussions and engagements will inform the drafting of a White Paper that will be gazetted for public comment by April 2018.
The White Paper, after appropriate engagement with the public and stakeholders, will provide a solid policy platform for drafting legislation that will define the mandate and objectives of the department, specify its organisational form and set-out its mandatory obligations and requirements. The expectation is that the Bill will be tabled by December 2018.
The discussion paper will include a roadmap with two, five and ten year horizons. Over the next two years the one major focus will be on driving the current modernisation programme.
One priority is to put in place the key elements of a comprehensive National Identity System (NIS) and the modern immigration systems that will interface with it.
Together these systems will provide the nation with a critical resource, featuring accurate and secure knowledge of who our citizens are and who is living within our borders. This will bring large strategic advantages and improve the lives of our people in the following ways:
· Accurate, real-time statistics for planning and operating services,
· A platform that will power e-government and e-commerce and greatly reduce fraud by providing secure digital identity,
· Faster, more efficient private and public services, and access through multiple channels,
· Fast access to relevant information for better governance and accountability,
· Enhanced safety and security for individuals, communities and institutions, and
· Capacity to implement the new immigration policy, which is risk-based, and also development and Africa-oriented.
Realising these benefits depends on building a department with professional staff, appropriate levels of security and modern digital systems.
The human element is always the most critical and thus a second key focus will be on continuing to involve officials in change management and training programmes.
We reiterate, the value of the services of the department is dependent on the security of its systems. If your identity is stolen you will be at serious risk and will not be able to open a bank account, register at a college or travel abroad. Every fraudulent ID, visa or passport, represents a serious risk to national security as it may be used to commit crimes or acts of terrorism.
In spite of being highly constrained by historical underfunding and outdated systems, the Department of Home Affairs has decisively proven it can transform its people and processes, and improve the lives of citizens. It is central to the protection of the people’s hard-won freedoms and human rights.
Reaching our set goals demands of all of us, unity in action, with government, business, labour, constituency representatives, traditional leadership, faith-based organisations and broader society, pulling together in the same direction, to move South Africa forward.
It is precisely for these reasons that we are setting out to consult broadly on how a new, repositioned Department of Home Affairs should look like. In unity, there is strength, and this is a project that must be supported by the whole of government and all citizens.
I wish you all a meaningful and selfless Human Rights Month and Day.