Introduction – Observing Nelson Mandela International Day

This month, we observe Nelson Mandela International Day, which is on 18 July, declared as such by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009. This is to commemorate, annually on his birthday, the lifetime of service uTata Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa and the world. The focus for 2017 is on Action against Poverty. The spirit of Nelson Mandela always reminds us that we are one people pointing to the need to make a difference in the lives of others.

At the Department of Home Affairs, we have heeded the Mandela Day call to make the world a better place, by contributing to the fight against poverty. Through our Premium Visa and Permit Centres we help in easing the way of doing business in the Republic and in presenting SA as a competitive country for investment.

Our reports show that by July 2017, the DHA Premium Centre at the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) had processed 1 301 visa and permit applications from corporate clients, from business sectors which include automotive manufacturing, engineering, telecommunications, energy, mining, mineral resources, financial services and higher education institutions. A total of 2 872 applications were processed in 2016, and 923 in 2015, bringing the total between 2015 and 2017 to 5 096.

The Critical Mandate of the Department of Home Affairs

As a nation we are not all sufficiently aware of the importance of two critical functions of the department: managing identity and managing international immigration. This has resulted in these functions of the state being incorrectly positioned and under-developed. Correcting this situation should be viewed as a critical national project.

To confront the challenges facing us all, we need a capable state that can lead development and the transformation of our society.  When we leave here today, we should be aware of the large potential of a repositioned Home Affairs to empower not only the state, but all citizens and sectors of society. Of course this we can do with your input.

As the DG has explained, Home Affairs has been on an improvement trajectory that started 10 years ago, in July 2007.  Much progress has been made on many levels, from policy and legislation to systems and establishing a more client-centred culture. This has gained public confidence and most citizens and other clients are happy with the basic routine services they receive, such as being issued a smart ID card or a passport.  The turn-around times for visas, and to an extent permits, has improved.

At the same time, many other clients continue to be trapped in bureaucratic nightmares for months and even years. This is because of a number of factors that are clearly set out in our discussion paper. Firstly the lack of understanding of our mandate and is more serious because we do not have defining anchor legislation – a Home Affairs Act. Secondly, we are not in a position to fully protect ourselves or to play an effective role in the security system that protects all who live in South Africa. Thirdly, we are constrained by operating, organisational and funding models that cannot meet the needs of a democratic, African nation in a globalised, digital world.

In spite of introducing smart ID cards, we still have largely out-of-date technology. The organisational model has few supervisors, a handful of technicians and almost no professionals.  Records – both digital and paper – are our life blood and older records are held in unsuitable warehouses or captured on defunct systems.  Even in the 179 offices where we have installed fully digital systems, there are often long queues because the network is often down.

I commit that “we will do better” and show you our plans.  We hope to convince you - and the nation - of the need to invest in a secure, modern Home Affairs that is staffed with professionals. The overall impact on the fiscus will be very positive. We will work hard to ensure that there is no fraud, bribery and corruption. This will create conditions for economic growth and creative solutions to social problems.

This is why we have envisioned the kind of department that can secure and maintain a digital platform that is essential for the development of e-government and e-commerce. These developments require access to large data that is generated by a highly secure, fully comprehensive national identity system.  The National Development Plan cannot be implemented without modernising South Africa.

By the way, the time to enthusiastically embrace the 4th industrial revolution is now.   Some big companies around the world are already developing driverless vehicles and transport systems.

South Africa needs a nation and a state that are capable of surviving and thriving in the new world. I hope some of you here today will continue to help us build our own world-class National Identity System to replace the one we inherited from apartheid.  The structure of the old system reflects even the warped view of gender before 1994. For example, we still have to search for male and female records separately.

I believe the new White Paper on International Migration is an excellent policy framework that could enable us to do very well in an Africa and a world full of large risks and exciting opportunities. But this will happen only if the nation invests in building the capacity needed to implement those policies. Currently, Home Affairs spends less than a billion Rands on regulating immigration after paying salaries. You do not need consultants to tell you that the direct cost of this in gap in financial terms, let alone the social cost, is many billions more than that. Then there is the opportunity costs, one of which is not filling critical skills and training gaps as quickly as we should.

The Cabinet approved our Business Case on 1st March, which is summarised in our Discussion Paper.  We will only be able to breakdown the cost of repositioning of Home Affairs and develop a funding model once more detailed work is done on the operating and organisational model.  For a quick comparison SARS made a similar transition although it has a much smaller client base and a narrower mandate. The operating budgets of large banks might also provide an indication.

I want to conclude by making two forward-looking points, so that we do not lose sight of the vision of a future Home Affairs that the DDG and his team will share with you.

It has been recognised that one of the main reasons for poor implementation of policies is a lack of integrated government systems. Before the DHA can become a key enabler of integrated government through its National Identity System, it must first make sure its internal business processes are connected. If you do not know who is a citizen and who is not a citizen you cannot manage immigration. If you do not know which citizens of other states are in your country, and why and for how long, then you cannot manage identity. You also will not secure your country or plan effectively. 

Then there are links with critical partners that must function effectively for the DHA to perform its functions. I have mentioned ICT networks, and we are negotiating with the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services (DTPS) and SITA in that regard.  The largest strategic thrust towards a more integrated and effective state currently is the implementation of the Border Management Agency. Seventeen departments and agencies are active in the border environment and six present at ports of entry.  As indicated in the NDP, without secure and efficient border control you will not see an industrialised SADC with large markets.

We will be aggressively looking for partners to support the most critical project in repositioning the DHA.  The most important factor is always the human factor.  We have about ten thousand officials and our pledge is to leave nobody behind that demonstrates commitment to achieving the vision and lives our values. 60% of our staff have matric has their highest qualification, but experience has taught us that committed staff can broaden and build on their knowledge and skills and achieve the levels required. Enabling conditions have to be created and sustained and this was done to achieve the advances summarised by the Director-General.  We want to find partners in other departments and the education and training system that can design and develop creative approaches to training that can be replicated across the state as it modernises.

In addition, what is not negotiable is the need for the DHA to rapidly acquire a critical number of specialists and professionals. Departments carrying out our functions in countries that are less developed that South Africa have economists, managers who handle commercial relationships and units developing new technology and products. Included on our immediate priority list there are IT experts; a statistician; business process analysts; policy and legal specialists; and security specialists.

Finally, we request you and the organisations you represent make a formal response to the Discussion Paper on the Repositioning of Home Affairs.  This will help ensure that we have an effective White Paper and legislation for a department that impacts on us all at critical points in our lives.  It is also a development that will impact on the kind of state and society that our children and grandchildren want to live in.

We thank you.


For media enquiries please contact:
Bongiwe Gambu: 082 714 9463
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Thabo Mokgola on 060 962 4982
11 July 2017