Minister of Home Affairs, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan

Participants and Distinguished guests

People of Home Affairs,


We are indeed honoured to welcome all of you to the first repositioning policy dialogue on ‘building a future-fit Home Affairs’. Today’s focus is on professionals from various disciplines.

It is our firm belief that with your vast knowledge and experience, we would be empowered to develop a policy framework for building a new, repositioned department capable fully to deliver on its mandate. This would be a department alive to the challenges and opportunities presented by realities of globalisation, digitisation, and their myriad ramifications. In other words, this would be a “future-it” department connoted in the topic of this policy dialogue.

Accordingly, as a theme, for this dialogue, we chose: “The DHA’s mandate in a sovereign, democratic South Africa in a digital world”. In spite of the period it took to complete the long transformation of this department, I can make bold to say history is on our side. It was in this momentous year, in March, that the South African Cabinet approved a new Business Case for Home Affairs, the very year as a people we have declared the Year of OR Tambo.

The year 2017 should remind us of his role in the struggle for liberation and his leadership which carried us through the darkest night of fascism, racism, sexism, and wretchedness, and placed us steadfastly on a path towards a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous African state.

This process, of repositioning Home affairs, in large measure fulfils the vision and aspirations of the struggling masses of our people – aspirations historically shaped and nurtured in the face of brutal repression and oppression.

From Tambo’s description of the agony our people endured under previous administrations, it becomes apparent why we must necessarily invest more energy in transforming government institutions. Oliver Tambo wrote in 1966 (Oliver Tambo Speaks, 1987: 56) that:

“Laws enacted by previous governments were reinforced with vicious amendments and were vigorously enforced by officials who, for sheer brutality, seemed to have been specially recruited from some prehistoric bush where cruelty was a highly prized virtue.”

We can best honour him by altering collectively the mandate and role of this department which is important in the running of the democratic administration. The creation of a new Home Affairs, run by caring officials, has been a very long journey.

We inherited a fragmented civil registration system, hitherto used to deny citizenship to the black majority, on grounds of race and ethnicity. Only 4.5 million people, classified as “whites”, had access to acceptable levels of civic services. A political imperative for the democratic government was thus to build a single, non-racial population register and expand services to all.

Therefore, from 1994, the 1st phase our journey, we began forging a new, common, national identity to begin to undo inequalities of the past. A defining feature of this historic change was the issuance of one identity document for all citizens. We had extended the use of the green-barcoded ID book to all people, though it presented serious security limitations.

We focused on overhauling systems, legislation and policy framework. Among major achievements at the time were the incorporation of the infamous “black” homelands into new 9provinces of the Republic and establishment of a single national Department of Home Affairs.

Between 2006 and 2009, which is the 2nd phase in our journey to build a new Home Affairs, we focused on a turnaround strategy to improve service delivery and re-engineer Home Affairs intoa citizen-oriented department. In this period, among other things, we implemented outcomes of a robust business process re-engineering. We improved turnaround times in the production cycle of documents, and upgraded IT systems. But we still needed to improve on identity management.

Therefore, in the 3rd phase of our journey, between 2011 and 2016, we initiated a system-wide Modernization Programme, to develop secure, integrated, digital systems managed strategically by professionals. This meant significant changes in how the department was operating,developing systems and processes and prioritising change management. It was in this context that launched the Moetapele Leadership Initiative, to improve leadership among our officials.

As signs of progress, we started issuing smart ID cards in July 2013, to begin to replacecorruptible green ID books.

A smart ID card is secured, has a readable and verifiable card chip and embedded biographic data. It is supported also by a live capture system. We now have 179 modernized offices, and to date, over 6 million smart ID cards have been issued.

Beyond 2017, we want to see the smart ID card being a multi-purpose ID for the whole of government, to improve efficiencies while enhancing security. Work is apace to introduce an e-Passport. Among other innovations, we are developing a mobile solution to beef-up the live capture system. We have also initiated a project to modernise processes for Births, Marriages, Deaths, Personal Amendments, Permitting, Asylum seeker and Refugee management.

The end-product should be a new, credible, reliable and efficient National Identity System,through which to deliver mandatory services to citizens, through which to support economic development, through which to promote safety and security of all persons. It is in this manner that we can deliver fully on our mandate. Colleagues, you are all critical in this endeavour.

We present the Discussion Paper on the Repositioning of the Department of Home Affairs as South Africa’s pathway towards a new digital identity. Its two pillars are a new immigration management system and the envisioned, single, integrated, digital, national identity system.

Digital transformation will enable the state to promote trusted documents, safer borders and stronger control processes while creating a highly competitive environment for growing the economy and for attracting foreign direct investment.

We had a singular honour early this year to be invited to the ID4Africa 3rd Annual Meeting in Namibia. There we had a unique opportunity to share this vision of a future-fit Department of Home Affairs. Accordingly, this policy development process had benefitted from feedback and wealth of ideas there received.

We said in Namibia the work we are currently doing towards digital identity, to be anchored by a ‘future-fit’ department, will be a key lever for regional integration and economic growth through secure and managed flows of people, capital, and trade, understanding that our objectives we can well realise in a better Africa and a better world we all must create.

Esteemed participants,

It is against this backdrop we’ve enlisted your brain-power. We invite you to help us properly to interpret the current state, together to map a way-forward for this department, and those it serves.

As a collective, we command the power to prove that ours cannot be a dream deferred.

We thank you for heeding this call, to share with us how best to destroy today’s enemy we see in every case of identity theft and corruption against our people, in every long queue at government offices, in every case of unregistered birth, in every violation of our sovereignty and national identity, in every disrespect of our immigration policies and systems, in every breach of security, and in the widening digital divide we see between rich and poor of the world. 

With regard to today’s Programme:

  • The Minister will share with us the department’s perspective and proposed approach to the whole matter of repositioning Home Affairs. 
  • We will have an opportunity together to define the mandate and role of the department in the session to be led by the DDG for Institutional Planning & Support. 
  • The DDG for Civic Services will introduce the discussion on the role of Home Affairs as a guardian of identity and citizenship.
  • The DDG for Immigration Services will anchor our engagement around management of international migration.
  • On the important matter of locating Home Affairs in the core security system of the state, we will work with the A/DDG for Counter Corruption & Security Services.
  • The Deputy Minister will help us to highlight and to summarise key issues from plenary discussions and also to bring this policy dialogue to its logical conclusion. 

Colleagues, in conclusion, allow me to borrow a phrase from Oliver Tambo’s 1971 “New Year’s address to the ANC External Mission.” Your participation in this policy development process is vital, because, in Tambo’s words:

“We who are free to eat and sleep at will, to write, to speak, to travel as we please; we who are free to make or break a revolution, let us use our comparative freedom, not to perpetuate the misery of those who suffer, not to give indirect aid to the enemy they fight by withholding our own contribution.” (Cited in Oliver Tambo Speaks, 1987: 157)

Once more, welcome to you all!