Today’s media briefing takes place ahead of our presentation, to Parliament, of the budget of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), for the 2018/19 financial year. We will reflect chiefly on priorities set-out for the entire term of government, without losing sight of commitments articulated specifically for the last financial year – 2017/18. Thus, we will be presenting, upfront, as the overarching theme, a re-imagined DHA ready to meet the future! –itself a product of incessant repositioning beginning in earnest in the turnaround strategies of the late 2000s.

Our core function is to manage identity, civil status and migration. The problem has been that the democratic state had not regarded, sufficiently, functions of Home Affairs as being strategic to economic development, national security and prosperity. The Department was left inadequately resourced, based on past standards of infrastructure, staffing and security.

Over the past decade, our goal was to invest in a relatively low-cost digital service for all citizens; an innovative service capable fully to serve as a key enabler of economic development and social justice. Accordingly, we set-out to modernise systems, processes and human resources, for enhanced client experience. A critical pillar was the new smart ID card. When the first card was issued, in 2013, around 38 million people had green-barcoded IDs. I am pleased to announce, we now have issued 10 million smart cards. This, in spite of challenges in infrastructure, systems and staffing.

Of our 411 front offices, 184 are on live capture, which processes applications for smart cards and passports. 227 offices are yet to be modernized. On average, each digital application counter at an office is expected to take in 84 applications per day. More offices, in 2018/19, will be modernised. Discussions are apace to finalise a partnership with banks, to increase the number of branches at which we may issue smart cards and passports. I encourage more citizens, banking with ABSA, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank, to apply online.

A tripartite agreement will be signed between the DHA, State Information Technology Agency and Dimension Data, for uninterrupted network connectivity. This should reduce network down-times, ensure services are seamless, and cut down waiting times. To increase capacity, thereby broadening access, we are refurbishing 78 DHA mobile units. The units will be equipped with live capture functionality for the issuance of smart cards and passports, targeting mainly the elderly and first time applicants.

We developed an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) with the support of the JCPS cluster. We launched it this morning, with our partners. It will replace the old HANIS biometric database. The integrated multi-modal biometric system, ABIS, is at the cutting edge of building a new, digital, national identification system for South Africa.

Africa, through the African Union (AU), has also recognised the importance of civil registration and vital statistics (births, marriages and deaths) and the issuance of identity to ensure that as a continent, we know our citizens. In order to deliver on this noble task, our countries need the support of information technology systems. In support of this initiative, the ID4Africa, was established to assist governments in discharging this responsibility on civil registration and vital statistics. It is in this context that we feel honoured to be the host of the ID4Africa Annual Meeting, in 2019.

Phased-in digitisation of birth records, in partnership with Statistics SA, is gaining momentum. We’ve implemented an automated booking system at Desmond Tutu Refugee Centre the better to manage the flow of newcomers. In 2017, Cabinet approved the White Paper on International Migration, to replace the outdated 1999 White Paper, and to respond to challenges of globalisation and migration and priorities of the National Development Plan. We are hard at work amending immigration and refugee legislation, to find alignment with the noble goal of using migration for socio-economic development and security.

We look forward to Parliament’s finalisation of the Border Management Authority Bill. This will pave the way for integrated and secured management of ports of entry and the borderline. We prioritised refurbishment of infrastructure at six major land ports. These are strategic for risk-based immigration management and professionalization of services. It is in this way we can make South Africa friendly for business, travel and tourism.

On this agenda of change, is also the imperative fully to tap into the global pool of critical skills for our economy while reaping the fruits of international migration, including a blooming tourism market. These efforts will come with improved management of labour from SADC and cooperation in the region.

As we entrench Moetapele (Leadership) ethics and Batho Pele values, with no respite, we will continue fighting corruption and bribery. We are and will continue motivating officials to stay professional, patriotic and loyal to the state and the people. With full cooperation of officials, we will implement strategies for improving queue management in offices. We will strengthen organisational performance and financial management practices to ensure value for money and optimal use of limited resources.

This being the last year of the current administration, the 2018/19 Budget Vote is a moment to reflect on commitments made. Importantly, as we celebrate Nelson Mandela, it is a singular honour to reflect on the five key priorities I identified in 2014, and to account on work done in pursuance of his noble vision to create a better life through selfless service. Full details of our plans and how we hope going about achieving them, I will unpack in Parliament, at 2pm.

I thank you.

For media enquiries contact Thabo Mokgola on 060 962 4982 or Mayihlome Tshwete on 072 869 2477