OPENING REMARKS BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA
Thank you very much…it is a real joy and pleasure to be here…to visit the Home Affairs service delivery point. This is one of the visits that President and myself, as the Deputy President, will be undertaking to service delivery points throughout the country to go and see the readiness, preparedness and the effectiveness of service delivery at various places where government departments are meant to serve our people. I am really pleased that the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs gave us the leeway and the permission to come and visit their regional office at the ID and passport application office and also to come and visit the Government Printing Works.
When we visited the ID and passport application and issuing office, I was most impressed with what I saw in relation to the service delivery; the speed and the effectiveness of the way they are delivering their service. The staff are highly motivated; in proper uniform; and I was most impressed with the way they explained to me what service they were going to deliver as I went to fetch my own Smart ID card. The speed with which they issue smart cards…testimony was borne by one of the citizens who said he applied for his Smart Card just seven days ago and received it within record time and he was immensely pleased with that. He was just full of smiles.
We also had an opportunity to interact with people who were waiting on the queues. Some of the people were waiting outside…what was pleasing was that they were sitting on chairs but sitting outside was not a pleasant sight. It is not good for old people and, indeed, whoever to sit outside and exposed to weather. The Minister and the Deputy Minister noted that and that is an area we need to correct very quickly within the resources and the means that we have so that we create better waiting areas for all our people throughout the country, particularly at Home Affairs so that when they come to apply or to receive their documents they do not have to be waiting outside.
There were people sitting inside but the Minister and the Deputy Minister want better facilities so that we can serve our people a lot better. The delivery of our service has become a lot better, in fact, it has become 120 percent. It is the actual resource or the facility itself where we need to make improvements. I was able to talk to various people who were sitting there and I assured them that we are working on this…and the Minister and the Deputy Minister will make sure that this is done properly.
Home Affairs is one of our star performing departments in government. We have revolutionized and transformed the delivery of services to our people and it is at Home Affairs where I saw for myself that the principle of Batho Pele is being played out and we are going to make it better as we move forward. This is a service that all of us as South Africans can be truly proud of. At the Government Printing Works my mind was just blown away with regard to the world-class facility that we have; with regard to the smart card printing and also the production of passports. The other important thing, of course, that affects our citizens is that our citizens need to interact with government regularly and at prescribed periods. I met one parent who had come to apply for the [birth certificate] of a child. The child was one year old and what Home Affairs prescribes is that is that as soon as a child is born, that child must be issued with a birth certificate immediately and that certificate will be an unabridged certificate containing all the details of the child and the Minister and the Deputy Minister assured me that this facility has been rolled out in many hospitals around the country…so, we call upon parents that upon the birth of your child, make sure that you apply immediately where the child is born for a birth certificate which should be a full birth certificate, unabridged, so that we keep our population register up-to-date on an ongoing basis. The other one is when a young person reaches age 16…that is when they are now eligible to have a Smart ID card. We want them to apply at the right time for their cards so that the information about their existence and their life should now be properly encoded in our population register. The rolling out of the Smart ID card has now been proven…we have tested the system and it works. The Minister has informed me that the full rollout to the entire population will be done in due course and it is will be announced properly. The system works; it is a world-class system and in the end, as South Africans, we can really be proud that we have a government that is ahead of the pack in terms of offering these types of services. We are offering services that are not even offered by some of the more developed economies in the world….in fact, we are leading the pack because we have got world-class machinery, well-trained young people. I was most impressed that a number of people who are working these machines are being trained in countries like Japan and Germany; they have now brought the skills here and we are going to make it better and better. Once again, South Africa is moving ahead and it is showing the way and we are getting better and better at delivering a service to our people. I thank the Minister and the Deputy Minister, the DG and the DDGs and all other officials for laying all these out to me. It is very impressive. They get an A1 as far as I am concerned.
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
Question: Of late the PSL has complained that the Immigration Regulations have made it difficult for them to register foreign players and others have complained that the regulations are making it difficult to attract skills that we need in South Africa. I can see that the regulations are not going anywhere, but they are now saying that you are hampering efforts to attract skills into the country. What do you have to say about that?
Question: Your predecessor Minister Naledi Pandor was negotiating with the British government in terms of the visas, now that we have these world-class…(inaudible)how far is that process?
Question: Deputy President, do you feel that these regulations will have an impact on tourism?
Answer (Minister Gigaba): With regard to Immigration Regulations, I think when people are finished with complaining they must comply. Let me be very clear about this. There is absolutely no way that we are going to change these regulations. Let me cite examples. If you travel to South Africa with a child and you do not have a birth certificate of that child or any a passport of the child, we will send you back because we then have to start suspecting if you are not involved in child trafficking. First and foremost, not every tourist travelling to South Africa is travelling with a child…so that is a fallacy. Secondly, those who are traveling with children, we are not asking them to bring South African type unabridged birth certificates. They must bring birth certificates of their own countries. You cannot just show up in South Africa, walking with a child whose identity and kinship to you is unknown and unidentified. The child trafficking crime in the world is a multi-billion dollar syndicate and South Africa must not be at the bottom of the fight against child trafficking, we must be right at the top.
Tourists or anybody else must expect that we cannot accept in South Africa a child whose identity is unknown to us. We will need to be satisfied that this child is your child and if not, that you have the affidavit from the parents enabling you to travel with the child.
Another example: If you go to Britain or the US, you need to apply in person for the visa to those countries but in South Africa people want to come here without applying in person. They want to send proxies to apply for them so that Mr X applying for a visa to South Africa cannot be determined that it is the same person who is now arriving in South Africa. It could well be Mr Y who now lands in South Africa on the visa of Mr X. We want people to apply in person and we have said to the Minister of Tourism that we are willing to work with them to ensure that there are facilities in countries where there are high volumes so that the people applying can apply in person with as little hassles as possible. It could very well be that as we have said we are working towards introducing an e-visa programme and a trusted traveler programme as time goes on but what we cannot bear is a situation where somebody leaves their country on a false identity comes to South Africa, goes to Sandton, strangles someone dead and then leaves South Africa and we cannot testify as to your identity. It might not make sense that the person committing the crime is a foreign national; they commit a crime against another foreign national. It will make dramatic sense the day they commit crimes of mass murder. What will we say on that day? That we chose the airlines and tourists ahead of the lives of our people?
I think we need to balance; and that is what we are trying to do; to strike a correct balance because South Africa will never have tourism if we become a society of mass crimes. The interesting thing, honourable Deputy President, is that the countries that are sending South Africa more tourists are those that require visas to come to South Africa and those that have visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists. If the argument therefore is that applying for a visa is a deterrent to tourism, why is it that countries with visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists than those where they must apply for visas?
I think people must calm down…we all must calm down, comply with these regulations and then life will be easier afterwards. The same applies to the PSL and all the others. In actual fact, it is also not true that these regulations are a deterrent to the attraction of skills…in fact, to the contrary. We have made two major announcements in terms of the new regulations.
One is that you can apply for a critical skills visa, which is effective for 12 months, even before you get a job. You can get a critical skills visa on the basis of the critical skills list and come to South Africa and look for a job for 12 months. Secondly, you no longer have to renew your visa every two years. It is now available to you for four years. So, there is no longer any burden to come to Home Affairs to renew your visa every two years…if you have it, it is available for four years.
With regard to the British, the only thing I will say is that we will make an announcement in due course. We are ready to announce what is going to happen. I cannot afford my boss [Deputy President Ramaphosa] hearing this without being informed prior to the announcement. I need to consult with my bosses. All I can say is that the British took this decision regardless of the facts prevailing on the ground. The fact is we have a much more secure passport production facility; a much more secure ID production facility; we have got passports and IDs with far better security features than theirs; and yet they took this decision and they have refused to reverse it. We will soon announce what is going to happen.
Answer (Deputy President Ramaphosa): I think, Minister, you have answered all the questions really, so there is not much more for me to add except to say that we are really perfecting the systems and the way that we interact with the public in relation to visas and passports and everything else…so, we are really are really at the cutting edge…ahead of the curve and are offering a best service in this regard that one can ever find in the world.
Question: South Africa harbours about five million illegal immigrants and three million of these are from Zimbabwe, do you think introducing the ID Smart card will play a vital role in dealing with the issue of illegal immigrants?
Question: Deputy President, you mentioned in your opening remarks that this is just one of many unannounced visits to check that service delivery has been working…but one cannot fail but notice the orchestrated manner in which this visit happened this morning. Do you believe you are getting a true reflection of what is happening every day? Do you believe that you are seeing what Citizen A goes through every single day?
Question: Deputy President, I believe that you are addressing the Human Resource Development Council tomorrow; can you just tell us what that is all about?
Answer (Deputy President Ramaphosa): The Smart ID cards are being issued to South Africans and this is meant to enable us as South Africans to feel secure that we have got a credible population register; that we have got an ID system that has got all our information as citizens; that we can present any service point when we interact with government; and, indeed, with other service providers; that we have all our data and there is nothing as better as that. So, this is for us as South Africans and it provides sufficient security for every South African citizen to know that there is integrity in our system which confirms our citizenship, which confirms our existence as South Africans in our own country.
When it comes to visits, this was not really an unannounced visit, we informed the Minister, he knew…we were not really surprising anyone but we were coming to a facility which is functioning well but also has its own challenges in relation to how people wait to be serviced…they are waiting outside, so, if you like, that is one flaw which we found which we all admit has to be addressed and it will be addressed. The President and myself will in due course be paying visits, on an unannounced basis, to a number of other facilities throughout the country, be they school, hospitals, other Home Affairs offices anywhere in the country. We are determined, as the government of South Africa, that we want our government to give good service to our people. The service delivery points that where our people interacts with government it must be flawless; it must be the best; and we want to push in that direction.
Of course, we want to listen to our people…we are a government that listens. We want to hear our people telling us about their own experiences when they interact with government. When we listen to our people, then we will be able to have more information. The Presidential Hotline is meant to do precisely that…people do send emails, sms and messages their challenges and problems and experiences that they have when they interact with government and their complaints are always responded to. Now we will be doing on a face-to-face basis as we interact with various role-players who have something to do with service delivery. So, we are determined that throughout the country we should improve to our people and give meaning and content to the Batho Pele principles. Our people come first and they are the ones that we are all about in as far as providing services in as far as meeting their aspirations, requirements and their needs. That is what we are determined we will do.
I will be chairing the Human Resource Council tomorrow and we will be able to outline everything that we will be dealing with at that meeting; at the right time and we will brief the media. Let me end by saying that this facility where we are, is quite historic…it was started in 1872…it is more than a hundred years old. It was started by the South African government…even at its sad past as an apartheid government. What we have done now as a democratic government, we have professionalised it; we have made it a lot better; and we have poured resources into it because it is meant to serve the people of South Africa as a whole in the most effective way.
It is historic in a number of ways. The printing machines are named after the leaders of the women’s march, the 20 000 women who came to Pretoria, marching against passes and they came here and tabled their demands to the then government of South Africa. The printing machines bring up a lot of history for a lot of us. They are named after Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn and Rahima Moosa who were a really diverse group of women representing the women of South Africa and they were at the head of leading our country to begin the process of dismantling apartheid and it is proper and correct that we have named these printing machines that allow everyone of us to have the same Smart Card; the same passport, which is completely universal to all South Africans and does not even have vestiges of our sad apartheid past. So, it is a tribute to the women who marched to this capital in 1956 and today we are able to honour them in a way in this very place and through these machines.
Through these machines, they give us identity, meaning, citizenship and our South Africanness. We thank them and we honour them for that. Home Affairs has done a fantastic job and we would like to thank the officials and the Minister and the Deputy Minister once again for a job that is being well done. This is how we move South Africa forward. Thank you very much. ENDS