24 August 2021
Honourable Deputy Speaker.
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.
Members of the National Assembly.
On 19 May 2021 I addressed Parliament on the occasion of the Home Affairs Budget Vote. During that occasion, I mentioned that we were determined to increase our efforts in building an all-inclusive, caring, compassionate and enabling Home Affairs.
To that end, I indicated that the department was pursuing a few initiatives towards achieving that goal.
Even as I said that, I couldn’t have imagined that our beautiful country would be visited by the unprecedented unrest which shook the foundations of our cherished democracy, a mere two months later.
This period of unrest, unfortunate as it was, helped the Department of Home Affairs to sharpen its focus on the identified priorities. Home Affairs employees ensured that services were delivered in an all-inclusive, caring and compassionate manner.
While the damage did not impact very heavily on Home Affairs compared to other Departments, I must state that five Home Affairs offices were damaged, three of these were in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Gauteng.
In KwaZulu-Natal, offices that were damaged were in Eshowe, Impendle and Vulamehlo near Port Shepstone.
In Gauteng, Bara Mall and Mamelodi offices were affected. The Bara Mall office suffered extensive damages and vandals stole everything, even sinks which were used for hand washing after taking people’s fingerprints. There was no major impact in the Mamelodi office in that only one window was broken and nothing else was tampered with.
My colleague, Deputy Minister Hon Njabulo Nzuza, joined the Portfolio Committee when it conducted oversight in KwaZulu-Natal and I joined them when they conducted oversight in Gauteng.
On 15 July 2021, I instructed the Department to use alternative sites to ensure that we able to assist grieving families and undertakers to register deaths as some offices were inaccessible because of the unrests.
The Bara Mall, which was extensively damaged, was used before the unrest mostly to register deaths. We chose it because it has ample parking space and implementing social distancing was very easy.
Before Covid19, it was registering 120 deaths a day and this figure is between 200 and 300 during Covid 19. When it was vandalised, a lot of people were going to be in dire straits. We utilised the nearest office at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, which is just one kilometre away Bara Mall. The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital office is the biggest office that registers births because we started registering births in hospitals. We redirected the people of Soweto to the office in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital office to register deaths. So, their lives were not too badly disrupted.
The Eshowe office was vandalised on the night of 13 July 2021. Services were delivered at the Eshowe Hospital from 16 July 2021. Limited services returned to the office from 22 July 2021 using equipment borrowed from nearby Home Affairs offices. On 30 July 2021, the office had received new equipment and services were delivered. Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee can attest that they found the office working when they conducted their oversight.
I must express my appreciation to the Deputy Minister and the UMlalazi Local Municipality and owners of the mall where the office is located for leading the clean-up campaign.
I led the clean-up campaign in Sebokeng where I picked up a few IDs that were strewn around the place. Presently I am working with local councillors and law enforcement agencies to trace the owners of those IDs. We would like to identify them and understand whether they were looters of they just lost their IDs in the stampede.
The Department’s experience with the owner of the Bara Mall is painfully different from that of Eshowe.
The owner has not undertaken repairs. The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital office is helping very much. We are also diverting people to the Maponya Mall Office, which as you heard over the media, was protected by the community. We are also sending them to the Soweto Office in Orlando West, both of which are a mere three kilometres from the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.
Honourable Deputy Speaker
The Department of Home Affairs currently has 412 offices nationwide. Out of this number, 229 are leased from various landlords. This means that we have significant dependencies on landlords and when their offices get damaged, we become victims.
We have adopted multiple strategies to reduce these dependencies and to this end we have approached the Investment Infrastructure Office in the Presidency, which is led by Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, to put up 15 purpose built offices for us. The office that we rent are not purpose built.
I can report to Members of Parliament that we do have a purpose-built office in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape on which we pride ourselves. We encourage Members of Parliament to visit that office.
Construction of similar offices is at advanced stages in Mokopane and Thohoyandou in Limpopo and in Taung in the North West.
We are also working with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to identify areas where we can locate our offices based on, amongst others, migration patterns and security.
In the short term, we have decided that we need to increase Home Affairs on Wheels or mobile units. We already have 100 of them. We have decided that during this financial year, we must buy 10 more which are equipped with V-SAT (satellite) so that they can be useable in the deep rural areas of the country where there is not network of any of the mobile network operators.
Honourable Deputy Speaker
I wish to take this opportunity to heartily thank Members of the Portfolio Committee for the oversight visit. I must tell you that it deepens the understanding of our work and helps us to identify areas of weaknesses, as we have done. We take their recommendations very seriously and we have started to implement some of them. This type of cooperation can only benefit the people of South Africa and not individual political parties as such. So we really appreciate your work Honourable Members and we will at all times work with you.
Thank you very much.