Cape Town – The Department of Home Affairs says it will "focus its attentions on being an instrument of state machinery facilitating radical socio-economic transformation within the next financial year".
This is according to Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, who delivered the 2017/18 Home Affairs budget speech at Parliament on Wednesday, 17 May.
The Minister made specific reference to shaping and managing a national identity and international migration system that benefits economic growth. Accompanied by Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan, Director-General Mkuseli Apleni, Mkhize highlighted five ways in which the DHA hopes to put the department’s future plans to Parliament.
Repositioning the DHA
The Department of Home Affairs has been on a mission to reposition itself as a critical enabler of delivering mandatory services, economic development and national security, with the latest step receiving cabinet approval of the new business case for the DHA on March 2017.
Mkhize confirmed a Discussion Paper on the Repositioning of Home Affairs, based on the Business Case, will be published in the Government Gazette on Friday 19 May 2017 and open for public comment.
Substantive comments can be submitted until 30 September 2017, which will be considered in the drafting of a White Paper on the Repositioning of Home Affairs as well as any future DHA legislation.
"It is crucial that citizens and organisations express their views on the kind of DHA that can best serve and protect them,"says Mkhize.
The current developments and related challenges impacting on social and economic relations here and abroad makes it extremely urgent for SA to recommit unflinchingly to the repositioning of this department.
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According to the DHA, they are currently "neither in a position to adequately defend itself from the ever-present threats, such as criminal syndicates and cyber-attacks nor to play its full role in working with other departments in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster, in keeping the nation safe and secure at all times."
The repositioning of the department will aim to address this issue.
International Migration Policy
Cabinet approved the White Paper on International migration in March this year, replacing the old and outdated White Paper of 1999 which doesn't speak to the current challenges of globalisation, migration and national priorities set out in the National Development Plan outlined for 2030.
"The new White Paper thus provides a policy framework for amending immigration and refugee legislation, better to align them to the DHA and South Africa's goals of using migration for development," Mkhize says.
"Accordingly, for 2017/18 the total vote allocated is R7.1 billion, of which R1.2 billion was transferred to the IEC and R141 million to the Represented Political Parties Fund."
"We will be able to say how best we can benefit from emigration, how best to tap into the pool of critical skills and how best to integrate and benefit from socio-economic contributions of migrants in the country."
The new policy will also guide how best to manage labour from the SADC region.
The moderenisation of the DHA
Despite the early hiccups and growing pains, biometrics data capturing technology is an essential part of modernising the department.
The enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) currently being rolled out at busy airports to capture biometrics of travellers and those travelling with children is part of the DHA's long-term goal first initiated towards the end of 2016.
But the systems have caused a lot of frustration for international passengers going through the immigration processes. Due to a lack of staff and a lengthy initial enrollment procedure, biometric data capturing currently takes up a lot of travellers' time.
Mkhize, while not going into further detail says the DHA is fully committed to replacing the "outdated systems that are not secure or efficient"
She also cited improvements to the e-HomeAffairs online application platform for smart ID cards and passports to speed up the replacement of the existing green-barcoded IDs by smart ID cards, "Saying we hope to strengthen our partnership with the four banks participating in this project.
For the 2017/18 financial year, a total allocation of R519 million earmarked for the modernisation programme, according to Mkhize.
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Refurbishment of major ports of entry
The DHA also says it will "complete major refurbishing infrastructure at major land ports of entry, as these are strategic for risk-based immigration management and professionalisation of services".
The move will not only see the systems upgraded, but hopes to create a sense of national pride among South Africans, as well as give visitors the best first-time view of the country.
"We committed to upgrade six of the largest land ports of entry: Lebombo, Oshoek, Beitbridge, Maseru Bridge, Ficksburg and Kopfontein. Working with National Treasury a transaction advisor was appointed to develop a Public-Private Partnership solution, and this has been achieved."HAVE YOU SEEN: OR Tambo, Cape Town International Airport expansions: What you need to know
Lastly, the DHA says since the inception of a modernised, online world, national identities have become a matter of state security.
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Mkhize confirmed the department had discontinued the paper-based processing of passports. Passports can only be acquired through the 179 live capture offices across the country.
The department’s key strategic areas are those of civic and immigration services, with Mkhize saying,"We are making inroads into the modernisation programme."
Being highly dependent on information technology, "an estimated R834 million has been budgeted to maintain transversal systems".
"We commit to finalise the design of a National Identity System (NIS) that will replace the National Population Register, which dates back to the 1980s. The new National Identity System will be a secure integrated system recording identities and status of all persons who visit or reside in South Africa."
"We will strengthen our all-out fight against corruption, bribery and fraud," Mkhize says.
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