UPDATE: Repositioning Home Affairs will see e-borders in place by 2018

2017-07-12 07:05 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has been on a mission to reposition itself as a critical enabler of delivering mandatory services, economic development and national security - but there are many legacy challenges to overcome, according to Minister of the Department of Home Affairs, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize.

She says the DHA is a vital department that more than just manages identity and international immigration - and must become a  “secure digital platform, essential for the development of an e-government and e-commerce”. 

The latest round table discussion held on Tuesday, 11 July, tackled the the lack of understanding for the department’s mandate, as Mhkize stressed the impact of the DHA not having any defining anchor legislation such as DHA Act.

Mkhize addressed the many challenges facing the department as it aims to move to the "2020 vision of an integrated system where immigration is be linked to civics".

'e-borders fully operational by 2018'

In a move towards this, the DHA would be piloting the e-permitting system this year - with the aim to have South Africa’s e-borders fully operational by 2018.  

"The issuance of visa’s needs to be strategically linked to the objectives of government," says Mkhize. 

"The largest strategic thrust towards a more integrated and effective state currently is the implementation of the Border Management Agency," says the minister. 

SEE: #AfriTravel: Home Affairs welcomes border management bill

“Seventeen departments and agencies are active in the border environment and six present at ports of entry.  As indicated in the NDP, without secure and efficient border control you will not see an industrialised SADC with large markets.” 

Crucial for citizens and organisations to express their views

Mhkize called on the relevant role players to ensure their involvement in the Discussion Paper on the Repositioning of Home Affairs, published in the Government Gazette on Friday 19 May 2017 and open for public comment until 30 September 2017.

"It is crucial that citizens and organisations express their views on the kind of DHA that can best serve and protect them,” says Mkhize.  

While the public has gained confidence and most citizens and other clients are happy with the basic routine services they receive, such as being issued a smart ID card or a passport - there was much to be done to improve the DHA - including the turn-around times for visas and permits, says Mkhize. 

In July 2017, the DHA Premium Centre at the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) had processed 1 301 visa and permit applications from corporate clients and business sectors. This is compared to the total of 2 872 applications were processed in 2016, and 923 in 2015, bringing the total between 2015 and 2017 to 5 096.  

Protection of the DHA a priority

The DHA says it aims to prioritise its ability to fully protect the department and citizens - essential to this is the need to overcome the current operating, organisational and funding models that “do not meet the needs of a democratic, African nation in a globalised, digital world”.

But in spite of introducing smart ID cards, SA still have largely out-of-date technology.  

“Records – both digital and paper – are our life blood and older records are held in unsuitable warehouses or captured on defunct systems. Even in the 179 offices where we have installed fully digital systems, there are often long queues because the network is often down.”

Mkhize stressed the National Development Plan cannot be implemented without modernising South Africa.

Challenges include budget constraints, skills development and training shortages within the department and the lack of integrated government systems.. 

SEE: Repositioning Home Affairs: 5 Key 2017/18 budget plans outlined

“Before the DHA can become a key enabler of integrated government through its National Identity System, it must first make sure its internal business processes are connected.”

"Included on our immediate priority list are IT experts; a statistician; business process analysts; policy and legal specialists; and security specialists," says Mkhize.

"South Africa needs a nation and a state that are capable of surviving and thriving in the new world. I hope some of you here today will continue to help us build our own world-class National Identity System." 

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