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BEITBRIDGE BORDER CONGESTION REPORT: DISCUSSION; IMMIGRATION BILL: DELIBERATION
Chairperson: Mr D A Mokoena (ANC)
23 January 2002
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January 23, 2002 Report from Chairperson on Beitbridge Border Congestion (see Appendix)
December 6, 2001 Proposal for Committee Study Tour to Swaziland, Lesotho, et al.
Immigration Bill [B79-2001]
The Chair, Mr Mokoena (ANC) noted the five
agenda items. Two of these concerned Committee study tours
to be undertaken in early 2002. Firstly, a meeting with ACSA
and other officials at Johannesburg International Airport is
to be scheduled on an expedited basis due to recent security
problems affecting airport operations, which also impact
on Department of Home Affairs functions at the facility.
Secondly a study tour is to be arranged to hold meetings with
immigration and other officials of Swaziland and Lesotho, which
were missed on during last year's tour of other SADC
countries. This will include visits to Department facilities in
Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Bloemfontein. Another agenda
item was a brief update on matters related to the Film and
Publication Board, with a possible visit in 2002.
The bulk of the meeting was devoted to the last two agenda items: continued deliberation on the Immigration Bill, and consideration of the Chair's report on congestion at the Beitbridge border post during the recent holidays. Concerning the Immigration Bill, the line by line reading of the proposed text was completed, putting the Committee in a position where it can now determine the way forward in processing the Bill. The Chair cautioned that, given its importance and magnitude, and the need for consultation with other stakeholders and concerned committees, the legislation could not be rushed, and suggested that establishing a target date for passage is difficult, particularly until members have had a chance to discuss processing procedures, et al., with their party caucuses.
Regarding the Beitbridge border post,
the Committee unanimously adopted the
Chair's Report on the situation there during his visit
late last month. The Committee endorsed his conclusion that, in
order to address the ongoing issues at this and other
posts, more coordination among the various agencies (SARS, SAPS,
the Department, et al.) operating at such facilities is
necessary. It was also observed that it might be appropriate
for Cabinet to direct and designate one of these agencies as
the over-riding administrative authority at these
Beitbridge Border Post
The Chair distributed copies of his report on the situation at Beitbridge in late December after reports of problematic congestion at the post in the pre-Christmas period. In the wake of his observations during this and previous visits, it was clear that coordinated management of activites by all government agencies operating at this post was necessary, but sorely lacking. He recommended that one agency be designated as the overriding administrative authority, overseeing all activities and operations at such posts, and that such a delineation of responsibility could only be provided by Cabinet.
Mr Grobler (DP) endorsed the Report, and
commended the Chair for his continued "hands on"
approach in observing the situation, adding that the problems
also exist at posts such as Koomatiport, and not just during the
holidays, having a negative effect on trade in the Lowveld.
Mr Skhosana (ANC) also commended the Chair's initiative, and expressed particular concern that the customs clearing agency was not discharging its functions around the clock during periods when the border post itself was open 24 hours a day.
In this regard the Chair reiterated that such lack of coordination contributed to processing delays and general congestion, with resulting damage to the nation's image, and went on to note that another administrative improvement would be rotation of border post staff on a more random basis, which would prevent the planning of corrupt practices by staff.
Another opposition member also commended the Chair, but expressed his concern about what the response will be to his recommendations, noting that issues such as corruption, and the fact that the Beitbridge post's computer is not linked to the Department's main-frame, are not new, but extremely troubling, particularly in light of the possible effects of the continued instability in Zimbabwe on border operations.
Mr Zulu (IFP) followed up by asking for the Chair's view on how conditions at Beitbridge may be affected by the ongoing problems in Zimbabwe. The Chair responded by acknowledging that this issue is a concern, and alluded to "political undercurrents" and "rumours" about local conditions there which he was not prepared to elaborate on because of their "unsubstantiated" nature.
Bishop Tolo (ANC) asked how delineation of intra-governmental border post authority among various agencies was handled overseas. The Chair replied by noting that this was unclear, and that such practices need to be studied further.
The Report was then adopted, and discussion moved on to a brief review of the proposed program for the April study trip to Swaziland, Lesotho, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Bloemfontein, which has been approved by the Chief Whip. The Chair urged members to consider the itinerary, and requested early feedback on planned participation. Mr Pretorius (NNP) then asked whether the trip could, for scheduling and cost efficiencies, be combined with the trip to Johannesburg International Airport. In reply the Chair noted that dealing with the airport's recent security problems, which may impact Department of Home Affairs functions, is a matter of urgent national interest, and must be sorted out immediately, especially with the growing importance of tourism, international investment, and the coming Earth Summit in Gauteng.
Concerning the Film and Publication Board, the Chair stated that its enabling legislation needs to be updated, particularly insofar as ensuring uniformity of censorship and classification procedures, and that the Department's Deputy Minister is looking into formulation of appropriate amendments.
Deliberation then continued on the Immigration Bill with conclusion of the line by line reading of the Bill, covering Sections 54-61. During this exercise the Chair noted the necessity of coordinating further discussions with the Justice, Finance, Safety and Security, and Local Government committees and ministries to ensure that the Bill's provisions can be properly and promptly implemented once it is passed, a point which Mr Pretorius (NNP) particularly endorsed regarding the delegation of functions to municipalities. WITH conclusion of the reading, the Chair indicated that the time was now ripe to determine the next steps in processing this critical piece of legislation, and requested the members to discuss the matter with their parties so that "the way forward" could be formulated at the Committee's next meeting on February 12.
After noting the long
period during which this legislation has been under
consideration, Mr Grobler (DP) asked in this regard whether
there is a target date for completion of the process.
The Chair replied that while it had been under consideration for some time, the Bill had only been received for Committee action last August, and that he was unwilling to predict the timing of its passage, notwithstanding the President's wish that it had been completed last year.
The Committee would work with the other concerned committees, ministries, and role players toward speedy enactment, but the process could not be hurried or rushed if a "quality" bill is to be produced. Producing such a bill is necessary given its implications for foreign investment and as such it was unwise to speak unrealistically of target dates when broad consultations are needed to ensure that the bill's provisions are appropriate, and can be effectively implemented.
The meeting was adjourned.
MEMORANDUM (FOR INFORMATION)
TO:THE SECRETARY TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: MR C HAHNDIEK
FROM: AUBREY MOKOENA (CHAIRPERSON: PC ON HOME AFFAIRS)
DATE: 23 JANUARY 2002
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is pleased to submit the following report to you.
cc Honourable Minister of Home Affairs: Dr M G Buthelezi
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs: Mr C Nqacula
Director-General: Mr B L Masetiha
Members of the PC on Home Aifrairs
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HOME
Following widespread media reports that
there was an abnormal traffic congestion, to the extent that a 6
kilometer queue had been formed at the Beitbridge Border Post in
Messina in the days shortly preceding Christmas Day, I (Aubrey
Mokoena) telephoned the new Chief Whip on 22-12-01, the Hon.
Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula, to grant permission for me and any
available member of the Portfolio Committee to make an emergency
oversight visit to that Border Post. Such permission was
telephonically duly granted immediately.
In short, I contacted the Hon. Chief Walter
Morwamoche who lives in the Northern Province and asked him to
join me. He agreed.
I drove in my car to pick him up at Jane Furse, on Sunday 23-12-01 at 17h00.
I had earlier on communicated with the D.G. Mr. Billy Masetiha to make him aware that we were on our way.
On our way, we encountered numerous roadblocks instituted by the SANDF. Our passage was facilitated by prior communication with the Northern Province Regional Director Mr. M V Mabunda, who received the instructions from the D.G. We arrived at Beitbridge at 23h00 and performed the oversight function until 4am in the morning. The following morning we started at 08:00 with further interviews on the South-African side affer which we proceeded to the Zimbabwean side. We completed our work at 15:00 on 24 December and drove back home.
We interviewed officials from the Immigration Service, SARS, SAPS and SANDF to find out from them why the service at the bridge was characterized by such lethargy. We also interviewed pedestrians, travelers, motorists and commercial truck drivers.
3. THE EVIDENCE
The evidence is crystallized as follows:
3.1. The co-ordinating Committee at Beitbridge, consisting of the Immigration Service, SARS, SAPS and the SANDF, is not functioning well.
3.2. No one is directly responsible for the overall control of Beitbridge. This causes the management of the Bridge to be poor.
3.3. Each of the four units mentioned under 1 operates as an entity with its own freedom.
3.4. There is an overlap of roles i.e. the Police try to do Immigration work. This causes work overlap and delays.
3.5. The computers at Beitbridge are not linked to the Home Affairs Main Frame at the Pretoria Head Office. Information can thus not speedily be verified.
3.6. There was a shortage of staff to deal with the expected festive season traveler.
3.7. Although the border post was open 24 hours serious problems arose due to the fact that the Beitbridge Border Clearing Agency did not function 24 hours. This agency is responsible for clearing commercial trucks. The trucks thus blocked the road while waiting for the clearing agency to open.
4.1. There should be separate mandatory parking facilities for commercial trucks as these cause further congestion. It takes more time to clear a commercial truck to cross the bridge than for instance a family who go on holiday. When trucks are being cleared to cross the bridge they contribute to the traffic congestion, as they do not make use of the parking facilities that have been demarcated for them. The clearing agency should also operate 24 hours when the bridge is open 24 hours during the festive season. This will go a long way to keep the flow of commercial trucks going.
4.2. Traffic Officers must be involved in traffic flow management instead of this role being left to the police. Traffic officers should also have been present to sensitize motorists to the arrive alive campaign.
4.3. After an earlier visit of our Committee to Beitbridge, SARS implemented an audit at the bridge. During this time a whole team was sent to investigate the operations at the bridge. Our Committee visited the bridge during this "blitz audit" and operations at the bridge ran much smoother than during our previous visit. This type of audit should be sustained on a permanent basis and should not be done as an ad hoc exercise.
4.4. The structural layout of the bridge should also be improved to facilitate better traffic management even to the extent to separate commercial and holiday travelers.
4.6. The overall management of the bridge should be improved and someone will have to take control over all the units (Immigration, SARS, SAPS, SANDF) that function at the bridge. It is very important that a Ministry becomes the definitive authority to take overall authority of all the units at border posts. There should be a Cabinet decision on this issue as it is a policy decision that will affect all border posts. During our oversight visits last year to various border posts we saw that serious problems are being created at border posts due to the fact that there is no definitive authority to take overall responsibility at border posts. The current situation at border posts can be compared to a school with many teachers but no principal. Such a situation is a recipe for disaster.
5. OFFICIAL PERSONNEL WE INTERVIEWED
5.1. Rudy Hartman Home Affairs
5.2. Lindiwe Meirotti Home Affairs
5.3. Inspct. Augustinus SAPS
5.4. Sgt. Nel SAPS
5.5. Serole Makwele SARS
5.6. Marshal Mutepe Home Affairs
5.7. Zimbabwean officials:
5.7.1. Mujuru Mangco
5.7.2. Sefheni Ncube
5.7.3. Weston Gasva
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