Address by the Hon. NN Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Home Affairs on the occasion of the presentation of the Home Affairs Budget Vote (Vote 4) to the Extended Public Committee of the National Assembly, Parliament of the RSA, 11 June 2004
We are indeed very thankful for the opportunity to present to you our fist budget vote since our appointment into the leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs. I must say that, our transition and process of settling has been made easy by the reception we have received in the Department after our appointment. For this we extend our gratitude to our Director General and members of Management and staff for taking their time to bring us to speed with the work of the Department within this short space of time. We are also grateful to the Members of the Ad Hoc Portfolio Committee, under Hon. Chauke for the warm reception they have given us. We appreciate the support they have offered to us and we undertake to be as cooperative with their work whenever they require that from us.
At a personal level, I feel I must extend my most humble gratitude to our former Minister, Hon. Mangosuthu Buthelezi who has had the other unenviable task of leading this Department during its most difficult period in the past ten years. I can never thank him enough for his counsel and guidance as a father to me when I joined the Department as his Deputy. I will always value the highly professional relationship we have both enjoyed and I will like to wish him good health and best wishes in his political and family life now that he is no longer with us in the Executive.
Today is a very special day for us at Home Affairs, not only because we come before you to present our Budget vote in the 10th year of our democracy, but because we also share this celebration with two extra ordinary South Africans. We thought it appropriate that these South Africans, who never had a claim to their citizenship since they were born, should mark with us the achievements of our ten years of democracy as proud bearers of a new South African Identity Document.
The people of the! Xhu and the Khwe communities of San origin were used by the former SADF as trackers during the Apartheid wars and were mostly recruited into the 31 Battalion section of the armed forces. Although some of their families were relocated and settled in South Africa in Schmidtsdrift, Identify Documents were only issued to those that had joined the SADF. The rest of the family particulars were recorded on combo cards kept by the SADF. With the kind of progress our country has made in the past ten years towards unity and reconciliation, representatives of the community of !Xhu and the Khwe have today joined us in the gallery to celebrate their full participation as citizens. The Department has registered close to 800 members of this community as the first step towards integrating them into the community of our nation. At this stage allow me to introduce ( CHECK THE ATTACHED LIST OF NAMES)
Sithi namhlanje isidima sabo sibuyile. Nabo bazakuxhamla kumthi oyokoyoko weziqhamo oxakathileyo we nkululeko. Isitshixo so kuvula kwiminyango ngeminyango ka rhulumente basifumene. Ntinga ntaka, undande emafini - nixhamle incindi yentaka yobusi - Inkululeko.
Chairperson and Honourable members, in the 1950s, when thousands of South Africans engaged in the Defiance Campaign against unjust Apartheid laws, one of the most symbolic gestures they demonstrated was the burning of their passbooks. This was because in the eyes of the majority of South Africans those pass books represented a tool for servitude, repression and degradation of their human dignity.
This resistance against the need to carry a passbook resulted in some of the most historical mass demonstration against the Apartheid system, including the great women march of 1956 and the merciless killing of 61 people in Sharpeville four years later. The passbooks served as a tool through which the state could determine the place and category of every South African on the basis of colour, geographic origin, and tribe. This served the purposes of the government of the day.
As we did then, there is still a Department of Home Affairs, and we still are involved in the activities of civil registration, and the maintenance of a population register, including the issuing our of identity documents. A great difference however, is the fact that we now have a state whose priorities are based on a completely different premise from those who ruled our country in the 1940s and the 50s when the resistance to pass laws was intensified.
I have decided to paint these contrasting scenarios to demonstrate to Honourable members and the public, the attitude that informs our work when we issue South Africans with these Identity Documents.
Some of the findings of this survey will also help us determine issues of policy regarding late registration of births and the curbing of abuse for this provision. We will also be able to determine how many South Africans still have not converted to the green bar coded ID in order to decide whether we should set a deadline for such conversions. It should be worrying for us that, 18 years after the introduction of the new IDs, there are still South Africans who still carry old Reference Books, Books of Life and dompasses.
Chairperson, we continue to receive many complaints from the public about the spate of fraudulent marriages registered in the records of the Department. Our current Strategic Plan for the METF reflects prominently our campaign to assist women who find themselves trapped in this and similar situations. At a public level, there is a need for the Department of Home Affairs to create the necessary capacity for women to come forward and verify their marital status as reflected in our records. Women who are married in terms of customary unions will also be allowed the opportunity to check whether their marriages are registered or not. We intend for this to become a standing programme of the Department of Home Affairs. The Department will seek partnerships with key stakeholders and relevant state institutions in the implementation of this campaign.
Since the launch of this campaign, the Department has been working in partnership with the Department of Social Services at national and provincial levels. Although cabinet had envisaged that we should reach a target of 3.2 million registered children by the end of 2004, this partnership has already covered children in excess of 4 million and ensured their registration into the safety net.
We see our contribution through birth Registration as a poverty alleviation initiative that allow for many vulnerable children to have access to basic services from the government.
All the initiatives that we are raising or have referred to are about the need to improve levels of service delivery within the Department of Home Affairs. No other priority can be more urgent for us than this one. We designed our planning processes in such a way that every other priority should be aimed at attaining this improvement in service delivery levels.
One of the key priority areas in the improvement of service delivery levels is the urgent need to ensure that services offered by the department are conveniently accessible to all citizens who require such services. It has been a trend due to the planning priorities of the previous Government that most of our offices are located in the towns and other urban centers. This has meant that all people in rural areas and informal settlements should be the ones that travel long distances, wait in long queues and spend money that they normally do not have, in order to receive services from our Department.
It will be necessary for us to commit ourselves before this House that it is not acceptable that our offices should remain the greatest source of frustration for the people who come to us for one sort of service or another.
Chairperson, in the same vein, on the 19th of this month we will launch a community volunteer campaign to clean our offices, some of which are in serious state of dilapidation in order to ensure that a more pleasant environment exists in our offices for all our clients.
We have since started this process within the Committee of Ministers established by Cabinet to deal with this matter. We have agreed that in order to resolve some of the problems within the current regulations, we need to make certain changes to the Act itself.
Despite our commitments as a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, South Africa is however still faced with the Refugee / illegal immigrants nexus. It is necessary that our policies and our operations should strike a balance between these two. We have all the intentions to deal harshly with those who undermine our borders and our security by sneaking illegally into our country. This is because in a country such as ours, it is not necessary to come in illegally, because you can present yourself to any of our embassies and apply for anyone of the many temporary residence permits, which are never unreasonably denied.
We are aware that some of the applicants are being frustrated when they renew their permits and we are addressing our capacity to improve on this aspect, but it is still no excuse to go underground and live in this country illegally, because when we catch up with these people, the law will have to take it cause.
In line with our commitment to provide better service, I have also requested the Department to conduct an audit of all the foreign missions where we do not have Home Affairs services around the continent of Africa. It should never be that at this stage of our role in the NEPAD, people who come from certain states in Africa should travel around the continent just to get a South African visa in order to visit our country.
We are still committed to the upgrading of our ports of entry in order for them to be of a standard and image that sells our country positively to visitors who come here. The programme for the efficient administration of the border posts will of necessity be an inter-departmental one including the other departments that work in the borders. At a cabinet cluster level we have agreed on this integrated approach that has seen the adoption of the Border Control Coordinating Committee to ensure multi agency planning and coordination.
Similar multi agency initiatives have also been put in place with regard to the important issue of fighting corruption within the department. We have already decided to upgrade our Anti Corruption unit into a Chief Directorate. The work of the unit is already visible in the many arrests that the police have effected as a result of the initial investigations within the department. The Challenge however, is to find a more proactive approach to dealing with corruption involving the retraining of staff, screening of our appointments, gathering of intelligence to ensure that we prevent corruption than react to it when there is already damage to the integrity of our systems.
It must be stressed, Chairperson that most of the good intentions we have might just become a pipeline dream if we do not have the kind of vehicle with the correct mindset to carry this task forward. We noted reports about the levels of morale amongst our staff, and it is encouraging that we have been presented with plans to deal with this problem. For us these are some of the transformation priorities facing the Department of Home Affairs. There is a need to make sure that the psychological make up of our staff is at all times one that is beneficial to these priorities we have. We will also be addressing ourselves seriously to the matter of the gender imbalances within our managerial structures.
Honourable members, you might have realized that we have not dealt here with matters relating to the finalization of the HANIS project as well as the elections. These are areas whose ministerial authority I have delegated to the Deputy Minister, Hon. Malusi Gigaba, who will address them together with all maters relating to the Film and Publication Board, and the Government Printing Works.
Lastly I need to point out that most of the things that we have raised here are urgent and we will need you to bear with us if we sometimes come to you and put you under pressure to resolve certain of our problems. This will however not detract us from the need to ensure that all that we do should be done right.
At the end of the day our work will be judged on the basis of our contribution to making the lives of ordinary South Africans a little more bearable.
I thank you!