Speech by Hon NN Mapisa Nqakula, RSA Minister of home Affairs on the occasion of a breakfast hosted for immigration officer deployed at the JIA, 27 February 2006, Pretoria
I am happy to welcome you all to this function this morning. The reason for which we meet is very important and quite integral to the success of our immigration work at the Johannesburg International Airport as well other Ports of Entry.
At the time of my appointment as Minister of Home Affairs, I was already concerned about the capacity problems, both in terms of infrastructure as well as human resources, within the department. I had no doubt in my mind that if we were to succeed in turning this department around, one of the key issues we would need to address, would be that of ensuring adequate capacity for Home Affairs.
Over the past two years we have concentrated on this aspect of our work and this has resulted in some visible progress. We have moved with speed to alleviate the problems of lack of leadership in all spheres of our work, we have reviewed our organisational establishment and changed it drastically and have recruited much of the scarce skills that are paramount to the success of our programme.
We are meeting here to continue on the same path. I am sure that many of us gathered here this morning might have heard or might have a real experience of congestions and delays at the Johannesburg International Airport while traveling internationally. Some of these delays have had major implications both for our economy and for our state security. In part, these inconveniences had been as a result of inadequacy in the capacity of our immigration services.
The Johannesburg International Airport is a key economic and security installation in our country, and it is important that it is run and managed in a manner that does not compromise the country in terms of these two aspects.
Many of our comprehensive programmes for the transformation of the immigration services are in the long term, and may not bring immediate relief to this kind of problem now in the short to medium term. We have, therefore decided that there is a need for a direct and practical intervention immediately to try and resolve this problem.
Today, we are going to be deploying an additional 40 immigration officers that will augment the current teams that are already operating at the Johannesburg and the Cape town International Airports. These are new recruits that have just emerged from our training processes in which we have introduced a new curriculum that runs over a period of a year.
These 40 officials are the first step in our rescue package for building capacity for the immigration services at these Airports.
We are indeed aware that the problems of immigration at the Airports are not only limited to capacity issues or the number of officials deployed. Some of the major problems have to do with leadership issues as well as general lack of work ethic. Some of these leadership and management problems have also resulted in our inability to optimally utilize resources we have, albeit limited, to achieve the best efficiency levels possible. At a more serious level, we also encountered a number of problems emanating from corrupt behaviour of our own officials and of those they collude with in the public and amongst other agencies operating at the Airport.
Our Border Control Strategy that we are working on, in consultation with other relevant departments and role players, will address these issues as they relate to all ports of entry, as well as the specific plans for the Johannesburg International Airport. The strategy is been develop under the auspices of the BCOCC, which is currently chaired by the department of home affairs. We shall make further pronouncements in this regard once the strategy is ready.
In so far as the current deployments at the Airport are concerned, it is important that we put in place certain stop-gap measures to deal with the limitations that we have in terms of human resources.
Through these new deployments we want to increase the number of people that are available at the counters in every shift and in every team.
We are currently working on a maximum shift of 14 people per shift at our departure section. This comes down to an average of 10 people per shift outside peak hours. Through this deployment, we shall be able to increase this to 23, which is the total number of counters available for immigration officer to do their work at any given time.
The shifts at the arrivals section currently have 18 officials when operating at a maximum capacity. This number goes down to 15 outside peak hours, and we want to increase the full capacity to 42, in the short term while aiming to fill all the 58 available counters in the near future.
These shifts and the number of officials deployed will obviously differ based on the demand and the volumes of traffic from one shift to another.
Inline with the new shift system that we are adopting, peak hours will no longer be fixed in terms of times, but we shall ensure that they are based on weekly projections of scheduled flights provided by the Airports Company of South Africa. In addition, we shall also increase the overnight complement for staff deployed for overnight duty from the current 10 to 14. This will ensure that any flight that arrives outside the normal peak hours with a high volume of passengers can also be cleared at immigration without inconvenience to the passengers.
I must also announce that we are in the process of strengthening our management structures to administer immigration at the JIA. In due course we shall appoint three managers at the level of directors who are going to be responsible for overall management of immigration services at the Airport. They will also have a fully capacitated management team that operates under them, and there will always be one of them available at the airport at any time.
We are indeed grateful for the cooperation we are receiving from other stakeholders at the Airport and the support they have given for these efforts. In addition to ACSA, I must also thank the Board of Airline Representatives with whom I met last week to address similar issues. I am also glad that they have undertaken to help us with customer relations training for our officials. This one of the areas of training that we have recognized as key for every official of the department, and we appreciate that we can do in partnership with other stakeholders at the JIA.
This rescue package shall also include the installation of additional computers at the counters that are currently not in use. We intend to ensure that every counter allocated to us should have a computer and an immigration officer.
We have committed ourselves to the transformation of our immigration services in order to establish a service that promotes the underlying objectives of our immigration policy. These objectives include the proper regulation of the movement of people, attraction of skills, boost to our tourism, increased levels of interaction with other nations and of course to ensure the security of our country and all its people. Our efforts at improving our admissions capacity will ensure that this is done in manner that is convenient to all involved.
We can never over emphasize the importance of the work that you are all going to do once you are at the airport. This work comes with great responsibility and there shall not be any tolerance for sloppiness, for inefficiencies and for lack of professional work ethic. Because any mishaps that we cause in our functions at that level, can have far reaching consequences for our country. There shall be no room for corrupt activity. This is a cancer on which we have declared war, and if you have been following our recent success in this regard, you will know that it is no longer business as usual.
Each one of you is saddled with a huge responsibility, I don’t envy you. But I am sure you would not have been selected were you not found to be suitable.]
You will do us proud, and I wish you all the success.