Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media
The theme for this Media Briefing Week is service delivery by Government. As you know, my Department was selected as one of three Government agencies to pilot the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery. This led to the development of my Department's Service Delivery Improvement Plan and for the Department's achievements in this regard the Director-General, Mr Albert Mokoena, the Deputy Minister, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu and myself were presented with certificates of recognition, signed by President Mandela and the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Dr Zola Skweyiya.
However, improvement of service delivery should be evident not only on paper but also in the actual services rendered by the Department of Home Affairs to the citizens of South-Africa as well as to foreigners wishing to sojourn or settle in South-Africa .
Deputy Minister Sisulu has just elaborated on two issues indicative of the Department's efforts to ensure that the best possible services are rendered by my Department. Two further issues that I would like to address as further examples of the Department's efforts to practically ensure that services are rendered that are reflective of the values embodied in the new South African socio-political order, are the Departments Identity Document Campaign and progress with the White Paper on International Migration.
IDENTITY DOCUMENT CAMPAIGN
Being aware that the next general election will take place this year the Department of Home Affairs, in anticipation of the increase in identity document applications, launched an Identity Document Campaign as far back as February 1998. A comprehensive awareness campaign was also launched at the same time. The full details regarding the nature and extent of this campaign have been provided to the media on several occasions. Unfortunately the sterling work performed by staff of my Department in this regard has, to a large extent, been pushed to the background by the media, following the various court actions launched by political parties against the Government's decision to accept only bar-coded identity documents as proof of identity for election purposes.
The Department of Home Affairs was, and still is, of the opinion that a very high percentage of all eligible voters in South Africa are already in possession of identity documents. This was confirmed by the census figures released by Statistics South Africa. The Department had, at the end of 1998, already issued identity documents to 24,4 million persons.
Notwithstanding various special efforts by the Department and other role-players, no significant increase in the number of first time applicants have been experienced. This is consistent with the point of view of the Department and is further confirmation that there is no real backlog in respect of persons who have never had an identity document.
As far as the debate on bar-coded identity documents and the Departments capacity to deliver are concerned, I wish to point out that the capacity of the Department has as yet not been tested and the Department can confirm that it is up to date with the processing of identity document applications. The Department has indicated that its capacity to process identity documents can be easily increased to 25 OOO and more per day. Applications have, however, not been received at the expected rate and for the past months an average of 12 000 identity documents have been produced daily.
The Department has, as part of its efforts to reach each and every possible voter, increased the number of it, mobile units to 359. Due to the lack of applications in some areas, some of these teams had to be phased out, while new ones were introduced in other areas as the need arose. Contract workers were also employed to assist and in many instances overtime was worked and/or office hours extended. A special concession was made for photographs to be supplied free of charge in deserving cases particularly in rural areas serviced by mobile units. The services of photographers whose only income is generated from the taking of photographs, received priority in the event of Departmental cameras not being available.
Under these circumstances the Department is satisfied that everything possible has been done and can still be done to ensure that all eligible voters are in possession of bar-coded identity documents.
My Department and the Government as a whole remain firmly committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that those who require ID's or the Temporary Registration Certificates do get them.
WHITE PAPER ON INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION
The Government committed to create a climate conducive to employment for all South African citizens, whilst at the same time striving to promote foreign investment in our country. With this in mind, and also as part of the Department's efforts to render the best possible service, also to its foreign clients, existing migration policy is continuously being researched, with a view to refining it in the context of South Africa's unique situation.
In this regard a Task Team was appointed by me to compile a Green Paper on International Migration. This task has been completed and the Green Paper was published in the Government Gazette on 13 May 1997 for public comment.
Subsequently I appointed a Task Team, chaired by the Director-General of Home Affairs, Mr Albert Mokoena, to consider the comments and to draft a White Paper. The Task Team consists of representatives from the ANC, IFP, NEDLAC, IDASA and the Department of Home Affairs.
Task Team members presided over provincial public hearings on the White Paper, which were held between September and October 1998, once again affording interested parties the opportunity to make representations.
The White Paper on International Migration is in the process of being finalised and I should be presented with a draft White Paper in a week's time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are but a few examples of the Department's commitment to service delivery. Our perspective is that service delivery improvement is not a single event but a continuous process in which experience gained as we proceed, is constructively used to adapt and to devise new plans and strategies. An improvement gap will always exist, and the sustained narrowing thereof constitutes the future challenge.