This year's Strategic Conference of the Department of Home
Affairs has to face unprecedented challenges as well as
opportunities. There is no doubt that our Department has opened a
new chapter in its long history. This year we will need to bring
into operation the many policy changes on which we have been
working for a number of years. Some of these policy changes were
resisted both internally from within the Department, as well as
from vested interests outside the Department. However, some of
this resistance has been overcome as people realised that what
was being proposed made sense and was indeed in the best
interests of South Africa. Therefore, the responsibility now lies
squarely with us and with us alone to make sure that the promises
we made to South Africa can indeed be fulfilled.
A few years ago, I launched a new vision for the Department of Home Affairs which relied on three fundamental reforms. The first pillar was the reform of our system of migration control, to which end I developed a long process which finally led to the adoption by Parliament of the Immigration Act, in June last year. Now that I have issued the first set of Regulations implementing the Act, this reform is ready to be launched. The second pillar was that of the reform of the entire system of civic affairs, on the basis of the devolution of its delivery aspects to municipalities. This reform met with a great deal of resistance, but, after a long time, it has finally been accepted and adopted in principle and we are now left with the difficult task of beginning the process of inter-departmental cooperation and consultation which can set out a consistent plan to transform it into reality. The third pillar was that of the HANIS Project which is indeed the backbone that makes the devolution of the delivery of civic services to municipalities possible. In respect of the HANIS Project, 2003 should be the year in which we transform a long-standing promise into an actual reality. It is very important after some of the controversy and resistance, even from within the Department, that this year we really all come together to pool our strength and transform this strategic vision into reality.
The reform of migration control will be the first that we will need to face. I have been very impressed by the spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm which has characterised the efforts which everyone made in drafting the new Immigration Regulations and promoting training across the country and in our foreign missions to prepare all our personnel for the implementation of the new law and Regulations. I have received many wonderful reports about participation of so many people in the drafting of the Immigration Regulations, which are indeed the product of our collegial wisdom and reflect the individual contributions of so many officials. I have also received reports on the efforts that have been made to prepare everyone for the implementation of the new system through adequate training. March 12 will be the day on which we will test the success of that for which we have been preparing for so long. Undoubtedly, there are going to be problems and teething difficulties, but I hope that we will move along then with the same spirit which has characterised this process in the past six months.
The implementation of the Immigration Act and the Immigration Regulation is not going to be the end of the migration reform. Indeed it will be but the beginning. We will need to gear ourselves up, not only to implement a new law, but also to implement a new way of doing business in our Department. I suspect that the administrative reform is going to be more difficult and challenging than the legal one, and yet it is the one which holds the greatest promises for South Africa. In fact, one of the main purposes of the new system of migration control is indeed that of freeing administrative capacity that we previously utilised for issuance of permits so as to move it to the enforcement of the law. We will need to gear up our Department to become an effective law enforcement agency. Our regional offices will need to acquire the capacity to inspect work places, communities and other places where illegal foreigners may be found. We must really begin to plan for these efforts.
Moreover, the reform of migration control will call for the complete restructuring of the relationship between Head Office and regional offices. We need to fulfil the promise that our line function will effectively be administered through devolution and regional offices will be capable of performing the function which the Act and Regulations have ascribed to them, which is that of considering applications. Head Office will be transformed into the centre from which monitoring capacity building, the supervision of the uniform application of the law, and other support activities, take place. This will impact my own role and the role of the Ministry. In fact, the new system of migration control will substantially reduce the possibility that people now have to involve me, as the Minister, in the adjudication of cases, which will reduce substantially the number of ministerials and therefore the need for dedicated capacity for such purpose.
I have personally done a lot to bring the Department to this point and indeed I feel that often I had to do more than what is expected of a Minister, because of inadequate administrative leadership from within the Department. However, I now wish to be in a position where I can confidently pass the ball to the valiant officials of our top management, knowing that they know where to take it. I think that we all understand that change is required from all of us and from each of our officials, in order to meet the critical changing face of migration control.
I would be remiss if I were not to express my gratitude for the way in which the Department is slowly coming together. The enthusiasm shown by the training division in implementing the Immigration Act and its Regulations is something that has warned my heart beyond words. Let us now have the same enthusiasm in developing a viable plan which brings to fruition the vision of civic services being delivered to municipalities. Obviously, this cannot happen overnight and, depending on the fruits of your own deliberations, it is likely that it will not happen in all municipalities at the same time. In all likelihood we will need to develop a program of scattered implementation, so that municipalities with greater capacity may take over the function of delivering civic services at an earlier time than those with lesser capacity. We will need to utilise whatever capacity we save in respect of delivery of civic services and move it towards better migration services as well as towards those areas in which municipalities do not have the capacity of receiving a delegation of powers.
We must also consider the possibility that certain aspects of civic services may be devolved to credible and reputable private organisations, which may need to be bonded and post financial guarantees to ensure their integrity. The HANIS project will make this type of devolution to private and public entities possible. It will ensure the integrity of the system and the necessary cross-references. We can also think about the possibility of delegating such functions to other organs of the State. We must face up to these challenges, even though they may not fit into our present administrative paradigm and our way of thinking. In fact, we cannot avoid asking the question of how we are going to cope with the present pressures on the delivery of services unless we resort to this type of lateral thinking. There is no doubt that the demand on our services is growing by leaps and bounds, while our resources to meet them are not only not growing, but seem to be diminishing in real terms. Hence, the only solution lies in devolution.
We must also reflect on the challenges which are posed to us by the implementation of the HANIS project. This year we will need to first hit the brakes and then the accelerator. I am approaching Cabinet to ask for a reconsideration of some of the issues relating to HANIS because there are problems which have not been sufficiently analysed. As we go through that stage and we reach finality on the solutions to those problems it is essential that we all move at a very rapid pace to ensure that HANIS can be delivered. We have lost a great deal of time which translates into the loss of opportunities for South Africa as a whole, and we can no longer afford to waste any time. We were a world leader in 2002 and now we are lagging behind other countries in respect of projects such as HANIS.
However, I am not the type of Minister who will rush ahead knowing that there are unresolved issues. For this reason before we move ahead I need to have the resolution of possible problems, which have been identified. Throughout my life I have never painted over any cracks. We need to look at the difficulties, which have been created from a contractual and practical viewpoint once the ID cards were taken out of the original tender. We must also look at the difficulties raised by what seems to be a lack of synchronisation in the development of AFIS project within the broader parameters of HANIS, which seems to have led to steps being taken ahead of AFIS having been duly populated with fingerprints. I am not making these remarks to point fingers at anyone, but rather to urge all of us to work together in solving problems. We must also ensure that we learn from whatever went wrong in the task. As the Executive Authority of the Department of Home Affairs I really suffer when people tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. I am much more sympathetic when people have the ingenuity to make new mistakes
I think that we also need to place great emphasis on developing an infrastructure capable of supporting the development of any subsequent stage of the HANIS project, as well as any other aspect of the life of the Department. In fact at the end of the day I am the one who carries the brunt of any mistake made. I am the one who needs to justify money spent out of our budget on various aspects of the HANIS project when I deal with Treasury. I am the one who needs to report to Cabinet any shortcomings and problems. Therefore, I plead with all of you that we work together and that you don't let me down. I, for one, am committed not to let any of you down and to work with you whenever and however possible. I know that it is difficult for a Minister to deal with each and every problem, but I have tried to be available to all of you whenever problems arose. I worked very closely with our Acting Director-General to deal with the resolution of problems and I hope that most of you are feeling the benefits of the inputs I have made in this process. If things are not good enough on what I have done, I am ready to do more and better, and I hope that through the channels or by directly writing to me each of you will feel free to let me know if you think I am not doing enough as the Minister of this Department. However, as I commit myself to do more and better for any of you if there is such a need, I must impress on each of you that we must work together this year to ensure that, from all of us, something more and better can indeed be achieved.
I am pleased that this conference really proves that we are moving in that direction, I have informed that when all the bills were added up last year, the strategic conference of the Department cost us R1,2 million, and that this year we may be able to undertake the same exercise with about R20,000. I regret that you may end up not having the same level of comfort and luxury as you had last year. But that is exactly what I mean by trying to do things better, Working better calls for personal sacrifices and those of you who have had any contact with me know very well that I am the first one who will accept the discipline of making sacrifices. I am sure that most of you know of my schedule and that, unfortunately, my office often remains open until 12 o'clock at night, to reopen at 7 o'clock the morning after.
I know that our Acting D-G is putting in the same hours. However, we must all share the sense of satisfaction that we are getting something done of which we can all be proud. It is for that sense of pride that I am putting in the effort of working such long hours at my age. I know that I am older than anyone here because, as a matter of law, none of you would be authorised to hold your jobs if you were my age. Yet, I have come here to plead with all of you that in this crucial year for our Department you match my efforts, if not the length of hours that I am putting in, to ensure that this Department can succeed, not for my sake, but for the benefit of South Africa.
I feel sorry for those who need to work for me, because I now that your work will not be recognised as easily as it would be for those who work with other Ministers who are more politically correct or more popular in the eyes of those who hold power. I regret that you have to bear with me the brunt of this situation. Unfortunately, because of this situation we are the target of any cheap shot anyone wants to take at me or at the Department. Both Buthelezi and the Department of Home Affairs are always fair game for any Tom, Dick or Harry to pontificate over and criticise. It is also for this reason that we must work harder than anybody else to prove that this Department has the type of people who can forge the new South Africa. South Africa can only succeed if forged in real work ethic and commitment to Government and to the State. I do not ask you to be committed to me. I do not ask you to support my Party. I ask you to support the State and the common good.
In this Department, because you are working for a Minister who is not necessarily the one which all of you may wish to support in the electoral polls, we have the possibility of developing a culture which is essential to the future of South Africa; which is the culture of service, not to a political party, not to a political master, but to the State. South Africa will not succeed unless the civil service becomes devoted to the State and refuses to become a puppet of any political master. As I exercise my functions as the Minister of Home Affairs, my greatest concern is to serve the State and implement the law. I do not serve as the leader of a political party and I have tried not to use my ministerial platform to promote any party political policies. If you look at everything I have done in migration control, in civic affairs, or in respect of HANIS project, you can very well see that there is just no politics attached to it, even though mischievous people have tried their best to try to fit politics into anything I do. I am here as a servant of the State amongst other servants of the State, and I plead with you that we all share this culture and that we, in this Department, give the example by successfully managing to place the rule of law above the rule of man.
As I have pleaded in past years at this strategic conference, this year I also want to urge all of you to ensure that the outcome of you deliberations is captured not in generic statements, but in actual tangible plans. I was not terribly pleased with what was done last year as it really lacked some of the details of a plan which shows how much we are trying to achieve, when how and where, I plead that you focus on actual deadlines, targets and tangible objectives. You will have noticed that in the Immigration Regulations we have made some of these targets and objectives part and parcel of the law. In doing so, we have given an extraordinary example of what Batho Pele is all about, as we have tied our regional offices to issuing some of the most simplified permits within stringent deadlines. Obviously, they are not mandatory deadlines if the Regulations indicate that offices shall only endeavour to issue certain permits within a certain number of days. However, I plead with you that we really do our best to meet those deadlines, otherwise, by setting those targets for ourselves, we have done nothing but create benchmarks by which to measure our failure.
There are great difficulties which hold us back, which we must overcome. Unfortunately, our management has allowed our establishment to reach a point of great crisis, if not disaster. We are working on an establishment developed in 1995, which was inadequate even for that time. Eight years later, that establishment is totally insufficient to meet our present and future needs. But to make matters worse, we have allowed 1,500 posts to become and remain vacant, even in respect of the 1995 establishment. We must make a concerted effort to fill these vacancies and to rethink our entire establishment and organisational diagramme. We need to fill primary posts, like the Chief Director of Migration and the Chief Financial Officer of the Department. Eight of the top management posts have been filled in the past month with acting staff and we need to move expeditiously towards making appointments which are permanent.
I feel that together in this Strategic Conference we must also address the issue of discipline within the Department. I am not a disciplinarian and I do not believe that in the Department we should promote a repressive and oppressive culture which inhibits individual expression. I believe that the threat of discipline should not be imposed to prevent people from exercising their duty of providing a constant critical contribution. The functional hierarchy on which the Department is based should not prevent people from speaking up and interacting with one another on the same level. In this sense, I am not a disciplinarian. However, I strongly believe that there must be disciplined within the Department. I do not want to preside over an organisation which is not based on discipline. Discipline is about doing one's own job punctually, properly, and completely. Discipline is about ensuring that all telephone extensions have answering machines and that one does not leave the office until all the calls for the day have been returned.
Too often I receive complains of telephone not being answered, and complaints that verbal and written request from colleagues, superiors or even the public remain unattended to for a long time. I have been an Executive Authority for more that 30 years and have survived enormous workloads by applying a very simple rule: I never leave my office until there is no more work to be done and no submissions on my table. I always make sure that I finish all my submissions for the day and complete the entire list of tasks which I set myself at the beginning of the day. This accounts for the fact that often I do no leave my office until midnight. Nonetheless, every morning I have the pleasure of not seeing yesterday's work still waiting for me on my desk. This is an effort which can only succeed if each and every one of us embraces such discipline.
As top management we need to propagate this culture of discipline and efficiency in all levels of the Department through training. Unfortunately, many people have not been trained on how to work. People are often trained on what they are required to do in their workplace, but they are not trained on how to do it and on how to develop the individual skill and sense of responsibility and discipline required to perform to the best of heir capabilities everyday, and to continue to do so day after day, week after week and month after month. We need to empower people with this type of skill, and show that our Department can become a leader within Government and within society in teaching people how to work. We must also increase our culture of responsiveness to our clients. If we do not do so, all the great things we have strategised in our vision, such as the reform of migration control, the devolution of powers to municipalities and the HANIS project, are bound to fall flat.
We must understand that it is not enough to get it right 99% of the time. We must get it right 100% of the time. If any of us gets it wrong 1% of the time, the Department ends up making an enormous amount of mistakes for which all of us are going to be collegially blamed. I have been informed that too often it is necessary for many people and several stages to be involved in the drafting of a single letter, because the original drafter did not take the necessary care to write it properly and accurately the first time around. I suffer when I learn that the Department operates on this type of hierarchy that one level need to review the work done by another level, which in turn has reviewed the work one by a lower level. This is a great waste of time and efforts. We need to empower the first level to get it right the first time, but this can only be achieved if there is a commitment at that level to get it right and not to send it out until and unless one has the pride of ensuring that his or her work product is indeed up to the required standards.
I also wish to plead with everyone to work together as a team and as a family. Let us avoid anyone drawing their own little enclaves and engaging others in power struggles over personal turf. There are no enclaves in the Department. There are no areas in which anyone is a king to the exclusion of others. We all work together and we are all accountable to one another for what we do. We need to respect people's professionalism and recognise that each person working in the Department carries his or her own responsibilities and should be empowered to do so with the required capacity and support. However, this cannot lead to people rejecting other people's inputs, supervision and accountability. We have often spoken about increasing the morale of the Department and I hope that on this occasion your thinking can go beyond mere declarations of principle, to begin dealing with the nitty-gritty of how to achieve this fundamental goal.
We must also root out corruption. We receive too many reports of Government waste, which must stop at once. It is not our money that we spend and we must ensure that we spend as little of it as possible. We cannot spend money just because we are capable of justifying the expenditure from an administrative viewpoint. We must shift to a culture where the money we spend is indeed what we feel is strictly necessary to do what is required of us and to benefit our clients, and that such expenditure produces the best value for money. Records of expenditures must be maintained and made available. Theft of funds must stop. I am giving notice that I will no stand for what seems to be becoming an endemic situation with theft of funds, stealing of equipment, corruption, negligent loss of equipment and damage to equipment, vehicles and other State properties. We have talked about rooting out corruption for many years and I hope that 2003 will indeed be the year in which enormous progress will be made in this respect.
In conclusion, I urge the top management to focus on both the big pictures as well as the smaller details. One should not lose oneself in the details without considering the broader picture and one should not dealt with issues of strategy without making sure that all the bolts in the machinery are properly tightened. We will look forward to reading the strategic plan that the Department will produce this year in the hope that it will address some of my concerns. I wish all of you success in you deliberations.
Released by The Ministry of Home Affairs