Ladies and gentlemen of the media:
It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to continue to foster my bumpy but always intense dialogue with the media. This dialogue. which has spanned many decades, has often not been easy. but I think you will agree if I say that it has always been frank and open, And, I repeat, intense. I like the intensity of this dialogue even when often I felt that I was not being treated fairly and objectively. At times I am told that lam not good in public relations, that I am not sufficiently an actor or do not have histrionic features in my personality. I admit to this charge and therefore I hope that you will allow me to continue my dialogue with the media as I always have on the basis of facts rather than speculations and frank and open exchanges rather than flattery and histrionics.
Therefore, let me say at the outset that while I got used to the many media attempts to run me down, I feel that it is deeply unfair that the same treatment seems to have been extended by implication to my Department. I am here today to talk with you about the Department of Home Affairs, and I hope that you will consider what I have to say with fairness and objectivity. I hope that you will accept to report news even when it is good news, setting aside the tendency of regarding only bad news as being newsworthy. In fact, were are all very shocked when the press did not report the news that to the best of my knowledge there has not been one single complaint from a South African citizen who was entitled to vote, at the elections and could not do so because he or she did not receive on time his or her ID. from the Department of Home Affairs.
For months before elections the Department of Home Affairs was the object of denigratory articles and editorials speculating that we did not have the capacity to deliver the lDs, to all those who enquired them, that we would end up disenfranchising thousands of people. Officials is our Department, both at the management level and in each of our offices, burnt the midnight oil working overtime under some of the most demanding conditions to bring about a successful election. I do not seek any praise for myself, but I felt hurt when I did not read anything in the newspapers about the heroism of many of our officials on the ground who went into rural areas to help people applying for lDs and gave hundreds of thousands of overtime hours on a purely voluntary basis to help our nation to succeed with the first democratic election conducted on the basis of a voters' roll. On the occasion of the ID campaign, the Department of Home Affairs gave a magnificent example of the spirit of service and the dedication to delivery to which President Mbeki has now committed our present Government.
The Department or Home Affairs is particularly targeted by the many challenges which President Mbeki has set out for the whole or Government. In his inaugural address President Mbeki has set our Government on a higher gear of delivery and the Department of Home Affairs wishes to rise to this challenge and transform the quality and quantity of its delivery. We are also targeted by the challenge of rightsizing our structures, creating greater efficiency and efficacy in the human and financial resources we employ, while reducing redundancies and superfluous resources where possible.
We have taken those challenges seriously and established a management venue in which I, the Deputy Minister and all the Chief Directors will be meeting regularly to develop a plan through which we can restructure the Department. Some of the difficulties we are encountering relate to the lack of flexibility in our internal policy manoeuvre. Often the regulations of Government do not allow us to move people who are redundant in one sector to fill vacancies in another, as a private corporation would do. We are bound by cabinet policies framework which has set a moratorium both on the creation of new posts and on employer's driven terminations. This somehow sets us between the rock and the hard place of being unable to both hire and fire. In passing, I will just note that this highlight how Government does not escape the vexed debate on the flexibility of the labour market.
In our management venue we have also tabled the need or identifying tools to measure transformation progress as well as evaluating performance output and audit delivery to the public. The results of this investigation will be made available to the parliamentary portfolio committee. It is significant that the Department of Public Service and Administration has identified our Department and the Department of Health as priority departments in respect of which this type of assessment is to be conducted.
In the meantime we are trying to develop innovative approaches to the problems confronting us. We have resorted to multipurpose deployment of staff such as the deployment of immigration officers in ID campaigns, especially in remote rural areas. This multipurpose deployment of staff has proven to be effective in the past and is worth continuing. Moreover, during the recent strike action by public service unions, we deployed staff from our nearby offices to the border gates to maintain some degree of control of our country's borders.
Unfortunately, our present compliment of human resources is not sufficient to accomplish what we have to do, at least in the way we are presently doing it. We have stringent restrictions preventing us from creating the additional 900 posts we would need. Therefore, we are forced to change the way we operate to do things better and with less human and financial resources. I have tasked my Directorate of Human Resources to expand the function of training together with enabling training such as adult basic education with primary focus on previously disadvantaged employees. Furthermore, this Directorate will accelerate computer training to expedite procedures, increase efficiency and delivery time.
However, the long-term solution to the imbalances and shortcomings in the Department's deliver will need to rely on internal restructuring and we have set in motion the process to a develop a plan which will bring about this result. The restructuring of the Department will go hand in hand with the shaping of a new immigration service as proposed by the White Paper on Migration. The Department is in the process of drafting a bill to implement this White Paper and establishing the envisaged new immigration service. The draft version of this bill will be submitted for public comments once approved by Cabinet.
Within the framework of restructuring, we are looking at the possibility of strengthening our administrative and decision making capacity at regional level. At present, the Directorate Human Resources Development is conducting financial management training at district level to enable offices to properly manage and monitor their budgetary allocations. This step should be followed by other steps which will restructure the Department horizontally, shifting capacity from administration to delivery, so as to strengthen the delivery points of the two line functions which we administer, namely immigration and civic affairs. To this end we will need to thin out the administrative capacity presently built into the support functions of our Department to push more capacity and resources towards delivery.
From the viewpoint of restructuring, the greatest challenge facing our Department is that of redressing the unequal distribution of our services in the territory, which to a great extent still reflects the stature of the inequalities of apartheid. Once again, the lack of adequate funding impedes on adequate service delivery in rural areas where the need is greatest. For in instance, at district level there is the paralysing shortage of official transport, infrastructures and equipment. We must accept the reality of limited government resources, particularly financial resources. Therefore, we have begun a process of lateral thinking to see to what extent the present imbalances can be corrected through future joint venture with the local government structures which are in the process of being established across the territory. This partnership may apply in respect of civic affairs as we are mindful that local government has a primary interest in interfacing with the population registry and could assist in the registrations and data upkeep in respect of births, marriages and deaths. Over time, local government could be involved in the issuance of ID cards and other civic affairs functions, as happens in many countries around the world.
While looking ahead on a long-term plan of development, the Department is also focusing its attention to avoid setbacks. To this end we are strengthening control and monitoring over all the departmental assets. We are also redirecting the resources which are available towards needy communities. Furthermore, the Department is exploring alternative methods of funding for selected projects, including partnerships with stakeholders and businesses to access financial assistance, specialised expertise and ad hoc infrastructures. For instance, in the Western Cape the airport company at Cape Town International Airport has offered to provide a more customer friendly uniform for immigration officers and approximately R250,OOO to pay fifty casual workers to strengthen our compliment of immigration officers.
The customer service dimension is also receiving priority attention. There have been several criticisms in the press about the fact that some, but not all of our offices experience queues. The long term solution to this problem will depend on the restructuring of our Department and its procedures. In the interim, we are trying to apply standard business solutions in respect of queue management Through special ventures, we count on placing at no cost to the taxpayer, television sets in all our major offices for customers' viewing, while in waiting areas and in queues.
Particular attention will be paid to the upgrading of departmental services in the former TBVC states and other areas which were neglected in the past. For instance, the ID campaign has highlighted the deficiencies in the Eastern Cape, which we are now trying to redress in spite of the poor infrastructure in the region which makes some areas not easily accessible, thereby exacerbating the problems we are experiencing.
Our efforts to reach out for all South Africans highlight the need of placing emphasis on marginalised groups, such as the Khoi and San, to assist them in establishing their legal status and identity. Our outreach efforts will be supported by a communication campaign aimed at overcoming lack of information and suspicions. The greatest challenge of our outreach campaign is that of overcoming the vast distances which still separate many communities from our district and regional offices. To this end, we will continue to employ mobile units within the stringent constraints we have.
We believe in interdepartmental efforts and co-operative governance to compound the effectiveness, of the many efforts which are being made to reach out for marginalised communities. To this end, our Department is co-ordinating with other organs of the state and relevant role players. For instance, at the national level, we will be synchronising our mobile unit system with that of the mobile clinics operated by the Department of Health to provide a one-stop service. At the local government level, we will be negotiating the joint use of facilities for service delivery. This programme will include traditional authorities so as to broaden the full range of service points in rural areas.
Unfortunately, in rural areas all the existing serving points are without computer equipment and links, which seriously impedes service delivery and the monitoring of the structures which should deliver them. The stability of operation of the delivery of services is of great importance and, therefore, we intend to embark on joint ventures with existing government offices including traditional authorities, to achieve this higher degree of stability.
The Department is also liaising with community-based organisations to mobilise their members and supporters to apply for identity documents and rectity personal particulars such as dates of birth, which, if inaccurate, may disqualify senior citizens from receiving pension benefits. We are also counting on community organisations to instil a culture which prompts people to register births and deaths. To this end, we are considering establishing Home Affairs community fora to serve as a direct link between communities and the Department, especially in respect of those communities which are less accessible.
We realise how our internal communication and co-ordination has a positive impact on service delivery. Therefore, our Chief Director of Strategic Planning and Service Delivery has been mandated to enhance the level of managerial and administrative interaction between our Head Office and our regions. This co-ordination will enable Head Office to provide assistance when required, while being better placed to evaluate progress on transformation, restructuring and service delivery. To strengthen this two way communication, bi-monthly meetings between our Head Office and the regional heads have been established. These meetings will serve as a conduit for policy implementation, enable the Department to bring about improvements, to which it will be committing itself in the intergovernmental policy-making structures ranging from cabinet to ad hoc committees. In so doing, we wish to avoid that our regional directors and their staff operate within a policy vacuum.
In view of the high need for occupational and social counselling in the work place, we have established an employee assistance programme which visits our regions to assist staff with social and health problems which impede their productivity. This programme includes counselling and referrals to specialised help on matters such as the HIV/AIDS infection.
With all these internal structural arrangements, the Department seeks to operate better and we count on achieving this result now that the great urgency associated with the past elections has been successfully coped with. The need to issue identity documents has not come to an end with the termination of the formal ID campaign since the demand for IDs is an ongoing process. We will therefore maintain the capacity created by first considering appointing people from the pool of trained casual workers that have now been laid off, when appropriate vacancies occur.
We know that in order to perform better, a qualitative leap may be required The Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) should offer the opportunity to bring about this qualitative leap. The HANIS project is scheduled to commence in the second half of the year 2000 and will significantly enhance proper identification and status determination of our population. Our present negotiations with the winner of the tender, MarPless, are geared toward; making the production of the ID cards affordable to the disadvantaged members of communities. We hope that the HANIS project's initial beneficiary will be thousands of senior citizens receiving social welfare grants.
The final decision has not yet been made on whether our government should compel citizen to replace their existing ID documents with the new ID cards within a set time frame, or whether the ID cards will be phased in, it and when people apply for new identified documents. We are also considering whether the issuance of smart cards should become part of the HANIS project so as to provide our citizens with a more versatile form of identification, which they can use in their dealings with other organs of the state, and even for private uses, such as in respect of building access control or bank transactions. These are matters on which public debate can undoubtedly assist final policy formulation.
In his report to Parliament's Public Accounts Committee last Wednesday, the Auditor General sounded a warning concerning many departments' Y2K compliance and readiness. My Department has worked hard to ensure that all our systems and equipment are Y2K compliant. We have not yet reached full compliance, but we have set in place structures and procedures to deal expeditiously with problems which may arise. We have established a "Y2K continuance of business steering committee", comprising all Chief Directors of our Department. Our information technology staff has undertaken the compilation, testing and evaluation of contingency plans to manage any business disaster which may arise at the roll over of the new millennium, and throughout the year 2000. Obviously, this is less than the optimum, which would have been the avoidance of any technical problem, but we hope to adequately serve the public by having in place the structures to address any problems which may arise.
Perhaps the most difficult of all the challenges facing the Department remains that of migration control. In the next five years, migration control will be one of the important items on the agenda of our government. It is a difficult issue which often calls for difficult solutions. Undoubtedly, there is increasing realisation that the management of migration is becoming a compelling necessity and affects the tranquillity of our communities as well as the macroeconomics pictures of our country.. There is recognition that the present system is insufficient and has shortcomings. However, there must be appreciation of the enormity of what has been achieved thus far within the present structure. We have always acted within the framework of the applicable legal requirements, particularly the human rights dimension prescribed by the Constitution and international conventions and agreements.
As I indicated earlier, the implementation of the White Paper on International Migration will require profound restructuring of our Department and has set in place a new policy dimension to deal with the issues of migration. We will foster the creation of an environment in which foreign investors may be attracted to provide real opportunities for employment generation and economic growth. Our Department plays a crucial role in ensuring the bona fide nature of investments and that those who apply for the necessary enabling documents do in fact establish productive businesses in the country. In the past, there have been shortcomings in the exercise of this particular role, but we hope that the new policy framework will remove such shortcomings.
We have also made a firm decision to move towards a more flexible system which enables South Africa to acquire the skills it needs, while ensuring that any foreigner employed in the country will contribute towards the training of South Africans and our economic growth. However, the most daunting task will remain that of dealing with illegal immigration, rather than defining the parameters under which legal immigration takes place. In the past five years, the Department has focused on regulating legal immigration, having little resources available to detect, prevent and deal with illegal immigration.
The establishment of a new Immigration Service aims at shifting capacity and emphasis towards prevention and community enforcement to deal with the issue of illegal immigration. It will take time to bring about this transformation, which may keep us engaged throughout the term of this legislature. However, it will be a great success if, by the year 2004, this transformation is complete and South Africa has the regulatory and administrative means to deal with illegal immigration. Deputy Minister Sisulu and l will oversee this complex process, impressing on it the urgency of the situation while ensuring that the quality of the outcome is not compromised by excessive haste and lack of consultation.
We are aware that the issue of migration also affects other departments with which we are co-ordinating our actions, within the parameters of the new structures set up by the President to this end. Special co-ordination needs to take place with the Minister of Safety and Security. Furthermore, matters relating to refugee affairs require co-ordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs. In this respect, our Department wishes to accept the challenge of the President to make this government one which operates through constant co-ordination of efforts.
We hope that this co-ordination will also assist us in our constant struggle against corruption. In fact, our internal anti-corruption unit does not have a sufficient capacity to deal exhaustively with the growing problem of corruption. We will continue our struggle against corruption, tackling it on several fronts. The hard approach of the anti-corruption unit with remain our spearhead. However, we are also working on promoting a new culture of professional ethics within our Department, and a Directorate has been established for this purpose. Nevertheless, especially when dealing with sophisticated crime cartels which corrupt our officials as part of much larger criminal phenomena, it is necessary to rely on interdepartmental co-ordination.
Finally, I must refer to the Government Printing Works which, for some time, has struggled to run profitably. A policy decision has been made that the route of privatisation should be followed and that we must reduce the staff allocated to this structure. In the next months, this matter will be attended to, and I have instructed the relevant officials to produce plans for my consideration and for public scrutiny to achieve both the privatisation of the Government Printing Works and the reduction of its redundant staff in the interim.
For many years, I have pointed out that we can only succeed as a country by accepting to walk the hard and long road ahead with discipline, seriousness and dedication. The Department of Home Affairs is facing difficult challenges, but we are all doing our best to walk the road ahead In exactly this spirit.