Foreigners fleecing welfare system

2011-08-16 22:14

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Cape Town - Thousands of foreigners from neighbouring states are enjoying the benefits of South Africa's welfare and pension systems, MPs heard on Tuesday.

Immigration services deputy director general Jackson McKay told a joint sitting of Parliament's labour and home affairs portfolio committees that a roadblock last year, near Musina in Limpopo, had discovered more than 3 000 Zimbabweans carrying South African IDs.

"We ran an operation at the end of the Christmas period. People returning from Christmas holidays. We had a roadblock... and we found in excess of 3 000 Zimbabweans carrying South African documentation.

"So they have access to grants, they have access to all the benefits South Africans have. And they are residing [in Zimbabwe]."

The operation had been set up after officials noticed there was "an inordinate number of 'South Africans' travelling to Zimbabwe", especially over Christmas and Easter.

Living two lives

Earlier, McKay told the committee that a lack of integration between home affairs' systems gave individuals an opportunity to "reside in different regimes within the department's databases, sometimes under different names and enjoying multiple benefits under assumed identities".

Responding to a question on this, he said some of these individuals were actually living across the border, but crossing into South Africa once a month to collect benefits.

"There are people who have South African documentation and... when it is grant time, or pension time, they cross the border to collect the pensions and go back again.

"So they benefit from us. Sometimes they use different names. They enjoy multiple benefits."

Referring to Zimbabweans who had fraudulently procured South African documents, he explained that many lived two lives.

"Some of these Zimbabweans are known as John Smith in South Africa, and John Ngcube in Zimbabwe. And indeed, they live two lives. They have assets, they have bank [accounts], they have everything in Zimbabwe; and they have another identity in South Africa," McKay said.

Asked after the briefing for figures, McKay said these were not immediately available.

The two committees were looking into the presence of foreign nationals within the South African labour market.

Earlier, McKay told members that of the more than 66 000 work permits issued by home affairs in the first quarter of this financial year (April to June), a total of 59 363 were issued to Zimbabweans, in terms of the department's Documentation of Zimbabweans Project.

- SAPA

Read more on:    home affairs  |  polokwane
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