'Intensify the fight on long queues': Home Affairs tackles service issues

2019-07-10 14:28
Mobile trucks of the Department of Home Affairs, to illustrate their work, on the Parliamentary precinct ahead of the department's budget vote. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Mobile trucks of the Department of Home Affairs, to illustrate their work, on the Parliamentary precinct ahead of the department's budget vote. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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Building a "world class" visa regime, new legislation on immigration and getting rid of those pesky lines at Department of Home Affairs offices are some of the top priorities for the department this year.

Under the theme "Building a World Class Home Affairs", Deputy Minister of Home Affair Njabulo Nzuza addressed the media head of the department's budget vote debate in Parliament on Wednesday.

Nzuza said they chose the theme because it related to current programmes, plans and priorities which were identified to take the department and South Africa forward amid many complaints about service.

"We are committed to playing our part in contributing to economic growth through the easing of the visa regime, while ensuring national security. Equally, we are just as committed to maintaining a credible population register," he said.

He said there was progress in the modernisation of Home Affairs, with milestones like reduced service delivery turnaround times for enabling documents, mainly smart ID cards and modernised passports. 

"These notable improvements are possible due to the strides we are making in rolling out the live capture system. We now issue a smart ID card within a week and a passport in 13 working days. This is an improvement compared to the previous waiting period of six months for an ID and four months for a passport," he said.

"However, we acknowledge that there are serious blockages in terms of service quality at offices, as evidenced in our interactions with citizens while visiting various front offices since we assumed office.

"One of our ministerial priorities is to continuing to intensify the fight on long queues and reducing long waiting periods at our front offices."

He and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi would outline the work the department was doing to clean the national population register, by strengthening their early birth registration programme and fighting fraudulent marriages. 

Citizens urged to collect smart IDs

"Since we started digitising our application processes, we have issued over 13 million smart ID cards and we continue setting tight deadlines to deliver on this critical task of replacing the old, insecure, green barcoded ID books. We urge our citizens who have applied for smart IDs to come and collect them," Nzuza said.

"Migrating people to smart IDs is a matter of critical importance in the quest to build a new national identification system for the country, which would be trusted, reliable and credible."

According to Nzuza, there was also steady progress in developing an automated biometric identification system (ABIS), which was initiated in 2018.

"The ABIS, when rolled out, will give us a single view of the client. We shall, for instance, have at our disposal a biometrics database showing citizens, permanent residents, asylum seekers, refugees, visa applicants, visitors and deportees." 

Regarding South Africa's international migration policy, he said a new White Paper was in place and they were working on new legislation.

"Among our priorities, to be outlined this afternoon, is the establishment of a Border Management Authority which will serve as a single entity, under one command structure," he said.

"We continue to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to develop an implementation plan which will assist in reducing the backlog on asylum applications and appeals.

As for the "thorny issue" of illegal immigration, he said work was being done to ensure people are documented and their stay is regularised effectively to ensure that all people in the country are and feel safe.

Motsoaledi was not present at the briefing and Nzuza said he was busy with other government business. 

There was a Cabinet meeting at Tuynhuys on Wednesday morning.

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