Con­ver­sa­tions with lead­ers

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Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Hlengiwe Mkhize is re­po­si­tion­ing the de­part­ment to en­sure ser­vice delivery

From birth to death, the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs is in­tri­cately in­volved in the lives of all South Africans and Min­is­ter Hlengiwe Mkhize is de­ter­mined to en­sure that her de­part­ment of­fers only the best ser­vices.

Equally im­por­tant are the ser­vices her de­part­ment ex­tends to for­eign na­tion­als, which is why she wants to in­ten­sify ef­forts to deal with xeno­pho­bia.

Speak­ing to PSM, the Min­is­ter said that Home Af­fairs is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant de­part­ments for the pub­lic be­cause it pro­vides doc­u­ments and pa­pers that are key to un­lock­ing vir­tu­ally all fu­ture bu­reau­cratic pro­cesses. As such, the de­part­ment is com­mit­ted to vis­it­ing more an­te­na­tal wards across the ru­ral parts of South Africa to ed­u­cate moth­ers about the im­por­tance of ob­tain­ing birth cer­tifi­cates for their chil­dren.

“The first 30 days are cru­cial for a child’s right to be recog­nised as a South African cit­i­zen.”

“It’s an ad­van­tage in hospi­tals where Home Af­fairs of­fices are lo­cated, but a chal­lenge in those where there are no of­fices.The first 30 days are cru­cial for a child’s right to be recog­nised as a South African cit­i­zen. It sets the tone for things like ac­cess to so­cial se­cu­rity and school­ing, es­pe­cially in later years, and cleans up our na­tional iden­tity sys­tem the pop­u­la­tion reg­is­ter,” Min­is­ter Mkhize ex­plained.

The most ac­cu­rate and re­li­able way of cap­tur­ing the data of bona fide South Africans is through early regis­tra­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant to tar­get vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties where ac­cess is still a chal­lenge. After speak­ing to doc­tors and nurses in these ar­eas, it’s clear that the cam­paign should start at com­mu­nity level. Our job is to ed­u­cate young moth­ers on the im­por­tance of ob­tain­ing the nec­es­sary iden­tity for their chil­dren and giv­ing them a proper start in life,” she added.

A techno-savvy de­part­ment

With tech­nol­ogy rapidly chang­ing the way in which the world op­er­ates, the de­part­ment is keep­ing up with the times.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate tech­nol­ogy. It’s not only about ef­fi­ciency, but also putting you in con­trol and un­der­stand­ing what’s go­ing on. Pa­per pro­cesses are risky when the stakes are high. Tech­nol­ogy can solve many prob­lems, like less­en­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of data in­ter­fer­ence and dis­ap­pear­ing doc­u­ments.

“How­ever, there are huge bud­getary im­pli­ca­tions, but as we mod­ernise, it’ll pro­vide bet­ter ac­ces­si­bil­ity. The ap­pli­ca­tion for pass­ports has proven this.The power of be­ing able to ap­ply on­line is a real game changer.”

The roll­out of smart ID cards is one of the de­part­ment’s sig­nif­i­cant projects.The Min­is­ter ex­plained that the green ID books have a legacy of be­ing easy to ma­nip­u­late.

“With the smart ID cards we ap­ply tech­nol­ogy that’s

se­cure, mak­ing it harder to fal­sify in­for­ma­tion. We looked at var­i­ous se­cu­rity con­cerns and con­sulted with cy­ber se­cu­rity ex­perts.

“Banks that have come on­board to part­ner with us don’t have ac­cess to a per­son’s data in to­tal­ity. Now, it’s con­nected back to our se­cure sys­tem,” she said.

Tack­ling xeno­pho­bia

Dur­ing Her­itage Month, which is cel­e­brated in Septem­ber, the de­part­ment will have a firm fo­cus on xeno­pho­bia.

“We need to have more dis­cus­sions around xeno­pho­bia. We have to un­der­stand the plight of the refugee and start think­ing about our cul­tural and con­sti­tu­tional hu­man rights’ obli­ga­tions when we en­counter a vul­ner­a­ble per­son in our com­mu­nity. Ex­tend your hand, greet your neigh­bour and ap­ply the val­ues of Ubuntu,” the Min­is­ter said.

She ex­plained that a per­son who com­mits a crime, whether they’re a South African cit­i­zen or for­eign na­tional, has to be dealt with firmly in ac­cor­dance with the law.

“How­ever, you sim­ply can­not abuse a per­son’s rights be­cause they are a for­eign na­tional. We must closely mon­i­tor ex­trem­ism and man­age mi­gra­tion in a le­gal and or­derly fashion, with­out be­ing reck­less.

“Glob­ally we’re all in agree­ment about im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, but there’s the is­sue of refugees. In terms of our United Na­tions’ com­mit­ments as a mem­ber state, we must pro­tect and pro­vide all forms of as­sis­tance to vul­ner­a­ble groups - peo­ple who have been dis­placed from their com­mu­ni­ties be­cause of po­lit­i­cal rea­sons or poverty.

“We’ll be work­ing closely with of­fi­cials in the com­ing months to make sure we all have a com­mon un­der­stand­ing. With­out com­mit­ment from our own of­fi­cials we will not achieve the de­sired im­pact,” she said.

Com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion

Tack­ling cor­rup­tion is also high on the de­part­ment’s agenda.

“In this de­part­ment, it’s im­por­tant to show peo­ple the chal­lenges that the world is fac­ing be­cause of high lev­els of cor­rup­tion, be it multi­na­tional com­pa­nies or or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als who bribe of­fi­cials to at­tain doc­u­ments in an il­le­gal man­ner,” said the Min­is­ter.

“Hope­fully, peo­ple will start in­ter­nal­is­ing our val­ues and im­prove the de­part­ment’s im­age,” she added.

Min­is­ter Mkhize is adamant that the de­part­ment will in­ten­sify ef­forts to fight cor­rup­tion.“We’re work­ing closely with the police. It’s of­ten pow­er­ful syn­di­cates who know what they are do­ing and who look to un­der­mine de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives at all costs,” she noted.

Pre­par­ing pub­lic ser­vants for suc­cess

With 2017 be­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Batho Pele prin­ci­ples, the de­part­ment will con­tinue to stress to its of­fi­cials that the de­part­ment’s suc­cess is in their hands.

“The im­pres­sions they cre­ate when deal­ing with the pub­lic and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism they dis­play, like giv­ing peo­ple re­li­able in­for­ma­tion, goes a long way.

“The de­part­ment has been re­po­si­tion­ing since 2007, but we need to touch the minds and hearts of the peo­ple who pro­vide the ser­vice.This is where the so­lu­tion lies,” she ex­plained.

With Septem­ber be­ing Pub­lic Ser­vice Month, the de­part­ment is em­pha­sis­ing value sys­tems and prin­ci­ples.

“The un­der­ly­ing prob­lem with Home Af­fairs is not when sys­tems are down or pro­cesses are in­com­plete. What re­ally up­sets the pub­lic is the way they are treated or in­formed about a prob­lem.

“For sev­eral years we’ve been talk­ing to pub­lic ser­vants and re­mind­ing them of the crit­i­cal val­ues of Ubuntu − in­tegrity, re­li­a­bil­ity and hon­esty − and re­spect­ing the pub­lic who come to us for a ser­vice.

Of­ten pub­lic ser­vants don’t re­alise the power they have in mak­ing the coun­try work, she added.

“This is all in the hands of pub­lic ser­vants. If we im­prove our ef­fi­cien­cies and if we con­tinue to man­age resources in a trans­par­ent, open and ac­count­able way, it will en­hance pub­lic con­fi­dence,” Min­is­ter Mkhize said.

Re­po­si­tion­ing of the de­part­ment

The Des­mond Tutu Refugee Cen­tre, for­merly known as the known as the Marabas­tad Refugee Re­cep­tion Cen­tre,

has played an in­te­gral part in the re­po­si­tion­ing of the de­part­ment.

Im­prove­ments made at the cen­tre in­clude the re­design and re­fur­bish­ment of pub­lic ar­eas and of­fice ac­com­mo­da­tion, sig­nage, coun­ters and light­ing as well as the in­stal­la­tion of a new se­cu­rity sys­tem and elec­tri­cal fenc­ing.

New sys­tems and pro­cesses were also in­tro­duced and these in­clude an au­to­mated book­ing sys­tem and elec­tronic ap­pli­ca­tions, im­proved reg­istry and fil­ing and con­tin­u­ous en­gage­ment with stake­hold­ers.

The tight­en­ing of The Bor­der Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (BMA), work­ing closely with the de­fence force and the police, has also con­trib­uted to the de­part­ment’s re­po­si­tion­ing, added the Min­is­ter.

Re­po­si­tion­ing the de­part­ment with the se­cu­rity clus­ter is also crit­i­cal.

“In terms of our im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, we’ve widened the scope of op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple com­ing into the coun­try. It’s not only about pro­hibit­ing peo­ple from en­ter­ing, we have also cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­ter­na­tional busi­ness peo­ple to con­duct their busi­ness here by ob­tain­ing a 10-year busi­ness visa.

“It’s part of bench­mark­ing our poli­cies within ad­vanced com­mu­ni­ties. In Canada, for ex­am­ple, they talk about in­te­grat­ing asy­lum-seek­ers within their so­ci­ety — which we don’t do yet. Part of re­po­si­tion­ing is open­ing other av­enues and tak­ing mi­gra­tion se­ri­ous for de­vel­op­ment,” she said.

Se­cur­ing bor­der posts

Min­is­ter Mkhize and Min­is­ter of Trans­port Joe Maswan­ganyi are plan­ning to visit var­i­ous bor­der posts to “have real en­gage­ments and dis­cus­sions with of­fi­cials”.

“Our bor­der posts are the caul­dron of ev­ery­thing good and bad places where our im­mi­gra­tion laws are some­times un­der­mined through cor­rupt prac­tices. It’s im­por­tant for us to make of­fi­cials fully aware of the risks that the coun­try is ex­posed to if they don’t al­low peo­ple in and out of the coun­try in a le­gal and or­derly man­ner.

“Peo­ple who choose to en­ter the coun­try in an il­le­gal man­ner might have il­licit in­ten­tions, which could destroy the lives of many South Africans. We have to talk to our of­fi­cials about the de­ci­sions they make and the con­se­quences that these have at a com­mu­nity level,” she ex­plained.

The Min­is­ter added that South Africa is an im­por­tant player in the global vil­lage, thanks to its high-level com­mit­ments.

“There are sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties, but if we make too many mis­takes, we might not see the ben­e­fits of build­ing friend­ships with as many coun­tries as pos­si­ble. Home Af­fairs has an im­por­tant role to play. We’ve placed our of­fi­cials in strate­gic coun­tries. Our sys­tems and con­sti­tu­tion are a big pull fac­tor for re­la­tion­ships with other coun­tries,” she said.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter

Hlengiwe Mkhize.

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