Archive from July, 2013
Jul 15, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

UK immigration backlog ‘tops 500,000′ say MPs

13 July 2013 Last updated at 09:58 GMT – bbc news

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The backlog of unresolved immigration cases has grown to more than 500,000, a group of influential MPs has said.

The Home Affairs Committee said that at present rates it could take 37 years to clear.

In its latest report into the system, the cross-party committee questioned whether splitting up the UK Border Agency would change anything.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said the Home Office was now in a better position to clear backlogs.

In its last report, the committee said there were 11 separate backlogs totalling 320,000 open or unresolved cases in the immigration system.

Now it says there is a 12th backlog of 190,000 files called the “Temporary and Permanent Migration Pool”.

‘Rebranding exercise’

This brings the total to more than 500,000, which committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said was “staggering”.

However, it is understood the Home Office disagrees with the figure because it is not new and has been over-counted by 40,000.

The committee said the backlog had emerged during its first evidence session with Sarah Rapson, the head of the new service dealing with visa and immigration applications.

IMMIGRATION BACKLOGS

  • Q2 2012: 325,156
  • Q3 2012: 321,726
  • Q4 2012: 502,467
  • Source: Home Affairs Committee

Home Secretary Theresa May scrapped the UK Border Agency in March and said that two divisions, the first headed by Ms Rapson and the other for enforcements, would answer directly to ministers.

But the committee warned the change might be no more than a “rebranding exercise”.

Mr Vaz told the BBC a “fundamental change” was needed in how officials tackled the backlog to resolve the issue “once and for all”.

He said: “This is totally unacceptable. I know that the home secretary has abolished the UKBA, but we need to make sure that it’s not just a rebranding exercise.

“We need new people at the top. We need a change of culture, but more than anything else we need to give them the resources that they need to clear the backlog.”

‘Overwhelmed’

He said no more bonuses should be paid to senior management at the Home Office until the backlogs were cleared.

Brodie Clark, the former head of the UK Border Force who was forced out of his job after being accused of relaxing passport checks, told BBC News that officials were being “overwhelmed by the sheer volume” of cases coming through.

He said splitting UKBA was costly and could actually hamper progress by creating “more of the working silos that have been an enduring criticism of the organisation”.

Mr Harper said: “The UK Border Agency was a troubled organisation for many years, which is why the home secretary took the decision to split the agency in March this year.

“The new UK Visa and Immigration Service has a clear focus to improve visa performance and customer service, while the Immigration Enforcement command concentrates on those who break our immigration laws.

“It will take a long time to clear the backlogs we inherited – but through the changes we have made we are in a much stronger position to do so.”

Rob Whiteman, who headed the now scrapped agency, is leaving the Home Office for another job. The Home Office said he was leaving voluntarily and there was no severance package.

Separately, the committee said it wanted to know why the former agency had spent more than £500,000 on outside consultants in the final quarter of 2012.

Jul 15, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

Immigration backlog cases ‘will take up to 37 years to clear’

Saturday 13 July 2013 heraldscotland.com

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The backlog of immigration cases at Britain’s troubled border service has hit a “staggering” half a million people and at the current rate of progress will take nearly four decades to clear, a group of MPs warned.

A rise in the number of foreign-national offenders living in the community as they await deportation was also discovered by the Home Affairs Select Committee in its latest report into the work of the now-defunct UK Border Agency (UKBA).

The committee warned that a recent move to scrap the agency and replace it with two new divisions – one in charge of immigration and visas, the other with border enforcement – was in danger of being an “exercise in rebranding”.

It discovered that in the final quarter of last year, spending on external consultants at the agency rocketed from £27,000 in the previous three months to more than £500,000.

“The backlog of cases has now hit a staggering half a million people. This could fill Wembley Stadium to capacity six times over,” committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said. “At the current rate it will take 37 years to clear and the Home Office cannot confirm that this is the last of the backlogs.”

He added: “Theresa May described the UKBA as ‘closed, secretive and defensive’, however, despite abolition nothing appears to have changed apart from the name. If people at the top are not replaced this will only be an exercise in rebranding. There should be no more bonuses paid to any senior management at the Home Office until the backlogs are cleared.”

After a raft of damning reports, Home Secretary Theresa May abolished the UKBA and replaced it with UK Visas and Immigration and an Immigration Enforcement command, which were brought under the control of ministers.

The new head of the UK Visas and Immigration section recently told the committee that Britain’s immigration service will never be completely fixed. Director general Sarah Rapson said that the service will never be seen as “perfect”.

In its report, the committee said: “We are concerned this is an admission that Ms Rapson does not have the resources necessary to ‘fix’ the service.”

The total number of cases in the migration backlog has reached 502,462, compared with 321,726 in its previous report.

A total of 4102 foreign-national offenders were living in the community awaiting deportation in the final three months of 2012.

The committee discovered that the length of time taken to deport an a foreign-national offender has increased by nine days in the same period to 127 days.

The MPs expressed concern that the former chief executive of the UKBA, Rob Whiteman, had not been “as open with the committee as he should have been” when discussing the number of cases in progress within permanent migration applications.

Mr Whiteman, who will leave the Home Office next month to become chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, did not see his salary reduce from £175,000 a year, despite seeing his department split into four separate units, effectively reducing its size by 75%.

The committee added that it was “deeply concerned” to discover that spending on external consultants in the final three months of last year increased 20-fold from £27,000 in the previous quarter to more £500,000

Jul 15, 2013 - General    No Comments

Trade conditions remain positive

Friday, 12 July 2013 SA – the Good News via SAPA

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Trade conditions remained positive in June although international and retail trade are tightening, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Thursday.

Sacci’s non-seasonally adjusted trade activity index (TAI) dipped slightly from 56 in May to 55 in June.

The TAI, with seasonal adjustments, dipped one point to 56 in June, after declining by eight points in May, said Sacci economist Richard Downing.

“A positive trend in trade conditions can be observed since October 2012 although it is characterised by volatility.

“With households under pressure from high debt levels and associated debt service costs, rising prices and with global economic growth under strain, trade conditions are likely to tighten somewhat in the second half of 2013.”

Two sub-components of trade activity, sales volumes and inventories, declined between May and June this year.

All the other components remained almost unchanged.

Backlogs on orders increased from 44 to 50 in June.

Browning said 78% and 68% of respondents respectively expected input and sales prices to rise in the second half of the year.

“The pressure from input costs on sales prices remained high with a seven points differential between the sales price index of 64 in June 2013 and the input prices index of 71,” he said.

The six-month trade expectations index (TEI) averaged 63, the same as for the first half of last year.

Browning said the prospects for sales volumes, new orders, inventories and supplies remained well inside positive territory.

Employment conditions in the trade environment remained on the margin in June at 50.

The six month employment prospects index improved to 54 in June from 51 in May 2013.

This signalled greater job creation prospects in the sector just before year-end.

Jul 15, 2013 - General    No Comments

Economy showing signs of growth

Friday, 12 July 2013  SA – the Good News via SAPA

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BankservAfrica’s Economic Transaction Index (BETI) shows encouraging signs that the economy is stabilising, the electronic payment transaction company said on Thursday.

BankservAfrica regulated products CEO Brad Gillis said the value of BETI transactions in the past 12 months totalled R7.7 trillion, a 6.3% increase on the previous 12 months.

The economy seemed to be growing at a normal pace every two months and at a stagnation rate every other month.

February, April, and June showed normal growth, equivalent to around three to 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). January and March indicated much slower growth rates, while May showed a small slowdown from a very strong April.

Chief economist for economists.co.za, Mike Schussler, said a return to “normal” economic growth should be cause for celebration after recent labour upheavals and the weakening of the rand.

“While the South African economy continues to grow at a slower pace than we want it to, the fact remains that June 2013 was the 46th month of an upswing, making this the second longest business cycle upswing in the country’s history,” he said.

Schussler said the BETI did not imply that the country was in a boom phase but rather back to a steady, albeit slow growth period, with the normal average growth rate pegged at 3.4%.

The return to normal growth was further evidenced by the 3.3% increase in new car sales. The total vehicle sales, seasonally adjusted, was up by 4.4% for June.

The Kagiso Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) also increased by 1.2 points in June to 51.6.

“Along with the February data, we feel that four of the last six months have shown relative robust and more normal growth than most of last year,” Schussler said.

“With electricity distribution showing growth for two months in a row in May 2013 after 13 months of decline, it is clear that more than one set of indicators are showing a more positive trend than most of last year.”

Jul 15, 2013 - General    No Comments

‘Mandela generation’ a priority for Smart ID Card: Home Affairs

Published on 11/7/2013 in Drum Magazine

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Former President Thabo Mbeki, along with other individuals such as President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Mothlante, Winnie Madikizela- Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Andrew Mlangeni will receive their new cards on Madiba’s birthday on 18 July 2013.

Home Affairs is on a drive to launch the new smart ID cards with the aim of introducing a paperless environment.

Within the next three months, the department will introduce the phased roll out of the smart ID card.

Officials from the Department of Home Affairs have captured Former President Thabo Mbeki’s details in preparation for issuing his new smart ID card.

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said her department was “prioritising the Mandela generation, those veterans in their 80’s and 90’s, whom we wish to honour while they are with us in person.”

Jul 15, 2013 - General    No Comments

Zuma’s in a 2014 state of mind

12 Jul 2013 00:00 Rapule Tabane – Mail and Guardian

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The president believes his Cabinet shuffle will make all the difference ahead of April’s election, writes Rapule Tabane.

President Jacob Zuma effected a Cabinet reshuffle this week because he was convinced it would prevent a great deal more damage that would otherwise have resulted from the malfunctioning departments of communications and co-operative governance and traditional affairs over the next few months.

But the president kept the much-maligned Angie Motshekga as minister of basic education because he believes that she has achieved much more than is acknowledged by her critics. This is according to a senior government official familiar with the president’s restructuring exercise, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian but preferred to remain anonymous.

On July 9, Zuma announced the axing of Dina Pule as communications minister, Richard Baloyi as co-operative governance and traditional affairs minster, and Tokyo Sexwale from the human settlements portfolio.

He also swapped the portfolios of Energy Minister Dipuo Peters and Transport Minister Ben Martins.

The government official answered the burning question of why Zuma would have insisted on a Cabinet reshuffle when the country is only nine months away from national and provincial elections.

“Nine months is a long time and it can make a big difference,” the official said. “You guys are not aware that the co-operative governance department had almost collapsed. At the department of communications a lot more could have gone wrong.

“This [communications] is a department critical to the economy and all this talk about economic growth and development could not be realised if you have a department which is just not moving,” said the official.

“We are quite behind on many projects in the information and communications technology [ICT] sector. You had the situation of a minister who was quite distracted in trying to deal with allegations against her.”

Allegations
Asked why the president had not waited for the outcome of the public protector’s investigations against Pule, the official said the minister was not necessarily fired for the allegations against her.

Pule is under investigation by the public protector for her role in the ICT Indaba. Her department hosted the indaba in June last year, during which a reported R26-million of sponsors’ money disappeared.

Her alleged boyfriend reportedly had undue influence in appointments in the department and benefited improperly from contracts in the communications department.

“We were just not meeting targets and we were behind,” said the official. Pule’s successor, Yunus Carrim, said immediately after his appointment that “time was running out”.

“We have to move quickly,” he said.

“We have to confer with a wide range of stakeholders and ensure that we work in a less fractious and more consensual manner.

“By the standards of middle-income developing countries we are lagging behind in the ICT sector. There is no reason we cannot move with due expedition,” said Carrim.

The newly elected minister promised to stabilise the SABC and improve its performance.

“The public has reached the limits of its tolerance of difficulties at the SABC,” he said.

Regained momentum
Richard Baloyi, whom Zuma removed as head of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, was seen as one of the worst performing ministers in the Cabinet.

Under his leadership, municipalities continued to fall into disarray and most of them have failed to win clean audits from the auditor general.

The government official said the department appeared to be unlucky and had just never regained the momentum set when Sydney Mufamadi was minister.

After Mufamadi, the late Sicelo Shiceka was appointed minister. Shiceka was a lot more in the public eye and developed the local government turnaround strategy, which has since gathered dust in government cupboards.

Shiceka was followed by Nathi Mthethwa, who acted for months in the portfolio after Shiceka was fired for abuse of government funds and other financial improprieties.

Baloyi was considered to have put  in a lackadaisical performance in a department that required a sense of urgency.

“Baloyi was too laid-back,” said the official. His replacement, Lechesa Tsenoli, is seen as vastly more experienced in local government.

Responsibilities
Tsenoli was a local government MEC in the Free State and chaired the local government portfolio committee in Parliament.

After his appointment Tsenoli said he knew his tasks were of critical importance but declared that he was “ready” to face the responsibilities.

The government official said the president decided to move Andries Nel to local government as deputy minister to back up Tsenoli, because Nel had an eye for detail.

Nel was replaced as deputy minister of justice and constitutional development by John Jeffery, who has been an MP for the ANC since 1999.

Jeffery has been a parliamentary counsellor for several deputy presidents including Zuma, Baleka Mbete and Kgalema Motlanthe.

The government official described Jeffery as “extremely hard-working and efficient”.

Hated
Jeffery landed in trouble recently when he described Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko as “a person of substantial weight” and had to apologise for the remark.

Although there has been speculation that Sexwale was removed from the human settlements portfolio because he was a critic of the president and wanted him out as ANC president, the official said Sexwale had nothing to show for his four years in office.

The official said not much had changed since former minister Lindiwe Sisulu left the department, having built two million houses.

As for the basic education minister, the official said they were aware that many people “hated” Motshekga, but said they should look at all the systems she put in place since she was elected.

“Even right now they must look at the [area of] early childhood development where her work has ensured that eight million children are in pre-school. The matric results speak for themselves.

“People castigate her for the ANA (annual national assessment) because the results are sometimes bad. But what the ANA results do is force schools to invest in improvement.”

Zuma has also publicly defended Motshekga’s performance.

The official said there was no basis for people to call for the axing of Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi (who has just arrived in the post), Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, or Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, who have all “done well in their areas of work”.

Jul 8, 2013 - General    No Comments

Mantashe: SA must deal with anarchy

06 Jul 2013 07:15 Jonisayi Maromo – Mail and Guardian

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Lawlessness related to industrial disputes should be adequately dealt with, says ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe was speaking at the Gauteng annual provincial general council (PGC) in Pretoria.

Mantashe told delegates that incidents of anarchy in South Africa influence the world’s perception about the country.

“Are we allowing the collapse of collective bargaining and (letting) anarchy take over? What the world sees is Marikana, De Doorns, Satawu (South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) strikes and every strike accompanied with violence,” he said.

“What will be a permanent intervention will be a comprehensive framework for collective bargaining and less tolerance for anarchy. The state must deal with anarchy”.

Discipline
Mantashe said opponents of the ANC have been agitating for discontent in the country.

“Where our opponents have nothing to offer, all they do is to attack this and that,” he said.

Mantashe called for discipline to be enforced amongst all structures of the African National Congress.

“We have the responsibility to build the future. We have to enforce discipline in the movement, we cannot inherit it. We should be encouraged with the growth of our membership.”

Provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile said utterances suggesting that the ANC had drifted from the values of the Freedom Charter were untrue.

“We must dismiss those who make the false and unfounded assertion that as the ANC we have drifted away from the vision articulated in the Freedom Charter. We have never done so,” said Mashatile.

‘Strengthening our movement’
With regards to the 2014 elections, Mashatile said apart from retaining its traditional political strongholds, the ANC would to make inroads amongst first time voters and minority groups.

“This provincial general council is about strengthening our movement for the 2014 general election. Out of this PGC, we must emerge more determined and sure that the ANC wins the 2014 elections with an overwhelming victory.”

“We should take time to explain to our people that the South Africa, in our case the Gauteng, of today is a far better place to live in than it was before 1994. Our democracy and its institutions are still intact, he said.

All speakers at the event paid tribute to ailing former president Nelson Mandela.

ANC Gauteng deputy chairperson Gwen Ramokgopa said the three-day event was dedicated to Mandela.

“We are claiming him as one of our own,” she said.

Long live Nelson Mandela
“We want to acknowledge him as a comrade who not only stood for the ANC as a servant of the people of South Africa; he [also] stood for values of human rights and justice universally.”

The delegates, dressed in white T-shirts bearing Mandela’s image and the words “Long live Nelson Mandela”, sang numerous struggle songs dedicated to the anti-apartheid icon.

Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

Throngs of well-wishers, senior politicians and family members have visited the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital since then.

Many have left tributes, flowers, cards, banners and posters for him at a wall outside the hospital.

On Thursday night, the presidency denied claims that Mandela was in a vegetative state.

“We confirm our earlier statement released this [Thursday] afternoon after President Jacob Zuma visited Madiba in hospital that Madiba remains in a critical but stable condition,” said spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

“The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state,” he said. – Sapa

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