Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home affairs to brief parliament on Guptas’ naturalisation

Home affairs to brief parliament on Guptas’ naturalisation
20.6.2017 – Citizen

The department maintains the application to grant the controversial family citizenship was lawful.
Parliament’s oversight committee on home affairs will be briefed this morning by the department on the naturalisation application process of the Gupta family by then minister Malusi Gigaba.
This follows letters revealed by the EFF last Monday showing that Gigaba, who’s now finance minister, unduly granted the controversial family early naturalisation on May 30, 2015, despite the department’s director-general rejecting the Guptas’ aplication on January 22, 2015.
Gigaba confirmed that the letters were genuine during a press conference last Tuesday and said the entire process to grant the family citizenship had been handled by the book in terms of the country’s laws.
He also requested the department of home affairs to provide chronological details of how all applications by the Guptas have been handled by the ministry from the beginning.
The EFF has indicated it would challenge the matter in court.

Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Rough welcome: Could South Africa’s new border detention centres turn deadly?

Rough welcome: Could South Africa’s new border detention centres turn deadly?
24 May 2017 – bhekisisa

Experts warn that the country’s overburdened asylum system could leave people trapped at ‘processing centres’ for years
South Africa is to begin building massive border camps that could eventually house the more than 70 000 people who apply for refugee status annually. But civil society organisations warn that these centres could put migrants’ rights and health at risk.
It was announced that cabinet had greenlighted the creation of what the department of home affairs is calling “asylum seeker processing centres” on May 17 after it approved the department’s white paper on international migration.
The centres, the first of which may be at Komatipoort near the Mozambican border, will accommodate asylum seekers until the home affairs department decides whether they qualify for refugee status.
Asylum seekers already undergo a lengthy process to prove that they cannot return to their home countries for fear of war, persecution or violence.
Although the white paper does say that some asylum seekers may be able to leave the centres before their applications have been adjudicated, it is unclear who might qualify for early release.
Currently, those seeking asylum wait about three years to hear whether their application has been successful, according to a 2015 study by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) and legal advocacy group Lawyers for Human Rights. The longest reported time spent in the system was just under 19 years.
Roshan Dadoo is the regional advocacy officer at the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa). She says administrative bungling has led to a huge backlog in appeals that could leave people stuck at centres for years.
Continued alleged abuses at Lindela could be a warning
Meanwhile, some experts fear South Africa’s track record with detention centres for migrants does not bode well for the shift to large-scale camps.
The Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp for undocumented migrants has a long history of human rights abuses. In 1999, a South African Human Rights Commission investigation into Lindela found poor nutrition and medical care were common.
A year later, the body cited concerns over living conditions, assault and the centre’s treatment of children, who it is not authorised to house. The commission noted that people who had been transferred to Lindela from prisons often reported that correctional facilities offered better living conditions.
The government has largely ignored reports of abuses at Lindela, said Sharon Ekambaram, the head of the refugee and migrant rights programme at Lawyers for Human Rights.
Ekambaram alleges that access to medical care for detainees had declined since a previous 2014 investigation by the international humanitarian organisation MSF and the commission.
She says there is evidence of “gross medical negligence” at Lindela, including shortages of treatment for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When medication was available, people were often forced to pay for it.
There are indications that conditions in the centre were rife for the spread of HIV because of the lack of condoms. She explains there is also evidence that the centre suffers from poor ventilation, which has been known to increase the risk of TB transmission in detention settings.
Currently, the national health department provides free HIV and TB treatment to people regardless of their immigration status, including prisoners.
She also alleges there is evidence of seven suspicious deaths. In five of the seven deaths, people had allegedly consulted the clinic multiple times only to be given headache tablets or vitamins as their conditions deteriorated.
Ekambaram alleges that Lindela detainees were beaten with pipes and shot at close range with rubber bullets in April after scuffles broke out between prisoners.
Private security company Bosasa is in charge of the centre. Bosasa Executive director Papa Leshabane says the company’s contract with home affairs precludes it from commenting on conditions at Lindela. Home affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola has denied the allegations.
He says detainees were instead peacefully removed after they attempted to assault officials. Mokgola says they had the “intention to riot”.
Ekambaram explains: “The extent of human rights violations we’re seeing at Lindela is worrying. We are concerned that the border centres will be run in a similarly undemocratic way.”
Mokgola maintains that Lindela’s healthcare services meet United Nations standards and are “constantly improving”.
Calls to stop the creation of centres have gone unheard
Civil society organisations have repeatedly called for the planned border camps to be axed in submissions on both the green and white papers.
ACMS research chair on migration Loren Landau has accused home affairs of failing to hold broad consultations on proposed changes to refugee policies.
“The discussions are often announced a few days in advance and only a few people are informed.”
Landau and others say changes to refugee policies put forward in home affairs’ green and white papers were implemented long before the white paper’s approval last week.
Recent amendments to the Refugee Act have, for instance, already curtailed refugees’ right to work and granted home affairs increased power to open and close inland refugee receptions.
Reception offices in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are already closed, although a court judgment may force home affairs to reopen the Eastern Cape centre. Ekambaram says this has contributed to overcrowding at Lindela.
“People do not get the opportunity to declare their situation. By the time they cross the borders they are arrested and sent to Lindela,” she explains.
Dadoo says that improving existing refugee reception offices would be less expensive than building border camps — and could create jobs.
Mokgola disagrees, saying that processing failed asylum seekers at the border will be cheaper and could help curb abuse of the system by economic migrants posing as asylum seekers.
But new rules are unlikely to stem immigration, says Landau: “The number of people coming into the country will not change, but more people will be pushed underground without documents.”
Who’s watching who?
Changes to refugee regulations could also put South Africa in violation of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, under which South Africa committed to a policy of nonencampment, Dadoo warns.
Mokgola argues there is a distinction between the temporary centres the department will implement and permanent detention camps.
He says government and civil society organisations will also be allowed to monitor processing centres. “We will allow all relevant stakeholders and partners such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], the South African Human Rights Commission and nongovernment organisations to ensure there is proper monitoring and compliance.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the UNHCR’s Southern Africa office, Markku Aikomus, says it may not have the budget to support centres.
The national health department has also confirmed that clinics in border centres will be monitored just as public clinics and hospitals are, says spokesperson Popo Maja. HIV, TB and STI services will be in line with national policies.
Meanwhile, Home affairs has already approached some organisations, such as international organisation the Jesuit Refugee Service, to possibly provide healthcare in centres. South Africa director Johan Viljoen says the Jesuit Refugee Service’s involvement will depend on whether the UNHCR agrees to sign on to the system.
According to Mokgola, South Africa’s roll-out of detention centres will learn not only from experiences in Lindela but also in countries such as Australia and Canada, which have established processing centres.
These are contexts, Landau says, that have little in common with South Africa. “The general ethos here is not about protection of human rights. It is about ensuring that very few people come into South Africa.”

Jun 21, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

South Africa’s asylum seeker figures questioned

South Africa’s asylum seeker figures questioned
20 June 2017 – – TimesLIVE
South Africa has been singled out for the skewed figures representing the latest global asylum-seeker population‚ according to the UN Human Rights Council.
The UNHRC’s 2016 report on global trends on population displacement‚ which was released on Monday‚ showed that the number of asylum seekers in South Africa dropped by nearly 900,000 in just one year.
South Africa moved down to fourth in the world — behind Germany‚ the US and Turkey — for the size of its asylum-seeker population‚ which was recorded at 218 300 in the latest report‚ down from 1.1 million in 2015.
The asylum-seeker population is made up of people with pending claims for refugee status‚ and stood at 2.8 million globally at the end of last year.
That was a decrease from 3.2 million in 2015‚ but the drop was mainly accounted for by a “sharp reduction in the asylum-seeker population reported by South Africa”‚ the UN report said.
“Excluding data from South Africa‚ which has seen variations in numbers in 2015 and 2016 largely due to changes in statistical methodologies‚ there has clearly been a sustained increase in the global asylum-seeker population.”
Department of Home Affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgola said the number of asylum seekers in South Africa had not dropped‚ and that the department reported both “inactive” and “active” cases to the UNHRC‚ which then only considered people who were “active”.
“The reporting only focused on the active cases‚” Mokgola said.
“There are those who for reasons unknown to us have opted to contravene the condition of their permits by not visiting the centres at the expiry of their permits‚” he said.
The report said that South Africa received 35,400 individual asylum claims last year‚ with most coming from Zimbabwe‚ the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.
Advocacy officer Corey Johnson from the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town‚ an NGO that aids refugees‚ said that the drop in reported active numbers showed that the current system “pushed people into irregularity”.
“It’s very difficult for many to keep their documents valid‚ especially when the adjudication process takes years.
“Despite the drop in applicants‚ access remains difficult for asylum seekers‚ particularly with the refugee resettlement office closures‚ and many have reported to us that they have been unable to lodge their applications when they visit the few remaining offices that are open for applications‚” he said.
One in every 113 people around the world has been forcibly displaced and needs protection‚ and 65 million people worldwide have been displaced due to war — with Syria being the country worst affected‚ the UNHRC displacement report said.
“By any measure this is an unacceptable number‚ and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises‚ and ensuring together that the world’s refugees‚ internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued‚” said UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi

Jun 20, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Will the Zimbabwe Special Permit be renewed?

Will the Zimbabwe Special Permit be renewed?
Zimbabwean immigrants want clarity as permit expires in six months
9 June 2017 – Groundup
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has told holders of the Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP) not to panic, but to await the decision by the department on the extension of their permits, due to expire on 31 December 2017.
This comes amid growing concern among Zimbabweans and civil society organisations such as the Scalabrini Centre and PASSOP (People Against Suffering Oppression Poverty).
“We believe that it is important for the DHA to give clear instructions to the over 200,000 people concerned. A renewal process can take several months to prepare for and complete, and those on the ZSP should be given at least six months to understand clearly what their options are and to make plans accordingly,” said Mirande Madikane, director of the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town.
On Monday (5 June), the Scalabrini advocacy team sent a letter to both the Minister and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs requesting the department to issue a clear statement on the renewal of the ZSP.
Tendai Bhiza of PASSOP agreed. “I think ZSP holders should be fairly and equally treated. PASSOP is appealing to the department to consider the [ZSP] holders for a permanent residence as a long term solution,” said Bhiza.
Spokesperson for the Department, Thabo Mokgola, said, “Home Affairs will be making an announcement on the ZSP in due course. Currently, there is a cabinet process underway on the matter.”
However, when asked in December last year, Mokgola told GroundUp the Minister had made it clear that there would not be an extension on ZSP.
The Zimbabwe Special Permit is the successor of the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project implemented in 2010 allowing Zimbabweans to stay, work and study in South Africa.

Jun 20, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Whose democracy is it anyway? Home Affairs’ chilling move on your money, and your freedom

Whose democracy is it anyway? Home Affairs’ chilling move on your money, and your freedom
18 Jun 2017 – Daily Maverick
Within 10 years Home Affairs wants to be at the centre of South Africa’s security and economic development. To fulfil its vision, the department’s recently published discussion document proposes raising own funds by requiring institutions from public schools and hospitals, universities – but also banks, conveyance attorneys and airlines – to verify a person’s identity against a fee with Home Affairs’ biometric database before accessing services. The document also proposes raising funds through “identity verification provided to the commercial sector”. This move into the heart of government’s security cluster may just turn into a nightmare. By MARIANNE MERTEN.
The upcoming ANC policy conference will discuss what the governing party in its Peace and Security Discussion Document released earlier this year argues is the repositioning of a misunderstood administrative department into one “fully integrated into the security cluster” with its own fundraising capacity: “The sale of identity services and products would be another large revenue stream…” If the policy conference agrees, the issue will be up for adoption at the December ANC national and elective conference as an official policy of the governing ANC.
But the process of moving Home Affairs from the governance to the security Cabinet cluster has been well under way since early last year – the decision was reiterated in the Cabinet statement of March 1, 2017 – the party discussion process is now also replicated in state processes.
Home Affairs’ move from governance to security started when Malusi Gigaba headed the portfolio, and unfolded amid broader governmental moves also in legislation identifying “essential infrastructure” and “critical information infrastructures” for special protection and harsher penalties, and a change in language from safety and security to law and order. But it will be up to his successor, Hlengiwe Mkhize, to finish the move of Home Affairs into the heart of the state security apparatus.
With Gigaba now at the helm of the finance ministry, it also falls to Mkhize to see the actual implementation of the Border Management Authority (BMA), pivotal in the departmental repositioning of itself within national security. The BMA legislation was finally passed on the third try earlier this month, tagged onto the National Assembly’s Budget adoption session when ANC parliamentary benches were packed, unlike the other tries when walk-outs by opposition parties which have rejected the law caused a lack of quorum needed to adopt the law.
The BMA is sharply criticised for fragmenting customs and excise duty collection of an estimated R3-billion away from the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and for effectively putting Home Affairs in charge of security services such as the police and South African National Defence Force, which both, like SARS, were at best lukewarm in public hearings in the legislative process. Questions are also raised as to how agriculture, fisheries and health inspectors would be accommodated in this new authority.
In a Home Affairs budget vote briefing earlier this year, these criticisms were downplayed. Only 10% of custom and excise revenue would be affected as the overwhelming majority of monies was paid straight to SARS ahead of goods crossing the border – and a memorandum of understanding was now in place.
The discussion document confirms what emerged from the budget briefing: there will be no new, clearly identifiable border authority, and that instead the SAPS, SANDF, SARS and everyone else would simply co-ordinate their actions. “The BMA is based on the principle of integrating all units at an operational level, while participating departments retain full control over policy and legislation. With Cabinet announcing in March 2016 that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) must be fully integrated into the security cluster, the DHA is now better positioned within the state to deliver against its mandate.”
Despite government’s focused drive for the BMA, it does not feature large in the discussion document on repositioning the department “as a backbone of the security system of the RSA (Republic of South Africa)”. Or as it is also put it: “A repositioned DHA with modern systems and a cadre of suitably qualified and trained professionals will be the nerve centre of the national security system.”
Most of the 31-page discussion document seeks to net together national security, managing identity and the economy. “The securing of our country against threats to its people, systems, institutions and capacity to provide for the nation. False identities are used by criminals and terrorists who not only harm individuals, but also the economy and job creation.”
Within this context much emphasis is paid to the department’s centrality to the digital economy. And it is in this hi-tech, digital economy space the drafters of the Home Affairs discussion documents spin words on the potential to generate its own funds given the long-standing National Treasury cost-containment.
Unlike the ANC policy discussion document, which remains fairly vague on these outside sources of cash, the Home Affairs discussion document is more specific.
Yes, fees currently charged for IDs, passports, birth and death certificates and other services could be adjusted. But the focus of revenue generation squarely falls on introducing an additional express identity vetting step in a swathe of services and commercial transactions like buying a house that are currently supported by the submission of certified copies of IDs.
“Official transactions that require identity to be verified, such as the transfer of a house or a vehicle, would attract a fee for a check against the National Identity System (NIS) on a cost-recovery basis.”
Other examples of “mandatory compliance requiring DHA biometric identity checks” include:
• Banks complying with FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) legislation requirements;
• Airlines verifying the identity of passengers;
• Telecom providers for RICA (Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act) compliance;
• Higher education student verification for registration and access to examination centres;
• Public schools for student registrations;
• Public hospitals for admission entry;
• Social grant system for identification purposes of grant collection.
“If charges for verification of the above services were between either R1 or R4, then between R500-million and R2-billion could be collected at current volumes of the few transactions list above,” according to the discussion document.
But most of the own-generated funds from citizens’ identity would be made from the private sector, which would be given digital access to the NIS database. “The largest new revenue stream would probably be identity verification provided to the commercial sector. This could be in the form of fees charged for maintaining an interface with the NIS, charges for each verification and fees charged for incorporating a connection to DHA verification systems into hardware and software.”
Access would also be given to government for research and analysis purposes. “(This) would significantly enhance the capabilities of the state to plan, conduct research, monitor the impact of policies, deliver services effectively and manage risks,” says the discussion document.
Questions arise over potential and real invasions of privacy and protection of personal information as the discussion document simply states, without details, Home Affairs “must seek to protect and empower citizens though improving access to rights, efficient services and information, including their right to dignity and privacy” while also “not making a profit from providing a public service”.
Own revenue generation from identity verification services, like the move to be the backbone of security, is premised that there is an NIS, rather than the National Population Register that currently still has paper-based components. And this is premised that all South Africans are indeed captured on that NIS.
This in itself will be a massive job as, despite a decade of various turn-around strategies, modernisation initiatives and the tech updates that still leave Home Affairs offices countrywide quite regularly off-line.
Thousands of South Africans are not on the population register, or are captured incorrectly. Civil society organisations regularly recount children not being in school for want of an ID or birth certificate. There are accounts of young people not being able to gain employment, or access to higher education and training, because of the lack of an ID. Some years ago there was a spate of accounts of South African women unknowingly married to non-South Africans.
Given this, for those outside the proposed NIS net, be it due to bureaucratic failures or simply a lack of life skills of funds to get to the proposed future service centres, access to public services and run-of-the-mill commercial transactions may grind to a halt.
The discussion document acknowledges Home Affairs is unable to do its job, right now: “… as it is currently positioned, the DHA does not have sufficient capacity to enforce these laws or protect its systems”.
Little concrete emerges on how this would be fixed. Instead, the discussion document argues for the need of a White Paper for Repositioning the Department of Home Affairs, the policy foundation for future legislation. That legislation would establish that “the only legally recognised procedure to be used in official transactions must be affirming of identity and civil status by the DHA using the Smart ID Card or approved digital systems”.
Effectively, such a statutory verification requirement would then allow the levying of fees and charges to self-fund Home Affairs on the back of citizens’ identities and personal information the department holds as sole guardian. It’s neat sophistry.

Jun 20, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Gigaba hammers media for helping to peddle ‘lies’ about him

Gigaba hammers media for helping to peddle ‘lies’ about him
The Citizen 15.6.2017
The minister alleges a paid campaign started being waged against him since he became finance minister.
“We must try, to the best of our abilities, to avoid being information peddlers,” Gigaba told journalists at the end of a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday after speaking about the state of the economy.
He lashed out at reports on allegations levelled against him by Julius Malema and Vytjie Mentor and said the media was too quick to publish unverified allegations.
“I would have been much happier if you had studied a little bit the issues you are bringing up so that you are able to argue them out properly.
“Remember that at one stage I was accused of having an offshore account. Those accusations still hang in the air and I’m being asked to prove if I have it or not. But the person who made the allegation hasn’t been asked to provide prima facie evidence.”
Malema and the EFF had alleged in a press conference that the Gupta family had bought a house for Gigaba while he was still in another portfolio.
“There was an allegation that in Cape Town I live in a house that was bought for me, not a government house. And some of your colleagues in the media ran with the story without calling public works to ask. It’s a simple thing. Call public works. Ask. You would have found your information.
“Instead of peddling wrong information, you would have written a correct story that the person making the allegation is lying.”
He then turned to former ANC MP Mentor, who has variously alleged that Gigaba has signed a nuclear deal with Russia, which turned out not to be true, had an affair with a woman named Judy and that he is actually Zimbabwean.
“A story is made that I’m not South African. Some of your colleagues run with this story, you don’t check whether this is true or not.
“You allow yourselves to participate in insulting my family, insulting my integrity, insulting my identity.
“An allegation was made that my father wasn’t South African. May his soul rest in peace. But you run with this story, you don’t even dare to check.”
He then turned to an allegation from the EFF that he had personally, and improperly, granted citizenship to the Guptas while he was home affairs minister.
“It could be, as with regards to all the other stories that are being run, that the director-general of home affairs can explain to you that the minister of home affairs on an annual basis deals with not one application for a waiver, but with many. You deal with many decisions, not only waivers. Some you approve, some you reject.
“Because you are the minister, you don’t have capacity in your office to assess and evaluate documentation from people applying for whatever forms of documents.
“Let me just take you through this issue of the naturalisation. These people [the Guptas] applied for naturalisation in 2008 when someone else was minister … they obtained their permanent residency in 2008 when someone else was minister of home affairs.
“Some of them obtained their naturalisation in 2013 when someone else was minister of home affairs. In both instances it wasn’t me.
“Then a number of issues are raised that they are highly invested; secondly, that you grant permanent residence to a father but not the wife, and they ask you to regularise that, and you correct it.
He said the recommendation was ultimately made by this staff to overturn the original decision on the Guptas’ application, “basically saying overturn my decision because new facts have come to light … we’ve reconsidered the matters. That’s the whole principle of appeal. It’s the same in government as it is in the courts.”
He said the allegations were aimed “completely to tarnish my name, to defocus me from my work”.
“I hope you are not part of that agenda. My family has not been spared. My wife has been rubbished. My father is being rubbished in his death. It cannot be right.
“I’m sure that when the public protector looks at all of these issues … let us trust that she will do a thorough job so that we can get to the bottom of the matter. So that when we talk about urgent issues of the economy we don’t get diverted to allegations that have not been proved – where anybody can jump around making an allegation.
“It would seem to me you say ‘it would appear that the Guptas have benefited’.”
He went on to defend his record as minister of home affairs.
“I know that the campaign against us will continue.”
He said people were being paid to run the campaign against him, and it had started on the 30th of March, but he would remain focused on his work.

Jun 20, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

New Home Affairs says Gigaba granted Gupta’s citizenship lawfully

New Home Affairs says Gigaba granted Gupta’s citizenship lawfully
Destiny Reporter June 15, 2017
Former Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba did nothing wrong in granting the Gupta family South African citizenship, his successor Hlengiwe Mkhize said on Wednesday
“I have looked at all the documentation and I thought [that] if I was in a similar position I would have considered the request in a favourable manner,” Mkhize said, adding that there was therefore no reason to investigate the matter further.
The EFF released two letters on Monday which it claimed proved that Gigaba – now Finance Minister – granted the Gupta family’s citizenship irregularly.
The first letter, signed by a Home Affairs official in January 2015, states that the family’s application had been rejected as they have not complied with the law. It states that they could apply again in December of that year, provided they had not spent more than 90 days a year outside the country in the past five years.
However, Gigaba wrote to the family in May, approving their citizenship.
Mkhize insists that Gigaba followed the letter of the law. She said that in her three months in office she had received numerous complaints from applicants. Front-line officials were to blame and needed training as they had to implement complex legislation and policies, she said.
The Gupta family qualified for citizenship as they had lived in South Africa for more than five years and government gave priority for naturalisation to investors and those bringing in skills.
She said the official only rejected their application because they had left the country on business. As a minister she would have looked at this and used her discretion to help.
“I don’t think, in all fairness, we can start questioning, unless we amend the legislation and say people should not appeal to ministers,” Mkhize said.
The EFF said it would go to court to challenge the decision to grant the family citizenship.
Mkhize said calls to have their citizenship reviewed, following revelations in the emails leaked from the family, would have to consider the law.
The emails reveal that the family allegedly interfered with the running of government and state-owned enterprises.
“If we were to make a decision you have to be legal, have the facts, interpret those and apply relevant sections of policies and legislation,” she said.