Home affairs is improving daily, not plotting darkly

Sunday Times – 27 May 2018
In “A parallel, shadow regime has hijacked control of SA’s borders” (May 20), Gary Eisenberg claims that “control of our borders was ultimately wrestled by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including Sars, by Gigaba’s championing of the Border Management Authority Bill”.
Minister Gigaba was not at home affairs when the National Assembly approved the bill in 2017 and referred it to the National Council of Provinces — that was former minister Hlengiwe Mkhize.
It is unthinkable that Eisenberg’s imaginary “complex” is busy hatching “a silent coup” in some quiet dark corner of the land, “seizing power from other departments” through a yet-to-be-established border management authority, for the use of top home affairs managers.
We are expected to believe with no proof shared that compliant applications are frequently rejected and appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied. The department maintains a high standard of professional ethics, provides services impartially, and strives for accountability and transparency.
The changes we have made, which Eisenberg ignored, benefit even foreign nationals, including developing a Trusted Traveller system for bona fide frequent travellers, providing biometric capability at four airports and six land ports and introducing a visa exemption for Russia that increased tourist travel from there by 51% in 2017, year on year.
This year we will simplify visa requirements for Chinese and Indian visitors and ease the entry of people with valid visas from countries such as the US and the UK.
Working closely with stakeholders, including the departments of tourism and transport, the Airports Company South Africa and the tourism industry, we will develop and implement a strategy to grow South Africa as an attractive and efficient transit hub and destination for tourists and businesspeople.
Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba
Tangled in red tape
Gary Eisenberg’s article on immigration mapped out the entanglement of the Department of Home Affairs in unaccountability.
The centralisation of decision-making was responsible for several multiple applications for citizenship by married couples, ending with only one of the partners being processed.
My wife knows and we have met others still trying — after more than eight years. The abolition of permanent residents’ permits, demoting them to visas, is the latest step in the capture of the borders. Tom Morgan, Cape Town
Israel and Gaza: it’s complicated
Ranjeni Munusamy, in “No long-term game plan in SA’s handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza” (May 20), makes some good points but is biased. Critics may well have differing opinions on Israel’s response to the Hamas-led attack on the border fence, but Israel did not attack Gaza.
If Hamas fighters had entered Israel and attacked citizens, the Israeli response would have led to many more deaths. I am aware of the total frustration of the Gazan people and I would really like them to have an independent state, but if border blockades are removed there will be a flood of arms brought into Gaza.
I don’t know what the solution is for the struggling Gazan people and the worried Israeli nation. It is certainly not Israel’s inflammatory settlement policies, nor Hamas terrorist attacks on Jews. Either way, I expect a publication like the Sunday Times to reflect all sides and allow readers to make up their own minds.
D Wolpert, Rivonia

A parallel, shadow regime has hijacked control of SA’s borders

20 May 2018 – Sunday Times
Malusi Gigaba’s Border Management Authority Bill would be a silent coup, seizing powers from other departments for the use of top home affairs managers
Contrary to common belief, South Africa’s borders constitute the most valuable of all state assets on the country’s balance sheet. Their capture is tantamount to the control of South Africa’s sovereignty.
All immigration systems aim to protect the physical and legal parameters that define a country’s sovereignty. In South Africa’s case, the extent to which our borders are modulated to enable the influx of foreigners is controlled by the Department of Home Affairs, with executive authority vested in Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba.
It is increasingly clear that the department’s managerial “complex” — which might be said to extend from the minister to an established group, including director-general Mkuseli Apleni, deputy director-general Jackson McKay, and the chief directors of its directorates, such as the immigration inspectorate, counter-corruption and legal services — does not operate solely within the ordinary legislative and constitutional framework. It appears to operate also in a parallel, shadow decision-making realm.
The home affairs complex has captured South Africa’s borders in a quiet coup that has escaped the scrutiny of the public protector and observers.
Control of our borders was ultimately wrested by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including SARS, by Gigaba’s championing of the Border Management Authority Bill. When the bill was debated in parliament in May 2017, DA spokesman on home affairs Haniff Hoosen called it “one of the worst pieces of legislation that has come before the house”, and an attempt to create yet another entity that could be captured by the greedy and corrupt in power.
The department’s legislative mandate gives it responsibility for little more than passport control at ports of entry. Should the Border Management Authority Bill be passed by the National Council of Provinces this year, it will place a monopolistic control of all border-related matters — including defence, policing, customs revenue collections and VAT rebates, and the movement of all goods and the 40 million people entering and exiting the country — in the hands of home affairs.
Alongside the growth of a shadow state within the constitutional democratic structure, a second tier of our borders’ modulation has taken place, outside of the mundane implementation of immigration legislation. This has been achieved by the home affairs complex and its “fixers” and “enforcers” embedded in the home affairs bureaucracy.
While various home affairs ministers — including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Gigaba — have been publicly (and loudly) preoccupied with the eradication of corruption from the ranks of the department and civil society, this was nothing but a ruse to divert attention from the creation of a shadow decision-making authority within the department.
The extraordinary stagnancy with which home affairs management pursues corruption cases brought to its attention reveals that this is nothing more than a veiled reluctance to enforce its “zero-tolerance” policy.
The first phase of the capture of our borders and immigration system began with Dlamini-Zuma’s deployment of cadres as enforcers of a restrictive immigration policy. In 2010, with the centralisation of decision-making on all immigration and citizenship applications, a new approach to immigration control was predicated on the fabricated scourge of human trafficking. This morphed into the enactment of stringent immigration legislation in 2014, effectively closing our borders to foreigners.
The pattern of gross inefficiency and administrative bungling in home affairs’s handling of citizenship and immigration applications is inextricable from the “designed chaos” that has been widely observed. Compliant applications are frequently rejected; appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied by red tape to the extent that corruption often seems the only remedy for those desperate enough.
The system of immigration administration now predicates itself on a dangerous duality of standards of administrative justice while the home affairs complex remains entrenched. This complex has artificially manipulated policies, procedures and access to efficient decision-making for purposes other than preserving the integrity of the legislative apparatus. The closure of the borders to everyone creates an opportunity to modulate their opening to those willing to pay a higher price.
One such example is the politically preferential treatment granted to a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Leila Khaled, a “prohibited” person in terms of our immigration legislation. Gigaba himself went to the airport as part of her welcoming committee. The only way Khaled could have lawfully entered South Africa was for her prohibition to be lifted by the director-general with “good cause”. Her entry was facilitated by the home affairs complex without any public explanation.
Later that year, in June 2015 and against a court order, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir escaped an international arrest warrant by departing from South Africa through Air Force Base Waterkloof. His passport was not examined by immigration officers. This is an indisputable case of political rent-seeking at the behest of the executive authority, with the full cooperation of a willing complex of officials.
If this is the benchmark for administrative justice, how can ordinary people — including foreigners subject to the Immigration Act — be held to a different standard? How can a regime of law exist with integrity when access to administrative justice is only possible through a shadow decision-making authority outside of the rule of law?
This principle cannot be more poignantly articulated than in the celebrated words of US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

Bridging visa surge includes 37,000 mystery holders and swamps permanent migration cuts

Bridging visa surge includes 37,000 mystery holders and swamps permanent migration cuts
23 May 2018 – ABC Net
Massive growth in Australia’s ballooning temporary migration is dwarfing the Government’s cuts to the permanent intake.
Key points:
• An extra 40,000 people are in Australia on bridging visas compared to a year ago
• The Government has revealed it plans to cut the permanent intake by up to 20,000 this year
• More than 2.2 million temporary visa holders are currently in Australia, a record high
The number of people who hold bridging visas — the same kind of visa given to the Commonwealth Games athletes who are seeking asylum — has hit a historic high.
At the end of March, 195,000 people with bridging visas were in Australia, including more than 37,000 whose nationality was not specified.
That is up more than 40,000 on a year ago, and close to 90,000 since 2014, according to official Department of Home Affairs figures.
It has pushed the number of people in Australia on temporary visas to more than 2.2 million — again, a record high.
Bridging visas are usually given to migrants whose substantive applications are currently being processed.
Jonathan Granger, director of Granger Australia and a former national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, described the migration program as “chaotic”.
“The resources available to the department are limited every year by Government, and yet Government rolls out reform agendas that are not well thought through, that require transitional arrangements and require multiple layers of processing against regulations in the same visa areas,” he said.
“The result of those things is significant delays.”
Attempt to cut migration
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the Government was planning on cutting the permanent migration intake from its traditional level of 190,000 per year, down to approximately 170,000 this year.
But that number is dwarfed by the scale of the temporary visa program.
In the past year an additional 150,000 visitors are in Australia on temporary visas, including 33,000 more foreign students.
Many of these — such as students, backpackers and many bridging visa holders — have extensive work rights.
Mr Granger believes the spike in bridging visas was likely to be caused by a combination of factors, including more applications due to major program changes and cutbacks in resources at the department.
The Government has rolled out an overhaul of both temporary and permanent migration programs in the past year.
Mr Granger said processing times in major visa streams including the temporary skill shortage (formerly code 457), employer-nominated scheme and skilled independent visas had all grown in recent years.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said processing times were driven by a range of factors including:
• the volume of applications received,
• completeness of the application,
• how promptly applicants respond to any requests from the department, and
• the complexity of assessments in relation to health, character and national security requirements.
“The department monitors feedback, trends, and fluctuating processing times each month to identify issues in specific caseloads, opportunities for continuous business process improvement and client service efficiencies,” they told the ABC.
The mystery 37,000
The boom in bridging visas has been driven by a mysterious component of 37,000 visa holders for whom the Department of Home Affairs will not reveal their nationality.
The Department of Home Affairs declined to provide more explanation about this group.
Mr Granger said the program changes and lack of resources meant there were growing numbers of visa refusals that ended up at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“This results in a significant rise of unwarranted refusals, and transfers time delays and costs over to the Appeals Tribunal,” he said.
“The Appeals Tribunal is wasting resources on expensive tribunal members deciding on simple visa matters.”
The average processing time at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for temporary work visas is 381 days over the past six months, up from 286 for the corresponding period a year ago.
Wayne Parcell, immigration partner at EY, said it was impossible to determine the “root cause” of the increase in bridging visas without more information.
“A surge in application rates in different visa categories, and looking at visa refusal numbers in different categories, can just as much be a reason for the increase as an increase in processing times across a range of visa categories,” he said.
Mr Parcell said many of his clients already on bridging visas were forced to request separate bridging visas if they needed to travel — for example for business or family visits — creating additional administrative load on the department.
“A reduction in the number of bridging visas is possible if a multiple entry travel facility was granted to all applicants who are legitimately awaiting a visa decision in Australia,” he said.
“This would decrease administrative effort for the Department of Home Affairs and improve the service experience for clients.”

Cryptojacking threatens cryptocurrency safety, security and value

Financial Institutions are quick to implement digital platforms without accompanying cyber security as part of their focus.
In addition to malware, a newer and bigger threat to the safety, security and value of cryptocurrencies has emerged—in-browser Cryptojacking that hackers use to target the newer less-well known currencies such as Monero, Coinhive and Zcash—low-profile cryptocurrencies, that ironically are the currencies-of-choice among threat actors.
A recent cryptojacking campaign infected over half-a-million victims in just three days.
According to Jeremy Samide, CEO of Stealthcare, an international cybersecurity and threat assessment firm based in the US and Canada, “In-browser cryptojacking works off JavaScripts, which are installed on the most popular websites and readily available to anyone with criminal intent. With JavaScript the hacker uses the victim’s own browser to mine, or rather ‘cryptomine,’ for transactions, secretly diverting small amounts of currency at a time to his own account where it can be turned into cash.”
Industry analysts recognize Stealthcare for changing cybersecurity from defense to a more aggressive posture that relies on early warning, threat assessment, AI and human intelligence. Early on, Stealthcare’s proprietary platform Zero Day Live, detected a significant upward trend in cryptomining and cryptojacking, warned its clients of the threat and provided countermeasures.
“This is criminal behavior plain and simple. Wrongdoers directly attack the weakest link—the consumers who rely on cryptocurrency exchanges and their digital wallets for their transactions. They lure their victims in through elaborate phishing campaigns, drive-by downloads, and other subterfuges,” says Samide, adding, “The explosion of initial coin offerings (ICO) and cryptocurrency exchanges proliferating without adequate security, gave hackers the opening they needed to attack wallets and apps, siphoning off cryptocurrency from these exchanges.”
Bitcoin and Ethereum were targets when they first emerged. But as they become more mainstream, they are also being scrutinized by sovereign governments looking to apply transparency requirements on their transactions. “These legacy cryptocurrencies now appear to be less attractive as hackers target emerging and more privately-focused currencies such as Coinhive along with Monero and Zcash,” according to Samide.
Cryptomining Malware Threats
In addition to the in-browser JavaScript threat, cyber criminals are still transforming older malware to include cryptomining and cryptojacking capabilities. In doing so they are creating polymorphic strains of new attacks. Explains Samide, “Some of these cryptojacking campaigns are still using older EternalBlue exploits, which were stolen by Shadow Brokers and used to create the ransomwareWannaCrythat wreaked havoc on the National Health Services hospitals in England and Scotland as well as Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, FedEx, Spain’s Telefonica and the Deutsche Bahn.”
Cryptomining malware threats today are becoming three dimensional, having the ability to circumvent antivirus applications by dropping in and launching malicious payloads that can shut down antivirus processes to evade further detection. As their malware proliferates through various attack vectors, their illicit mining capabilities continue to grow exponentially, stealing hundreds and thousands of dollars over time.
Samide insists, “Playing defense is no longer adequate. When we developed Zero Day Live, it became the world’s first complete cyber threat intelligence aggregation platform to spot emerging trends, uncover actionable information, and report on high-value intelligence that allows companies to respond quickly to impending threats.” Stealthcare researchers and technical staff also provide ongoing assistance to Zero Day Live clients that includes human threat assessment and, if need be, disaster recovery and new tactics to thwart future attacks.
The Gartner Research Report for Security Leaders, recognized Stealthcare’s Threat Intelligence platform, and stated that many vendors can provide access to information; fewer provide truly anticipatory content based on customized intelligence.
The Future of Cryptocurrency
“Looking to the future,” Samide says, “Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) will continue to pop up. But to maintain their legitimacy, cryptocurrencies will have to conform to government regulations, which will transform many of them into more widely accepted digital currencies to be used routinely in everyday commerce.”
In addition to cryptocurrency warnings and defenses, as well as alerting its clients of the Atlanta ransomware attack, Stealthcare predicted the evolution and growing sophistication of malware or Evoware, which became a reality in 2016 and includes new self-propagating ransomware mutations.

South African Home Affairs enters the future with a new biometric identification system

May 18, 2018 • IT News
On Wednesday, May 16, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, launched a new automated biometric identification system that will offer a single source for biometric authentication for citizens. This is new identification system forms an integral part of the Department’s Modernisation Programme.
This Automated Biometric Identification System, or ABIS, is an identification system which will also act as a security solution, and will replace the outdated and manually operated Home Affairs National Identity System, the idea being to merge the two into an automated system through ABIS with the capability to identify and verify people through fingerprints, facial recognition and iris technology. However, the system’s iris and palm print recognition capabilities are only scheduled to come online by 2019/20.
ABIS forms a fundamental baseline for the broader National Identification System, which will encompass the data of both South Africans and foreign nationals in a single data base.
At the launch of this new system at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on Wednesday, the Minister Gigaba said that the system will drastically change the manner in which South Africans are identified and will form the backbone of how the public and private sectors will manage the authentication of their clients.

South Africans exposed in another massive data breach: report

Close to a million (934,000) personal records of South Africans have reportedly been publicly exposed online, following what appears to be a governmental leak.
According to a report by iAfrikan journalist Tefo Mohapi and ‘Have I been pwned‘ analyst Troy Hunt, the data includes, among others, national identity numbers (ID numbers), e-mail addresses, full names, as well as plain text passwords to what appears to be a traffic fine-related online system.
Mohapi said the data was backed up or posted publicly by one of the companies responsible online payments of traffic fine in South Africa.
“This is yet another reminder of how far our data can spread without our knowledge. In this case, in particular, the presence of plain text passwords poses a serious risk because, inevitably, those passwords will unlock many of the other accounts victims of the breach use.
“This one incident has likely already led to multiple other breaches of online accounts due to that reuse,”said Hunt, quoted by iAfrikan.
Posting on Twitter, Hunt said that leak will be uploaded to his website shortly, allowing South Africans to check if they have been affected by the breach.
This marks the second major breach in just under a year, with over 60 million South African exposed in a similar data breach in 2017.
It was recently reported that 96,000 South Africans were also affected by the recent Cambridge Analytica breach.

Gauteng launches its first drone programme: here’s what they’re being used for

Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) MEC Jacob Mamabolo on Monday launched the province’s first drone programme. The department said it aims to use technology to become an efficient provider of services.
“The drone project adds a new dimension to the monitoring capability of the department,” it said. The drone, which is the first to be used to monitor infrastructure projects in tandem with the business intelligence house in DID’s nerve centre, Lutsinga Infrastructure House.
This new intervention essentially combines human intelligence, business intelligence and now artificial intelligence to ensure that the entire value chain of project deliver is efficient and that projects are delivered in time, within cost and at the right quality.
“It is possible for the public sector to be efficient and to be productive in what we do and that is exactly what we are demonstrating today,” said Mamabolo during the launch.
Through the drone project, the department ensures that construction work is done in line with work schedules. The drone also helps in the monitoring of safety compliance on construction sites to meet health standards.
The programme allows DID to identify blockages in the delivery of construction projects to visit sites, troubleshoot and intervene to improve our project management performance and productivity.
“One of the things that we have looked at is that globally infrastructure performance is lagging behind other industries. Therefore over the past two years we’ve been working hard to introduce efficiencies across the value chain of development,” Mamabolo said.
The department has been piloting drones since early January this year and the official launch today marks the success of the project, it said.
Project pipeline
Over the next three years, DID has committed to delivering 340 projects – valued at about R4.5 billion – on time, within cost and at the right quality.
The department has, for the first time, publicly unveiled a three-year portfolio of all its community infrastructure projects including new schools, libraries, clinics, licensing centres and community centres, following two years of behind the scene planning to manage its vast and complex projects.
The project pipeline will be used to prioritize projects which are ready for implementation for tracking and monitoring to improve project management processes as well as to speed up delivery to Gauteng communities.
All the pipeline projects were subjected to the Project Readiness Matrix (PRM), an innovative tool designed by the department, to assist in the assessment of all the critical and stage specific Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS) requirements, before projects are considered for inclusion in the pipeline.
The department said it will also be able to improve its reporting by ensuring that all information is gathered from one source. “Most importantly, the monitoring of project performance will further enable the department to proactively manage compliance issues largely residing in other spheres of government, such as local municipalities.”
“Annually we spend almost a trillion rands in infrastructure as government, which is a lot of money. Whilst we are spending this money, the built and construction continues to be depressed,” said Mamabolo.
He said that the project pipeline classifies projects in three categories: platinum for projects to be implemented in the 2018/19 financial year, Silver for 2019/20 and Coal for project that will be completed in the 2020/21. He said this allows DID to manage these projects more efficiently as these are now more transparent.
These projects are tested through the Project Readiness Matrix to ensure that there are no glitches that see projects experiencing endless delays.
“The project pipeline forms part of a major turnaround initiative by DID to standardise its project management approach through the use smart technologies to manage data from one source through the establishment of the Lutsinga nerve centre,” it said.