Motsoaledi says children of migrants should be in school

Every child needs to go to school, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has said.
He said when he asked the Department of Basic Education why immigrant children were barred from school, he was told the department was scared of home affairs inspectors.
“That can’t happen in any modern democracy. I told them home affairs inspectors must not visit any schools unless there is a crime committed that needs home affairs. It’s more dangerous to have a child who is not in school.”
“Send them to school … We’ll look at the documentation later.”
He was speaking to GroundUp after briefing a joint meeting of the portfolio committees on Home Affairs and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on Tuesday.
Motsoaledi told GroundUp that the three special permits which were issued to legalise the status of nationals from Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Angolans already living in South Africa, would be renewed.
“The Lesotho permit is expiring in December. I am already in the process of renewing it,” said Motsoaledi. “We can’t stop those special permits if the problems that led to those special permits are not yet resolved.
“Unfortunately the Zimbabwean permit was for four years and the situation never became normal in those four years. We will renew, but we can’t automatically as the department. We have got to discuss with the Cabinet.”
“The issue of migration is not purely a problem of home affairs as the mayor of Johannesburg would like people to believe,” said Motsoaledi. “It talks to many government departments because it talks to economy; it talks to job creation; it talks to inequality; it talks to unemployment – all those issues cannot be resolved by one department which is called home affairs.
“We have accepted long ago that our borders are porous. We have presented to Parliament before that we are going to spruce up the Border Management Authority. We want to bring that forward,” he said.
In 2009, the South African government introduced a Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) to legalise the many Zimbabweans already inside the country because of the political and socio-economic situation there.
In 2014, the DZP was renewed and renamed ZSP (Zimbabwean Special Permit), which expired in December 2017. The ZSP was replaced with the ZEP (Zimbabwe Exemption Permit), which will expire in 2021.
The ZEP entitles the holder to study or conduct employment but does not entitle the holder to the right to apply for permanent residence, irrespective of the period of stay in South Africa.
A similar dispensation was extended to nationals from Lesotho and Angola.

Immigration visa row in Vietnam

An immigration officer at the South African embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, has been threatened with insubordination for refusing to overturn her decision that a Filipino national should not be given a visa to teach in this country.
That application started during the xenophobic attacks in August in South Africa, when the immigration officer — Mmatlou Machimana — received an application from a Filipino national who had landed a job at the American International School of Johannesburg.
After interviews, Machimana declined the application. In a letter, the Ambassador of South Africa in Vietnam — Mpetjane Kgaogelo Lekgoro — stated that he agreed with Machimana’s decision. But he also said that her decision had been overruled.
“However, in view of the instructions received from the department of home affairs, I requested and instructed Ms Machimana to issue the visa.
While I agreed that her decision was correct, a mandated authority had now issued an instruction,” reads the letter.
Based on numerous emails leaked to the Mail & Guardian, it seems that after Machimana made her decision — but before communicating it in writing to the department of home affairs — she was asked to rescind it. In the emails, she is asked why she has not executed the outcome of an appeal conducted by the department of home affairs.
On August 23, a regional co-ordinator for the department of home affairs, Veronica Loving, wrote to Machimana, asking why an appeal outcome conducted by the department had not been executed for the American International School.
Machimana responded, stating that she had been threatened by Sihle Dumakude, an official of the school, who called her on August 20 and “informed me that he will report me to Home Affairs officials he knows so that the appeal process can be set aside and the application can be processed”. She also pointed out that the applicant was not a Vietnamese national and did not have a long-term visa to be in Vietnam, so could not apply in that country to go to South Africa.
In another letter, to the ambassador in Vietnam, Machimana said the Filipino national was applying for a visitor’s visa, while her intention was to work in South Africa.
When the M&G sent questions to the school about the alleged threat, which were also sent to Dumakude, it said: “We are confident that our visa applications made to secure new teacher employment are compliant with the laws and regulations stipulated by home affairs and relevant visa authorities.”
It added that: “School employees may at times, if required, liaise on the phone with representatives within this process for clarification and follow-up purposes, which is standard practice.”
When contacted, Machimana refused to comment — stating that she will await the decision of her department.
But it seems she has no department to answer to.
When Clayson Monyela, the spokesperson for the department of international relations and co-operation, and David j, spokesperson for the department of home affairs, were contacted, both said Machimana was not their employee.
Meanwhile, in a letter written by ambassador Lekgoro and dated August 29, he states that he met with Machimana, who is charged with migration matters at the embassy, to clarify and confirm the situation around the issuing of a visa to the Filipino national.
“Machimana explained that she had received a visa application … and based on the relevant rules and requirements refused the application,” Lekgoro wrote.
“Machimana was contacted by an immigration agent in South Africa. The agent indicated that he would take up the matter with the responsible director in the department of home affairs. Based on the rules and requirements I considered her decision to have been sound.”
Hlabane, the spokesperson for home affairs, said the department could not answer questions about Machimana as she is not an employee of the department. These questions were also sent to Loving, who did not respond.
“Home affairs will investigate allegations against its official [Loving] in foreign office co-ordination, and any evidence in this regard will assist our internal investigation,” Hlabane said.
Neither department would provide answers as to what processes must be followed for a foreign national to be granted a visa to work in South Africa.

Home affairs is urgently seeking ‘a divorce’

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi is urgently seeking “a divorce” from sister departments public works, the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) and Bosasa which, he says, are all hindering the work of his department.
Motsoaledi and acting director-general Thulani Mavuso appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs this week to account for the department’s financial health.
The two painted a bleak picture of a department that is severely undercapacitated and unable to keep up with the demands of service delivery, pointing to the failures of “third parties” as contributing to the underperformance of home affairs.
It is not working because we are spending more than R300 million on an annual basis on rentals and at the end of the financial year we have nothing to show for it.
Thulani Mavuso
Mavuso revealed that the department was operating at 44% of the approved structure because of a lack of funding.
He said home affairs was short of 11 432 employees.
He said the relationship with public works, which home affairs relies on for a number of its offices, had become dysfunctional.
“I want to put this as bluntly as it is. We are relying on the provision of space from public works and it is not working. It is not working because we are spending more than R300 million on an annual basis on rentals and at the end of the financial year we have nothing to show for it. Some of these offices are not adequate in terms of infrastructure; they don’t cater for the live capture environment so we need a remodel before we move in,” Mavuso said.
He said the department spent millions on upgrading the spaces only to be moved out of them every few years, effectively throwing money away.
He said his department had approached the sister department, asking it to buy the Lindela facility – used as a repatriation centre – which is owned by the company formerly known as Bosasa.
“We have asked public works to buy that facility so that we can at least own the facility and we can run it ourselves or get someone else to run it so that at least that physical infrastructure is owned by public works.
“We have been told that the process is moving, but on the other side we have been informed by the liquidator that there are private interests looking to buy the facility. So you will find that public works may be overtaken by private interests.
“So we thought we should flag this to the committee as one of the challenges we face.”
Motsoaledi agreed that the department was caught between a rock and a hard place, but disagreed that the purchase should be made by public works.
“What we are negotiating is that the liquidator must find a way to finalise this matter even if it is bought by a third party with whom we will renegotiate a new deal – and that is one of the things we are doing.
“I know Mavuso said the department was asking public works to buy it. I personally am not very eager for public works to buy it. If public works buys it and then next time it does not pay for electricity or for water, it is not going to be very good. So I would prefer that it is us buying the facility directly.”
The minister recounted an incident when public works failed to settle an electricity bill with the City of Tshwane, resulting in the power at the home affairs office being switched off.
“That back office has been declared a national key point because if something happens to it then all of the civil matters in the country come to a halt.
“But the building is owned by public works. Last month they didn’t pay the electricity, the Tshwane municipality switched it off. When the electricity was switched off, all 412 offices might as well have closed because there was nothing anyone could do.
“They [public works] said the municipality sent them a bill of R36 million which they did not agree with and that was why the bill was not paid. If it was us paying for ourselves, we will know the consequences of querying R36 million and shutting down the whole country. That is more millions. So we are saying don’t be surprised. We want to serve divorce papers on issues such as these. We would rather serve ourselves on such issues.”
Mavuso lamented the relationship between the home affairs and Sita. He said that the agency had provided an unreliable network often resulting in system down times.
“A few years back Sita held a meeting with the portfolio committee of home affairs and telecommunications to discuss this issue and there were many promises that were made by Sita in 2016 on the type of service that they were going to give us to ensure that we have 99.9% network availability. As of today that has not been realised,” Mavuso said.
The minister said that the issue with Sita had been raised with the president and the department was anticipating his “guidance”.
“Sars [the SA Revenue Service] is not forced to be under Sita, [but] we are forced. Sita doesn’t deliver – they are not; I am not bad-mouthing them.
“All government departments, wherever you go, [and you ask] why this or that didn’t happen [the answer is] Sita, Sita – I still don’t know why it is that they cannot do [their job]. I think the state was trying to get an agency to do its work but it is not working.”

New law to block foreigners from working in certain sectors in South Africa

The Department of Small Business Development is working on a new law that will restrict foreigners from working in certain sections of the economy.
In an interview with 702, small business development minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that the legislation in line with other countries – such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe – that have regulations specifying the sectors where foreign nationals are not allowed to participate.
While Ntshavheni did not specify exactly which sectors would be regulated, she indicated that the new legislation would be heavily informed by the above laws used in other African countries.
She provided the example of the country’s formal and informal retail sector and how it has changed over the last couple of decades.
“If you look at the retail sector, when we all grew up our spaza shops were run by ourselves, by our neighbours, we took over shops from our mothers.
“If you (look) now then that is not the demographic of who is running our spaza shops.”
Ntshavheni added that South Africans have a penchant to hire other South Africans, and that locals will take up the chance for employment if more opportunities are offered to them.
“We are not only introducing legislation to say which sectors are restricted to South Africans but we are also establishing support mechanisms for those South African who are operating in these sectors.”
The move towards new legislation follows mass protests against foreign-owned businesses across Gauteng at the start of September.
Bloomberg reports that the protests saw the destruction of more than 50 shops and business premises mainly owned by Africans from countries in the rest of the continent such as Nigeria and Somalia.
Cars and properties were torched and widespread looting took place.
The violence echoes sporadic outbreaks of attacks mainly targeting migrants from other African countries in some of South Africa’s poorest areas.
In 2008 about 60 people were killed and over 50,000 forced from their homes and in 2015 seven people died in violence. Migrants are seen as competition for scarce jobs and government services.

Home Affairs extends Vision-Box airport departures smartgates deal

But no word on status of arrivals deal.
Vision-Box will continue to provide smartgates in the departure halls of Australia’s international airports until 2026 after the Department of Home Affairs extended its contract for a yet undisclosed value.
The border technology provider revealed late on Thursday that it had secured a five-year extension to its six-year contract with the department inked back in April 2015.
The existing contract – which started life valued at $18 million, but has since grown to just over $41 million – was not due to expire until June 2021.
Vision-box said the “short-term” focus of the extension was on continuing to support and maintain the 92 existing facial recognition departures smartgates.
The terminals allow users to scan their passport and continue through rather than approach an immigration official for processing.
However, Vision-Box also said it would also use the extension to bring “some innovation in the area of departures smartgates for automated border control”.
“Vision-Box will support Home Affairs in implementing several initiatives that improve the operational efficiency of border processes,” it said.
The extension of the departures contract comes just months after Home Affairs paused the trial and rollout of its next generation airport arrivals smartgates from Vision-Box.
The 105 facial biometrics ready arrivals smartgates were to be part of an automated biometric border control solution slated to eventually allow travellers to pass through arrivals without producing a passport.
While the department is currently reviewing the program, iTnews understands the Vision-Box contract for the arrivals smartgates has already faltered and will not progress after trials failed to return good matching results.
Although the department has declined that this is the case, last month it revealed the existing IDEMIA (previously Morpho) airport arrivals smartgates would now be refurbished at the cost of $30 million.
Vision-box used the announcement of the extension on the smartgate depatures program as evidence of its “long-term strategic partnership” with Home Affairs, though did not mention its work on arrivals.
Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

South Africa: Angolan Former Refugees Face Uncertain Future

About 2,000 Angolan former refugees, many of whom have lived in South Africa for decades, may have to leave at the end of 2021.
According to the Scalabrini Centre, which has been fighting on behalf of the Angolans, the 2,000 former refugees have lived in South Africa for an average of 20 years.
The year 2021 is the deadline for the end of the Angolan Special Permit – a temporary permit issued to Angolans whose refugee status ceased in 2013. Now, an Angolan committee has written to Home Affairs in a bid to clarify what will happen to them when the deadline comes in two years.
One of the committee members, Manuel Panzo, told GroundUp last week that he had been trying to call the office but no one answered his calls. He said his colleagues had also been trying through emails.
In October 2009, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees proposed to end refugee status for Angolans who fled the civil war which ended in 2002. The South African government announced the cessation of refugee status in 2013, but most of the former refugees who wanted to stay were granted an Angolan Cessation Permit (ACP) in an Angolan passport issued to them upon withdrawal of their refugee status. These ACPs were valid for only two years.
In October 2015, the Scalabrini Centre submitted an application for permanent residency on behalf of all ACP holders. After several legal battles, the Department of Home Affairs eventually agreed to grant the category of an “Angolan Special Permit”.
Angolan Special Permits were issued in 2018 and expire in 2021.The conditions of the permit state that it cannot be extended, and its conditions cannot be changed.
The former refugees had been placed in a precarious legal state since 2013, Miranda Madikane, Director of The Scalabrini Centre, said this week, with deep and damaging impacts on the community.
She told GroundUp, “Considering that Angolan former refugees constitute a relatively small number of people, and considering that they have a deep level of socio-economic integration in South Africa, the ability to remain permanently within South Africa would be an appropriate durable solution.”
Madikane said that it is in the interest of the South African state to ensure that people living within its borders are documented. “In our experience, the community of Angolan former refugees and their families desperately want to seek durable legality in South Africa.”
In their letter to Home Affairs, the Angolan committee raised the issue of uncertainty regarding their future when the permits expire in 2021. They also asked the Department to provide a way for children and spouses of Angolan former refugees to acquire documents in South Africa. Some, who were not Angolan, had never had documents though they were married to Angolan Special Permit holders.
“Similarly, some children of ASP permit holders were too young or unable to be documented in their parents’ refugee status, and could not access ASP permits,” the letter read.
The committee also asked the department to expand the Angolan Special Permit programme to people with refugee or asylum seeker status who had missed the deadlines, to legalise their stay in South Africa. They explained that the problem is huge in small cities such as Port Elizabeth.
Panzo said if the visas were not renewed it would harm many families who had lived in South Africa for two decades and had adult children born here who could not speak Portuguese. It would also affect many people running businesses.
He said many people who had gone back to Angola after frustrations with documentation had returned within two years. Though the political system had improved and there was less persecution, life there was “difficult”, he said. “Children born here will not cope.”
GroundUp sent a query to Home Affairs on 26 September, and followed up with another email on 30 September. On Tuesday GroundUp called spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza who said he was not aware of the query. He promised to check and respond. Home Affairs’ response will be added when it is received.

Mother challenges home affairs

Chantel* was only 15 years old when she hopped the Eswatini-South African border in early 2007. She says she lived her whole life in an orphanage in Manzini, never knew her biological parents and never saw her birth certificate.
Abuse was rife. “The conditions were unbearable.

We were not properly cared for. We were frequently physically disciplined,” she says. “I lived in fear; I suffered significant emotional and psychological distress.”
Unable to tolerate the abuse, she started siphoning off some of the money she earned from selling detergents to fundraise for the orphanage. When she had enough, she took a bus to the border and a customs officer helped her cross over. She says she knew it was illegal.
Chantel was known by a different name at the orphanage but she changed it when she arrived “so that I could not be traced and sent back”.
In many ways her life improved in South Africa. She headed to Durban where she met a South African and the couple started life together in the Durban North suburb of Red Hill. They had two children, one born in 2007 and the other in 2014.
When it was time for her firstborn child to go to school, Chantel realised the pain of her own statelessness. Because Chantel’s partner is South African, both of her children are legitimately South African, but because Chantel had no documentation at all, her children were never issued with birth certificates. No school in South Africa will enrol a child without a birth certificate.
The couple made several attempts to have the children’s births registered with the department of home affairs — providing clinic notes and records from the local hospitals where they were born — but they were always turned away. And the educational authorities were not willing to help.
By 2016, Chantel’s oldest child was already eight years old and had not yet been enrolled at school. The couple turned to the Legal Resources Centre, where advocate Stuart Humphrey, acting pro bono, agreed to draft an urgent court application.
The first prize was to get the child enrolled without having to produce a birth certificate. Education authorities, acting in the child’s best interests, backed down.
KwaZulu-Natal chief education specialist Busisiwe Gcabashe said, in an affidavit: “We undertook to enrol the child at school on condition that … [the child’s parents] submit the birth certificate once it is available. This was because we appreciate and respect the child’s constitutional rights to education. And that [the child] is a South African citizen by birth.” Gcabashe said, however, that the entire matter was largely dependent on the attitude of the department of home affairs.
Chantel’s appeal to this department was that it issue the children with birth certificates and issue her with a visa, or grant her permanent residence, to formalise her status in South Africa.
To this end, Chantel’s lawyers are attacking the Regulations to the Births and Deaths Registration Act, which makes no provision for the registration of a birth where one of the parents does not have any proof of identification.
Part of the lawyers’ research has involved tracking Chantel’s early history and the name she no longer uses. But neither the Eswatini authorities, her lawyers or the department of home affairs have been able to unearth any records for Chantel under any of her names: not the one she hasn’t used since she was a child in Manzini, nor her current name.
She is stateless and her children are stateless. To make matters worse, Chantel’s common-law husband died last year. While her children are now both attending school, without their birth certificates, this situation cannot carry on indefinitely.
Chantel’s is one of the cases that will be argued in the Durban high court later this month, but will in all likelihood have to be decided by the Constitutional Court.
The department of home affairs, however, has not been swayed. Richard Sikakane, director of travel documents and citizenship at the department, said it “strongly opposes” Chantel’s application and that it would be unlawful for a court to direct the department to bypass legislative prescripts for an “illegal immigrant” who lied about her name.
“We disagree that she is stateless. I seriously dispute that any person can be born stateless,” Sikakane said. “She admits that she was born in Swaziland [Eswatini]. Her identity can be traced and affidavits can be obtained from family members there and the process of establishing her identity can start there.”
But Chantel is not able to travel to Eswatini because she has no passport or ID.
Sikakane says issuing IDs and granting citizenship to unidentified immigrants is not only wrong but would compromise the country’s security. “There are no shortcuts. Holding the government at ransom to break the law cannot be condoned,” he said.
A recent report compiled by the Scalabrini Centre, which is based in Cape Town and provides services to migrants and refugees, documented the plight of 325 foreign-born children in South Africa. Most of these children are undocumented and they face the threat of statelessness once they turn 18.
Among those interviewed were two sisters, thought to have come to South Africa from Kenya with their mother. They were discovered living in a car and taken to a child and youth care centre. Their mother then disappeared. The Kenyan authorities do not recognise these girls as Kenyan nationals and the South Africa authorities don’t recognise them as South African.
The scalabrini Centre’s advocacy officer, Lotte Manicom, says urgent measures, including law reform, are needed to counter this situation.
“Present immigration laws and regulations prevent the opportunity for these children to document themselves,” she said.
“It is foreseen that many of the children will have no choice but to return to their country of origin (if they can) once their placement order is no longer valid or extendable.”
She recommended that the department of home affairs roll out a “special dispensation permit” to allow these children to remain in South Africa and, in certain instances, that citizenship be granted to them.
In acknowledging the vital need for an ID, Manicom added that the documented children in question were all aged between 11 and 18, that they originated from 15 different African countries and that some were fleeing war and persecution.
“A variety of rights flow from an identity document,” Manicom noted. “It establishes a nationality, an identity, and an ability to function in a formal society. For a child, an identification document is crucial in their ability to access their most basic rights, and to plan a meaningful future.”