Judge tells Home Affairs to get house in order, stop wasting taxpayers’ money
A judge gave the Department of Home Affairs a tongue lashing for wasting taxpayers’ money by not doing its work and ignoring applications made by the public.
He said these ended up in the courts, usually with the taxpayers footing the legal bill on behalf of the department.
Judge MP Phooko, sitting in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, said it was time “Home Affairs got its house in order”.
He pointed out the courts were flooded with applications from people who could not get any answers from the department, regarding their legal status in the country.
In the latest such application, British citizen Jonathan Firth applied nearly four years ago for permanent residency with the department. After he did not receive any response from the department two years later, he instructed a lawyer to assist him.
The lawyer wrote letters to the department requesting information regarding the status of Firth’s application, but there was no response.
Even after this application was served, Home Affairs did not respond, and did not attend court either to defend the matter.
It was silence from its side and it adopted a no-response attitude, the judge said.
Firth turned to the court in desperation for an order compelling the department to decide whether he should be granted permanent residency in South Africa or not.
He is in South Africa under a temporary residence visa that was issued to him by the department in August, 2017.
Firth applied for a permanent residency permit in June 2018 through a VFS Global Office in Johannesburg. He was subsequently issued with a reference number.
The records from VFS Global indicate Firth’s application for a permanent residency permit was received by the department on June 6, 2018.
He had subsequently not heard from Home Affairs.
The processing period for an application for a permanent residence permit is not stipulated in the immigration laws of South Africa.
The minimum processing time of eight to 10 months is stipulated on the VFS Global website, but is not legislated.
However, precedent informs that eight months is considered to be a reasonable period for the outcome of a permanent residence application.
The judge said the importance of one knowing the outcome of their application could not be gainsaid, given the significance of a permanent residence permit and the impact it had on one’s life.
Judge Phooko said Home Affairs was under a duty to take decisions, otherwise failure to do so would render immigration laws meaningless.
“It is, therefore, clear that waiting for extended periods for a permanent residence permit application to be finalised without any update whatsoever, is unlawful.”
He added the Constitution mandated public servants to promote and maintain a high standard of professional ethics when executing their duties.
“The Department of Home Affairs is a core government department that produces important documents regarding peoples’ status and access to services in South Africa.
“The department is needed by any person who enters, lives in and/or exits South Africa. Therefore, a crucial department like Home Affairs needs to put the interest of those who approach it for any documentation first,” he said.
He remarked that, at the very least when people approached state institutions, they expected a certain level of service and care, not indifference.
“If the department continues with its non-responsive stance, cases such as this are nowhere near the end. The public purse is also going to be severely affected,” the judge warned.
He gave the department 10 days in which to decide on Firth’s request for permanent residency.
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