Tag Archive | immigration

Border Authority to get grip on immigration

Border controls for trade as well…..

A Bill enabling the formation of an overall border authority to be known as the Border Management Authority has reachedborder lebombo Parliament following its publication for comment last October by the Minister of Home Affairs. The legislation will “allow for the transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

The Authority’s objectives include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”  The Authority would be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee.

Mozambique border

sa moz logoThree years ago, Kosie Louw, then chief legal officer at SARS, told Parliament that a “one stop border post” to handle customs and immigration was being established at the Mozambique border.

An original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries and consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.
Kosie Louw told the standing committee at the time that on finance the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses, he said, which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily in order to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years, Louw said, but these had to be paid before the goods entered into the market or were exported. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods, which could be removed only after all the customs requirements had been met.

State warehouses on the other hand, Louw said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared,
detained,state warehouse seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised which to them seemed an unduly long period. The SARS response was that that were many ramifications at international law but he added they had already had two discussions with Zimbabwe at that time.

Slow process

South Africa, he said, was looking at the establishment of more such posts and it was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as many lessons had been learnt through the Mozambique experience.

SARS, said losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently very difficult tosa border beit bridge provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified on the basis of what had been seized. The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe, where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern.

The overall principle of what was referred to then as an OSBP was for both countries to have one set of common warehouses for stop, declaration, search, VAT payments to South Africa. involving therefore vehicles going through only one process for both countries.

It seems that the new Bill is building on that experience but the whole process is taking an inordinate period of time put down to the fact that so many departments in two or three countries have to be consulted and consensus obtained.
Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas – ParlyReportSA
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA

 

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Immigrant visa problems dominate debate

sam mototabaNorthern agriculture seen as visa defaulter…….

sent to clients 15 June…..Sam Morotoba, DDG of Public Employment Services, Department of Labour (DOL), told parliamentarians that it was DOL’s view that visa immigration policies for South Africa must involve cutting down on the flow of unskilled immigrants into the country.

From the nature of the debate, it was evident that DOL was more concerned on the creation of jobs for South Africans and not the issue of visa granting to specialist cases, a fact which gained the support of most  MPs.

Sam Morotaba said that amongst the massive inflow of undocumented persons crossing what is some 4,000kms of border there were those that did find work, had no entry visa and were totally exploited in the process. Most of the border was totally “porous”, he said.

More facts emerged during the particular Labour Portfolio Committee meeting when both DOL and the Department of Home Affairs (DOHA) jointly made presentations on immigration policy.   The practical aspects of the issue of work permits to foreigners, normally called “temporary visas” were discussed.

Not asylum seekers

Over 70% of the non-documented labour problem occurred in Limpopo Province, according to DOL figures.    It was also shown that there were approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants in the country at present, whether they were working or not.   Refugees from war and refugees seeking asylum were a completely different issue, Morotaba said, and they represented a much smaller number, .

sa border beit bridgeSpecially conducted “raids” on farms and businesses in the Northern areas and which were carried out by the few inspectorate staff that were available to DOL were frustrated by the advent of the cell-phone.    Messages were simply sent ahead by immigrant employees advising that a “raid” was in progress and workers who had no documentation but wanted the work simply went into hiding.

Some employers told their employees not to come to work when appointments with DOL inspectors were made. “Raids”, in conjunction with South African Police Services,were extremely difficult to undertake unless the matter was serious enough to consider that a possible breach of the law had taken place.

Traffickers

The problem was exacerbated, said Morotaba, by traffickers that postured as labour “sellers” and went from farm to farm offering cheap labour in the form of immigrants without documentation looking for work.    Inspectors had resorted to “raids” on Friday “paydays” and also at night.  Employers were generally unhelpful; gaining access to farms was difficult; and the success rate in finding illegal immigrants was therefore low, said DOL.

Farmers remained the major culprits, it became apparent – an issue which has been the main theme of chairperson Lumka Yengeni of the Portfolio Committee on Labour for a number of years.

DOL said that there were more than five million legal immigrants in the country and the laws of South Africa demanded that all workers be protected, whether illegal or not, in terms of the Constitution. This had to be borne in mind, they said.

Desperate people

However, underpaying desperate people who had no temporary visa and housing them in filthy conditions, was farm labourersquite a different matter and was a contravention of all international principles. This was the issue facing DOL.

Also, some companies and employers simply did not want to test the local market for labour suitability or could not be bothered to try, DOL said, and also probably also wanted to avoid UIF participation, collection and payment and few farmers got involved in the cost of skills training.

Home Affairs briefing

The main agenda of the portfolio committee meeting in question was the subject of the nature of relationships between DOHA and DOL. Also their observations were requested on the current position with regard to delays in issuing visas and DOHA was asked to give a technical explanation of where the visa issuance process was headed.

DOHA was represented Acting Chief Director for Visas, Home Affairs, Modiri Matthews, supported by Ronnie Marhule. Modiri Matthews said his department was mandated by the Immigration Act to deport those unlawfully in the country.

visa stampHe made it clear that the Immigration Act stated that a temporary residence visa could be granted only for the categories of Study, Treaty, Business, Crew, Medical Treatment, Relatives, Work, Retired Persons, Exchange and Asylum.

It was only when a permanent resident permit was issued that the holder was entitled to live in South Africa on a permanent basis, with all the rights and obligations of a citizen except the right to vote and use an SA passport. This was standard in most countries, he said.

Visa classification

There were three kinds of visas – Corporate, General Work Visa and a Business Visa.   Most farming entities and general business fell under the category of corporate visas, where a requested number of foreigners was needed by an employer.

Proof had to be supplied that despite a diligent search, the applicant could not find suitable SA citizens or permanent residents to occupy the positions; the job description had to be given; and it had to be conditional that salary and benefits paid would not be less than standard agreed emoluments.

Home Affairs confirmed that feedback indicated that the current system is too cumbersome due to DHA’s lack of capacity to handle the volume of applications; the fact that “standard operating procedures” within the department were ambiguous; that many officials were insufficiently trained and turnaround around times were too slow.

Speeding things up

Modiri Matthews promised parliamentarians that new electronic systems were in place to ensure a more secure system of interaction between DHA, DOL and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – the latter being responsible for issuing the quota or number of visas issued, all of which had expiry dates. The plan envisaged is that once the permission is issued by DTI, for DHA to take 30 days and DOL no more than 8 weeks to process a visa request andvisa with hand DHA to issue or decline.

When asked by MPs whether or not Home Affairs had a tracking system on visas granted but which had expired, whether working or not, Modiri Matthews responded that they had and the number of expired visas currently stood in the area of 30,000, which were on the tracking system.

Waiting period

Present at the meeting were also Ronnie Marhule, Acting Chief Director of Permits and Visas and Phindiwe Mbhele, Director for Corporate Permits and in question time, Angie Loliwe of the ANC complained to them that if the application were with DTI for even only 2 weeks, then the DOL process was added for thirty days and with Home Affairs adding about 8 weeks, there was not really any possibility of waiting less than three months for any one application to be processed at the very best. This was too long, she said.

Both Directors stated that there were “pressure points” mainly related to capacity to deal with the volumes of applications and this mainly affected “corporate” visas to farm workers. They told members of the Labour Committee that they were trying to deal with this, especially where urgent business applications were concerned.

They reminded MPs that with nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants, systems such as an “expired document” process was a time consuming business and DOL “had their work already cut out with the farming situation and inspections.”

One track discussion

Ninety per cent of the meeting time was spent discussing farm labour problems in the light of ANC problems with illegal labour entry to the North. Modiri Matthews said that there were only 11 centres in South Africa handling visa applications. There was a new office in Sandton, Johannesburg, he said, specifically geared to business needs.

To the irritation of some of the ANC members it was confirmed that the offices in East London and Port Elizabeth had been closed.   There was only one office for the whole of KwaZulu-Natal.   However, Matthews said there was was a specific plan to open two new business offices -presumed to be Cape Town and Durban.

Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs gives reasons for visa changes – ParlyReportSA
Agri-SA gives views on minimum wage – ParlyReportSA

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Smart card ID upgrade for South Africa

Smart card ID trials with banks

Despite a highly upbeat presentation by the department of home affairs (DHA) on the position with regard to the issuance of a smart card ID card to all citizens of South Africa,  the actual final implementation of the full system using bank premises for issuance would still seem time away.

DHA said that in all, the new process involved the replacement of some 38m ID books involving a further 70 DHA offices or “booths” being created throughout the country which will also process new passports.

However, said DHA, to speed up the process; create greater access to the Smart Card issuance: reduce queues and, importantly, to reduce the whole timeline of eliminating the old bar-coded system, DHA was now working with the banking world with pilot propositions based on using the outreach of banks as well, in order to reach a greater proportion of the general public and speed up the process.

Payment and issuance at bank

So far, MOUs had been signed with FNB and Standard Bank to set up pilot “booths” at a number of trial bank locations in order to study the options and strategies to involve banks with the issuance of cards and possibly payment by swipe. Studies were also being conducted with the SA Post Office (SAPO).

DHA said the consideration of SAPO had arisen because of their “large footprint” in rural areas and, together with an evaluation with trials at the two banking pilots, the entire IT system developed by DHA for their own 407 outlets, would be tested, adapted and fine-tuned. National treasury would then be approached on the additional costs of including the four private sector banks and SAPO.

DHA’s own system in hand

The budget for DHA to handle the system alone and by itself was R120m.   Contracts to card makers had been finalised in terms of a highly satisfactory and approved tender process.

MOUs with Nedbank and ABSA were now also being initiated, as an extension of the arrangements with the first two banks mentioned, in order to then involve all four major banking groups in South Africa to widen the whole process, the department said.

The matters being investigated at present were the entire security risk of such an operation, this being paramount to DHA; the possibility of online payment for application of documents produced; fingerprint and photos on site (an essential if the documents were to be collected later from the same location); and return of revenue and reconciliation of cash with DHA.

First and second class

DHA told parliamentarians that citizens would therefore have a choice between the DHA option, for which an ID would probably cost in the region of R140 and a passport R800, or at banks where no doubt a premium would have to be charged worked out after the pilot scheme was found to be workable or not.

Under questioning, particularly led by ANC chairperson Buoang Mashile, DA’s Mohammed Hoosen and ANC’s Bonsile Nesi, extreme circumspection was expressed on the involvement of SAPO ; the quality of its staff to handle highly sensitive and personal information; and the fact that some SAPO outlets only had two staff members in small stations and rural outlets.  The recent SAPO strikes, where no mail was delivered for three months, added to their disquiet

DHA responded that they were highly conscious of this and a decision to involve SAPO was yet to be made from evidence collected.

DHA presence at banks

DA’s Hoosen also stated that “nothing ever came free from banks”. He expressed disbelief that the all four major banking institutions were seriously going to involve themselves in such monetary matters and reconciliations with DHA and integration of DHA staff on their premises for free.

DHA replied that what was being undertaken was a pilot which involved a “stand alone” DHA booth to handle information input, fingerprints and photos and that bank would accept monies and credit DHA as did some retail outlets with municipal matters. DHA staff would be involved.

Security of info

To some extent the DA were satisfied to hear the banks themselves did not deal with the personal details of applicants, leaving DHA as sole handler of the any information on their data capture system, as in the past. Nevertheless they asked for  a “ball park figure” as an  idea of what the private sector involvement would add to the cost of an ID and passport.

DHA responded that it might double the cost of a Smart Card ID and push passport costs well up to R1,500 but at this stage all was conjecture as the pilots with the two banks had only just started.  If it was decided to go ahead, then the whole process would have to be costed before it went to National treasury for approval as a possibility and the involvement with the banks would have to be a “self reducing” exercise but faster.

Quo vadis?

On questions on the need to communicate with the public, DHA said the whole issue was early stages and in any case the process was a five to seven year plan and communications would come up only when the entire system was wrapped up and ready to go.

On the ability of DHA to handle such a national campaign of this magnitude, a number of MPs queried whether the department, as it was presently constituted, was able to handle such a programme.  DHA said part of the plan involved the hiring of staff and a major focus was on an extensive training programme. DHA said they were used to handling such matters as elections and there were a number of common factors involved.

Fingerprints may overcome

The main areas of concern to DHA, the presenter said, was rather in the area of fingerprint verification where “swopping” between immoral staff and the public was concerned and outside scam organisers who deluded the public with false information but they felt that the photo verification system, when added, would eliminate most of the physical fraud possibilities in collection by the right person.

DHA said that in their experience, the areas of cutting, pasting and manual tasks were the areas that the risk analysis project had mainly to focus on. The risk analysis project was the vital undertaking that was being assessed at the moment,

When asked by members where the two pilots were being conducted, DHA said that this was being undertaken with Standard and FNB in Gauteng, who were helping with risk analysis.

Other articles in this category or as background
Home Affairs gives reasons for visa changes – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA
Private Security Industry Bill comes closer – ParlyReportSA

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