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Immigration System Under the Microscope

May 26, 2022

Department of Home Affairs

A complete overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system is underway.

The home affairs minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, confirmed this during his department’s 2022 Budget Vote speech in parliament.

“Work in this regard is well underway and we will soon unveil it”, he said.

In terms of a stable IT network, the minister pointed out that, “whenever our systems are down, we stand in awe of the banks which always seem to be having a stable IT network”.

The minister announced that eight engineers from a leading bank are being brought onboard to assist in stabilising the department’s network and to install some key IT infrastructure.

“We believe that the partnerships with the banks will rapidly reduce the skills deficit and assist the Department to improve and maintain system uptime”, he said.

As regards banks offering some home affairs services at some of their branches, the minister declared that this “did not work as fast as we envisaged because the banks are worried of reputational damage that our system downtime would cause them”.

Verification of client details on the home affairs system can be delayed by downtime.

“We believe that as soon as their own engineers have helped us to increase system uptime, the banks will cheerfully open their doors for Home Affairs services”, he said.

The minister also revealed that the Independent Electoral Commission has completed a review of the 2021 Local Government Elections.

According to the minister, the “findings and experiences will be used in preparation for 2024 National and Provincial Elections”.

Reference was made to the Electoral Amendment Bill tabled in parliament in January 2022.

The home affairs department published the bill’s explanatory summary in Government Gazette 45716 at the end of December 2021.

According to the explanatory summary, the aim of the proposed legislation is to give effect to the Constitutional Court decision in New Nation Movement NPC & others v President of the Republic of South Africa & others [2020] ZACC 11.

The decision declared the Electoral Act of 1998 unconstitutional to the extent that it “requires that adult citizens may only be elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures only through their membership of political parties”.

The portfolio committee on home affairs called for comment on the bill towards the end of January until 21 February 2022.

In February, the committee recommended that parliament seek an extension on the Constitutional Court order to remedy defective sections in the Electoral Act.

In a statement at the time, the committee pointed out that the main reason for the resolution to seek an extension was the need to undertake an “extensive and meaningful public participation process”.

According to the committee chairperson, Mosa Chabane, the committee holds the view that thorough work is needed to ensure that the amendments meet constitutional muster.

“This will give Parliament the space to engage the people and hopefully arrive at an Act that strengthens our Constitutional order”, he said.

In a later statement, parliament pointed out that the bill was only tabled in parliament on 10 January 2022 “leaving parliament with only five months to process a Bill of such public significance and interest”.

“Accordingly, the Presiding Officers of Parliament approached the apex Court to seek an extension in order to enable Parliament to properly deliberate on the Bill before it and to ensure that citizens across the country are afforded an opportunity to meaningfully participate and share their views on the Electoral Amendment Bill.”

At the end of April 2022, parliament sought a six-month extension of the deadline for amending the Electoral Act.