Cablegate: Sag's Home Affairs Ministry in Operational Overhaul

DE RUEHSA #2622/01 3561610
R 221610Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is a notoriously
dysfunctional bureaucracy long due for an overhaul. Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, formerly Foreign Affairs Minister and
ex-wife of the President, is leading a "Turnaround" project
aiming to increase efficiency, tighten security, cut out
fraud and corruption, and improve customer service. For the
2010 World Cup, Home Affairs has begun piloting traveler
screening, both domestically and in overseas airports on
flights bound to South Africa. The Minister is also
conducting a review of migration instruments to rationalize
the intake of non-nationals, without altering the SAG's
progressive policies toward migrants and refugees. End

The Mess at Home Affairs

2. Home Affairs is a notoriously dysfunctional bureaucracy
long due for an overhaul. Essentially a document factory,
DHA is responsible for registration of South Africans
(births, marriages, deaths, ID cards, passports) and
non-national residents (work and asylum permits) within the
country, plus tracking of tourist visitors (visas) at its
borders. The department is historically seen as the SAG's
"basket case" -- plagued by operational inefficiency, massive
processing backlogs, unskilled staff, indifference toward the
public, rudeness to migrants, and petty corruption. Bribes
could procure faster service, or an authentic passport for a
non-national. The latter problem prompted the U.K. in 2008
to introduce a visa and interview requirement for SA passport
holders. When the USG's 2008 Terrorism Report sparked a
media storm in May 2009 over its reference to poor controls
of identity documents, newly appointed DHA Minister
Dlamini-Zuma candidly admitted that a SAG passport could not
always be trusted, and this needed to change.

"Turnaround" -- for Efficiency...

3. Dlamini-Zuma, nicknamed "Dr. Fixit," has taken up with
relish her predecessor's "Turnaround" project, a multi-year
and multibillion rand overhaul of operations aiming to remake
DHA into a model of efficiency. Led by a local affiliate of
U.S. consultancy AT Kearney, the initiative aims to cut
processing time and increase accuracy through automation.
Individuals' records are being transferred from paper files
to computerized data bases, with DHA's provincial centers
eventually being connected real-time, saving the public from
having to travel across the country to their original
registration points. Queues outside DHA migrant reception
centers are markedly shorter than a year ago, and there is
anecdotal support among Embassy staff that turnaround times
for nationals' IDs are faster. Redressing a historic lack of
birth certificates among blacks born under apartheid
(including herself), Dlamini-Zuma has launched a registration
campaign to close the gaps of undocumented citizens.

.. And Security / Anti-Fraud...

4. Several measures aim to increase security controls,
prevent fraud, and eliminate corruption. Real-time and
nationwide data networks, combined with the online capture of
applicants' personal data including biometrics, will help
eliminate false IDs obtained via multiple applications under
various names to different registration centers. The
campaign to register babies at birth, and to catch up with
registration of all citizens, aims to phase out late birth
Qregistration of all citizens, aims to phase out late birth
registrations within two years, making it more difficult in
future for foreigners to obtain false documents. (Note: the
problem remains widespread. On a single day this month, the
U.S. consulate in Johannesburg encountered a Malawian, a
Nigerian, and a Zambian all with genuine SAG passports
obtained fraudulently. End Note.) Alongside systems
safeguards, DHA is introducing process controls to block
corruption by officials, such as randomized assignment of
applicants to officers, eliminating the opportunity for
advance pay-offs. DHA is cracking down on wrongdoers, with
59 arrests in a recent six-week period. These steps will
improve document integrity and help to eliminate graft.

PRETORIA 00002622 002 OF 003

... And Customer Service

5. The Turnaround also aims to provide better customer
service through staff training, both for development of core
skills as well as overall sensitization to clients' points of
view. Since taking office, the Minister has made unannounced
visits to DHA centers nationwide to see for herself how they
perform. One of Dr. Fixit's first steps was to insist that
DHA officers wear name tags, to begin to instill a mentality
of personable service and accountability. Performance
metrics are now visibly posted on the cubicles of individual
officers. The Minister has been especially committed to
changing staff's attitudes of indifference or rudeness toward
the public. Famously, she wept publicly over the case of an
applicant who hanged himself when he could not get a job
after being abusively denied an ID by DHA officers. Vowing
to punish those officers, she railed at small-minded
bureaucrats "who think they rule the world" and do not share
the SAG's espoused values of batho pele (people first) in
service delivery.

World Cup Border Entry Controls

6. Responsible for management of ports of entry, Home
Affairs is integral to security plans for 2010 World Cup.
Prior to the December draw, DHA piloted its Advanced
Passenger Processing (APP) system, working with 31 airlines
to screen passengers from the points of departure to remove
"undesirable elements" (such as designated hooligans) prior
to boarding flights. A 24x7 Operations Centre to manage APP
was also tested. Of eight countries identified as especially
large sources of travelers (whether by origin or transit),
the Minister has said that six have allowed the deployment of
SAG Airline Liaison Officers to validate travel documents
before boarding. (Note: we believe that most of those
countries are in Europe or the Mideast. According to DHS,
the USG is still considering whether it will participate.
Americans are reportedly the leading overseas buyers of World
Cup tickets. End Note.)

New Tools for Immigration

7. Beyond process re-engineering, the Minister is also
conducting a review of immigration instruments, to
rationalize the intake of non-nationals. Dlamini-Zuma has
affirmed DHA will go ahead with a plan inherited from the
previous Mbeki administration to issue identity cards to
Zimbabweans, but only after a full consideration of
operational logistics and policy ramifications. Going
further, the Minister has undertaken a thorough review of
immigration documents, aiming to expand the range of entry
and residence permits to differentiate economic migrants from
asylum seekers. Currently the asylum-seeker's permit is
abused as an all-purpose entry ticket for all immigrants;
separating Zimbabwean flows from other jobseekers and asylees
promises to unclog the asylum channel, in a move welcomed by
refugee rights advocates. (Note: DHA is currently previewing
its plans to 'stakeholders' like leading trade union COSATU,
with whom clearer data on migrant workers could be a source
of friction. End Note.)

Operations Improve; Policy Stays Steady

8. Note: This review of immigration processing is an
operational one and does not imply policy changes. New tools
should facilitate immigration, not restrict it. Deputy
Minister Malusi Gigaba, who is responsible for the portfolio
QMinister Malusi Gigaba, who is responsible for the portfolio
of migrants and counter-xenophobia, continues to reiterate to
domestic and international audiences (reftel) that the SAG
maintains its progressive posture, intent on "managing"
migration not attempting to combat it. South Africa allows
documented foreign nationals full mobility, with access to
work, education, and health care, rather than confining them
to camps. This stance is unique in Africa and has survived
the challenges of xenophobic violence and the crisis in
Zimbabwe. The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees has
praised the SAG's immigration policies as being among the
best in the world, and DHA's operational review does not
threaten those fundamentals. End Note.

COMMENT: A Long-Term, Long Haul

PRETORIA 00002622 003 OF 003

9. As mentioned, some improvements in efficiency are already
evident to applicants. Others, like massive systems
upgrades, will take months to implement across DHA offices
nationwide. Corruption is deep-rooted, and the Minister
warns that more arrests and suspensions lie ahead -- further
compounding her staffing gaps and training burden. Attitudes
and service ethics may take the longest to change, over years
of persistent effort if DHA remains committed. That said,
Dlamini-Zuma is certainly trying to do the right things with
this effort and deserves our support. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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