Transcript copy: Speaking notes for Home Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for briefing to media on efforts to re-orientate the Department of Home Affairs as a security department
6 Oct 2011
Good morning Director-General (DG) in Pretoria, good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media in Cape Town.
We thought we should brief you on some of the developments within the Department. Now that we can concluded with our annual report we have to focus on what will be happening in future.
As you would recall, when we delivered our Budget Speech, we indicated in that concentrated on the civic side of things in the first two years, to try to improve things for our citizens, and off course the financial side of running the department.
We then said that, in the coming years we would be looking more at the Immigration side, and we also indicated that we have started what we call the Learning Academy because we would like to train and reskill our officials at Home Affairs. To this end, we have developed a qualification that is specific to the Department of Home Affairs, a qualification that will cover all the aspects of Home Affairs, so that an official at Home Affairs can be deployed anywhere within the organisation with a general understanding of the work of the Department.
This does not mean that there will be no specialists, but we want our officials to be more well-rounded in terms of our work. We now therefore have a qualification that is going to be recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). This will be the first time that we have such a qualification at the Department of Home Affairs. So, we will be training our people in this qualification so they are able to look at all aspects including customer service, ethical issues, integrity issues – so that we can also move personnel from one section to another without much difficulty.
We also have offices abroad although they are not capacitated with many staff. We would like our officials who are deployed abroad to more well-rounded and capacitated with this qualification so they can deal with all the issues very difficult and be self-sufficient.
We are going to be doing a number of things.
We have also been looking at various countries, in terms of how they deal with immigration. Having looked at the way in the which the Cubans conduct immigration, we decided we are going to benchmark ourselves with them, and the special issue with the Cubans is that they are very thorough, in looking at people coming into the country, but once in the country you are free, you are not followed or arrested. They have a system that is able to track anyone who comes into the country while they are also aware of why people are in the country. This system is very efficient. In addition, their training in terms of the people who are coming in, especially those with drugs, etc, is very thorough. There are things we thought we could learn from the Cubans. In addition, their public servants in general are highly skilled and highly trained, as is their general population – you will know that at least 60% of their population has a junior degree. I am sure not many countries in the world are able to claim this achievement.
We have decided we are going to work with them in part of the training. We are going to have Cubans who are going to train our trainers in some of the aspects of immigration. We have 30 specialist South African trainers who are going to be training our trainers but in some aspects, the Cubans will train our trainers. The South African trainers have come from different sectors – some from government, the private sectors, others from different departments – we have recruited them, so it is a mixture of people who specialise in training so they are going to be training our people at Home Affairs and the Cubans are going to be doing some of the other training.
What we have decided is that the first group of Home Affairs officials who will be trained in terms of the new South African Qualifications Authority approved programme will be from OR Tambo International Airport. These officials will be first ones to attend this course. However, of course, whilst they are training, immigration functions at OR Tambo International Airport must continue.
Following the government decision that departments within the cluster must share officials, we have decided that we will share some of the officers from the Department of Defence. We are therefore going to recruit 350 officers from the Department of Defence and laterally transfer them to the Department of Home Affairs and enable them to receive the same training through our new programme. They will then replace our officials at OR Tambo International Airport. This will be a pilot to see if this model works or not. These Defence officials will not be deployed as soldiers; they will be deployed as immigration officers after receiving the necessary training.
We think we would really like to pilot this idea because as you know, government has taken a decision that the Defence Force must protect our borders while Home Affairs officials are at our ports of entry. So we are just trying to see if we can work together and have people with the same training. Of course, Home Affairs officials must be additionally trained.
This, as I have said is a pilot. With all pilots, this is a learning experience and this is why it is limited to a few officials on both sides. After this pilot we will be able to say if this works or not.
Questions and Answers
Question: Minister, can you give us some idea of how much this will cost the department? How much are we paying the Cuban government for this training?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): I do not have the actual figures although I am sure the DG will be able to provide them.
However, the transfer from the Defence Force is not costing us anything because we are transferring these officers against posts that we would have had to fill from outside applicants. No one will lose a job in this process. The officials from OR Tambo International will still receive their salaries, as they would have.
(Director-General Mkuseli Apleni): As Minister has indicated we have not costed this process. We will be receiving accommodation from the Department of Defence because of our collaboration.
With the Cubans, we will only be paying the twelve consultants who will be assisting us, at the rate at which we would pay a Deputy Director in the Public Service.
Question: Minister, how long is the SAQA course and what is the timeline for the project?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): The timeline for the project will be up to December, that is when the training will conclude. Following this, the officers will be deployed. Although this will be a permanent deployment, we will also be looking at how the process is working and whether we want to roll this out or not. The training for the Defence Force officials, together with the training of the trainers will conclude by December.
The SAQA course will probably be longer because it will include other aspects and not be confined to immigration training. The Defence Force officers will be trained in immigration processes only.
Question: Minister, have you noticed a positive impact in having the military patrol our borders? Also Minister, what is your department’s view on the issuance of visa to the Dalai Lama? Was your Department involved in this issue?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): Yes, we have noticed a positive impact. The only thing however is that, because the soldiers were deployed in sections, you see a positive impact where they are and you see effects of not having them deployed in other areas. The impact would have been greater if they were deployed through the borders. We hope we will see a greater impact when they have completed their deployment.
We do not have close relationship only with the Defence Force. We also work quite closely with the South African Police Services. We work closely in general within the security cluster. I think that earlier on in our democracy we did not locate the department properly as a security department, as well as a service department. We just looked at it only as a service department. We have now relocated it as a security department as well as a service delivery department.
As far as a visa for the Dalai Lama is concerned – it was not a Home Affairs issue. You would have noticed that the spokesperson on this issue was the spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) because it was not a Home Affairs issue.
Question: Minister, why has Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA), not been involved in this kind of training? Of the 350 officers you mentioned, could you please provide us with their rank levels? Are the Defence Force officials being brought in for their military training or because the department lacks the necessary personnel? Have the military unions been consulted on this matter? And to follow up on the issue of the visa for the Dalai Lama – when we have discussed with DIRCO we have been told the matter has been referred to your department.
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): I would have liked DIRCO to deal with this matter because DIRCO dealt with this matter, even before it came to us and I am not sure why they are saying what they are saying. But, I also do want to start talking about another department here, except to say the matter was dealt with by them. If not, we would have been communicating on the issue. Ronnie would have been talking on this issue. If a Head of State or person of a certain stature applies for a visa, DIRCO must be involved. They have dealt with this issue, they received the memorandum from the protestors, and it was not the Department of Home Affairs. If it was us, we would have dealt with it and we would have spoken on it one way or another. It was not our issue, it was their issue. I think we must accept this and not try to drag us into this issue. We have our own challenges.
On the other issues – PALAMA trains generally – if you recall that when we were at the then Foreign Affairs, DIRCO now, we had our own Academy. It did not mean that people did not go to PALAMA for training. However, PALAMA does not specialise and provides general training. Therefore, we had our own academy at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Home Affairs does not render general services – there are specific services that we render, specific documents we process, specific mandates – these require more than just a general understanding. It is not a matter of being in competition with PALAMA. It is just the nature of the training that is required by Home Affairs officials. We think it is important for people to have a recognised qualification when they have completed the training. We think this is important.
In terms of whether we are taking Defence officials because of their security background; yes. We are just piloting this with Defence not just because of this background, but also because you require a certain level of patriotism to be able to lay down your life for your country. The security background is also important, and will come in useful when dealing with ports of entry. But, we are also short of people. And, we have a decision by government to share officials within the cluster so it is in line with this as well.
Whether we have spoken to the military unions – this will be dealt with by the Department of Defence. We have talked to unions relevant to us – the Public Service Association (PSA) and National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU).
(Director-General Mkuseli Apleni): In terms of the ranks, it is important to understand that once they join the Department of Home Affairs, they will assume the rank structure of the public service.
In terms of the 350 officers, the breakdown is as follows:
1 X Director, responsible for the management of the airport
3 X Deputy Directors
15 X Assistant Directors
14 X level 8
291 X level 6
Question: Minister, could you please provide some clarity – when you say you are short of staff, are you saying the transfer of the Defence Force officers will be permanent?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): Yes, it will be permanent.
Question: Minister, could you please provide more background on the Cubans – are they full time employees of the Cuban government who have been seconded to the South African government? Can you tell us if these will be interior ministry troops?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): Yes, the people who will be coming will be from the Cuban Ministry of Interior, although this operates a little differently to the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa. It includes the Police, the Coast Guard and so on. It also included people who deal with issues we at Home Affairs deal with – ports of entry, civic issues, etc. The officials are however not troops.
They are seconded for the period of the training. We did not think they should remain permanently although the training will be ongoing. They will train the trainers and then work with the trainers for a short while following which our trainers will continue with the training.
Question: Minister, I take it that once the officials from OR Tambo have been trained, the officers from the Defence Force will go back to their own posts?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): No, I said they are being laterally transferred – this is why we are employing them according to our own ranks and conditions of service.
Our immigration officers from OR Tambo International will be the first to be part of the SAQA recognised course. They will start there and when they have finished this course, they will be placed according to our needs at the time. They are our permanent employees. It is like any reskilling of your personnel. You do not discard reskilled staff.
Question: Minister, when will the reskilling of other staff from other ports of entry begin? Will you then require more staff from the Department of Defence?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): As I said, we are piloting this at the OR Tambo International Airport and we will see how it is working. If it is working well, we will spread it out to other ports of entry. We will have our own trainers by then and we will then reskill other personnel. We will be reskilling all our staff, not just from the ports of entry.
Immigration officials will be trained by our staff. The Cubans are here to train our trainers and then to work with the first group our trainers will be training. Then our trainers will be able to conduct the training themselves.
Question: Minister, to deviate a bit, you have been mentioned as a candidate for the post of African Union Commissioner. How is that process going?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): I really do not like to talk about this issue. I am the Minister of Home Affairs; I am here to do my work at this department. I think it is DIRCO who announced this, so I think I will refer you to them.
Question: Minister, Cuba and South Africa are very different countries. What about the model has allowed you to believe it will work in South Africa?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): We have looked at other models – were not taking the Cuban model in its entirety. There are aspects we like and we are taking these aspects. As a government, we also have a co-operation agreement with the Cuban government.
Question: Minister, why are you just not employing more people? Why are you training Defence officers and retraining your entire deployment at OR Tambo International? Secondly, it seems you are totally redeploying your current OR Tambo staff component with all their experience and skills – does not this create a security risk by putting in new people? You have spoken about the Cuban model – what is lacking in our systems that you are looking to Cuba? What other models did you look at besides Cuba?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): I think I had said that government took a decision that we should share personnel amongst ourselves. I also emphasised that ports of entry are a security area and therefore if we are to pilot sharing personnel this is where it should begin because this is where the security is most important.
If we take these 350 officers from the Defence force, they will have to employ another 350 younger officers. So, we are contributing to job creation at that level although it is within the cluster. We are not going to just deplete the Defence force. This will contribute to the rejuvenation of the Defence Force.
I did not think we needed to give you the finer details of our deployment plans. Obviously, we will not wake up today and say all of you are out and all of you are in. I think you should give us the credit that we will be able to manage this. We will do it in a way that will manage the transition.
The Department of Home Affairs is not a new department – even in a democratic South Africa. They have been working with other models, we are just adding to what we found. We have agreements in immigration with a number of countries so I do not think we should see this as a totally new department. It has existed and this is just one more country we are co-operating with.
Question: Minister, can you be more specific about the training that will be provided?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): Let me say that immigration officers obviously have to be trained in how to process people into and out of a port of entry. They must also be trained in how to look at people. Let me give you an example – if someone comes in looking very nervous for no reason – but you have to be trained to recognise this – and you are not going to ask why he is nervous, and there are also levels of immigration. You need to know when to escalate an issue. You need to also be trained in terms of how to scan a passport – not just in terms of authenticity but also in terms of where the person comes from – does his story make sense.
To ask a few questions – for instance if someone says he is a tourist, when you ask how must money he is carrying you will know this does not tally with this purpose. Or for instance, someone will say they are here to shop – but when you assess the money they have, it is not more than enough for two nights’ accommodation and some food. So where will they be shopping. These are just a few examples.
You also need to be trained to resist temptation because there is a lot of temptation at ports of entry. I do not have to elaborate. So there are practical aspects of the training but also skills to allow you to draw from your inner strength to resist temptation.
Question: Minister, how confident are you that you will not be receiving soldiers who you cannot train anyway?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): We are not going to be taking 50 or 60 years old. But, I also think that what you lose in agility you may gain in experience so we must strive to get the balance right. There is not a lot of running around required in immigration but you are required to have a lot of experience, strength, and maturity.
Question: Minister, we are asking about the selection criteria for Defence forces. Can any soldier apply for a transfer to the Department of Home Affairs?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): Obviously, if you are looking for a director at the Department of Home Affairs, you are not going to look for an entry level official at the Defence Force. It will have to be equivalent. But, the majority will be young, entry level officers as you have heard from the Director-General.
We will also be having strict recruitment measures – so it is not just that anyone who applies will get the posts. You also have to ensure that as far as possible the person you are taking can be trained to resist temptation, to do what needs to be done, so we are working with people who have a lot of experience in recruitment. It will not just be a case where we will take anyone the Defence Force says they no longer need.
Question: Minister, can you please provide an update on the Zimbabwe Documentation Project especially in light of reports that the Department is breaking the moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabwean nationals?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma): I do not understand what you mean by breaking the moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabwean nationals. The way in which I understand it, the moratorium applied to specific people who entered South Africa at a specific time. There is no moratorium for Zimbabweans who come into South Africa today and break our immigration law, from deportation.
The period of the moratorium was even before I came to the Department so I think there has always been confusion that there is a blanket moratorium on deportations for Zimbabweans. How can there be such a blanket exemption for Zimbabweans, it cannot be? How can we say as a country, if you are from Zimbabwe you can break our immigration laws with no consequences?
The moratorium therefore applied to a particular period. This is why people had to register. If you break our laws, we will arrest you.
On the Zimbabwe Documentation Project, it has gone very well albeit with a few constraints. There are people who have not given us their fingerprints and we cannot give those permits without their fingerprints. Some have not given us their passports. In addition, I have been receiving reports that there are some who have not responded to our calls so they can provide us with the required documents or information. We have almost pre-adjudicated everyone but we need your passports and fingerprints before we can issue the permits. More than half have been issued with permits. We cannot do much for those who have submitted all that is required.
Department of Home Affairs
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Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
6 Oct 2011
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