Home affairs portfolio committee promises tighter borders

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba during an interview related to service delivery on May 03, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba during an interview related to service delivery on May 03, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: Gallo Images

The Joburg mayor accused the department of slackness in dealing with illegal and undocumented immigrants in the city.

The parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs wants strict control of South Africa’s borders and documentation of everyone passing through all ports of entry.

The announcement by the committee, which would visit Johannesburg towards the end of August, came as pressure mounted for South African authorities, particularly home affairs, to strictly implement immigration laws to prevent illegal and undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

The committee’s quick response followed criticism of home affairs by Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba for slackness in dealing with illegal and undocumented immigrants in the city. Mashaba put pressure on the committee when he wrote a letter asking for its intervention, after home affairs failed to act to tighten controls at the borders.

Mashaba wrote to the committee to increase its oversight on the matter due to increasing lawlessness involving some immigrants. Last week foreign nationals stoned police in the Johannesburg CBD after the law enforcers came to confiscate counterfeit goods from foreign vendors.

The confrontation with the police sparked a huge outcry from authorities including national, provincial and local governments, various political parties and a number of civil society organisations. Home affairs was further criticised for the illegal immigrants that had filled the country’s major urban centres such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.

Committee chairperson Bongani Bongo yesterday said his committee was committed to strengthening oversight on various aspects of the department’s work, especially around immigration

Bongo called for the full implementation of immigration laws and regulations to ensure that everyone within the borders of South Africa is documented. He said the information gathered through documentation was essential for other government departments and non-governmental organisations to plan their work effectively.

“The portfolio committee has committed itself to strengthening oversight on various aspects of the department’s work, especially around immigration. The National Development Plan is clear on the advantages of legal and developmental migration, and the intention is to strengthen the department’s work in this area,” he said.

“The committee is clear that immigration should be legal and it wants the department to strengthen procedures for processing immigrants’ applications. It is untenable that a country can have large numbers of undocumented immigrants and nothing is done about it,” Bongo said.

There is a plan to implement a border management authority, which Bonga said was necessary to safeguard the country’s borders.

The committee wanted a seamless process in and out of the country as one pillar in curbing illegal immigration. They also wanted to see capacity enhancement given priority at the immigration services inspectorate, which was currently understaffed.

“But enforcement must be preceded by properly working application systems that are not prone to inordinate delays,” Bongo said.

The committee called for the fight against forgery and corruption to be strengthened, starting inside the home affairs department. Accepting bribes to circumvent the system will not be tolerated.

The committee would conduct an oversight visit to Gauteng from 26-30 August 2019 to hold discussions with various stakeholders, including home affairs, to find a solution to the issue of documentation for immigrants.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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