Department of Home Affairs (South Africa)
Logo of the department
|Formed||31 May 1910|
|Jurisdiction||Government of South Africa|
|Headquarters||Hallmark Building, Corner of Johannes Ramokhoase & Thabo Sehume Street, Pretoria
|Annual budget||R5,719.6 million (2010/11)|
The department is responsible for:
- Maintenance of the National Population Register (the civil registry), including the recording of births, marriages/civil partnerships and deaths.
- Issuing identity documents and passports.
- Issuing visas for visitors to South Africa (although visa applications pass through embassies or consulates which are part of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation).
- Managing immigration to South Africa and naturalization of permanent immigrants.
- Handling refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.
- Controlling ports of entry at land borders, seaports and airports.
Extremely Poor Service
The department has been criticized for its inefficiency, particularly in regard to processing documents. Eye Witness News reported that it will take two years to process visa requests from Zimbabwe citizens applying for work and study permits.
In another case, The Sowetan reports that as South African citizen has unsuccessfully tried to attain an identity document for four years . There have also been reports of the incompetency of the officers themselves. For instance some of them do not even know the relevant documents that need to be submitted for a particular visa application. In some scenarios, 2 identical applicants submitting the exact documents for the exact visa might not get the same response. One might be refused while the other one might be approved. Some applicants might have their applications rejected several times, either because they are only being informed of the relevant documents to be submitted each time their applications get rejected or the Home Affairs officials processing the documents are themselves not aware of the immigration rules of the country and thus a well completed application that deserved to be approved might still be rejected. It is not surprising that a straight forward application might take up to 2 years to be processed, while ideally in an effective system, they would be processed in a couple of months at worst. The consequences of such inefficiency can be worrying. Many foreigners thus often find themselves working illegally or even losing their bread winning job, simply because the system takes too long to process their visas.
Harshness on Applicants
Communication is also a major issue. Apart from the call centre, where the operators can provide technical advise with regards to lodging complaints, follow ups on applications and referring a complaint or question to the " Right Person" , there is actually no efficient way of contacting the actual immigration officers themselves, especially when it comes to getting explanation and professional advises on delicate matters. Phone calls usually go unanswered. Emails sent to the designated immigration officers also go unswered most of the time. If a phone call or an email ever get answered, the applicant usually gets told that his complaint or request will be referred to the "Right Person" and that an immigration officer will contact him in due time. It turns out that most of the time the applicant never gets called back. What usually follows is that the applicant usually phone again or send a new email only to have a totally new person attending to him ( if he is lucky enough ), to whom the applicant will have to reexplain his entire problem. This vicious cycle usually goes on for a long time to the point that some applicants actually give up because of the harshness of the system.
There have been numerous reports of corruption within Home Affairs. In February 2010 the department closed one of its Johannesburg offices due to corruption. A number of officials and staff members have appeared in court for alleged corruption and bribery  . Allegations include the sale of fake passports.
In May 2010 it was reported that the Department of Home Affairs had not paid its bill to the Government Printing Works, leading to a delay in the issuance of new passports. Home Affairs is facing lawsuits of R 5 billion for various breaches of terms and contracts. The same article reports that the department also faces lawsuits from "people erroneously declared dead, people whom they failed to issue with identity documents and others arrested after their IDs were used in a fraudulent manner."
A report by the country's Public Service Commission found that the Department of Home Affairs accounted for 22 of the 260 financial misconduct cases for national departments in 2008/9.
- "Vote 4: Home Affairs" (PDF). Estimates of National Expenditure 2010. Pretoria: National Treasury. 17 February 2010. ISBN 978-0-621-39079-7. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Rice, Catherine (3 January 2011). "Zim applications will take 2 years to process". Eye Witness News.
- Sakuneka, Michael (5 January 2011). "Getting an ID book a struggle". The Sowetan (Johannesburg).
- "Home Affairs closes Jhb office due to corruption". Jacaranda 94.2 (Johannesburg). 12 February 2010.
- Mukhuthu, Evans (12 August 2010). "IT boss and home affairs official nabbed for corruption". Times Live.
- "Three home affairs officials in court for corruption". The Citizen Online. 25 December 2010.
- Essop, Rahima (16 July 2009). "More arrests expected for corruption in Home Affairs". Eye Witness News.
- "DA statement on Home affairs's R126million debt to GPW", From the Old, http://fromtheold.com/news/da-statement-home-affairss-r126million-debt-gpw-2010031016905.html, 10 March 2010
- "Home affairs being sued for R6.8bn". News 24. 30 September 2010.
- "Overview on Financial Misconduct for the 2008/2009 Financial Year", Public Service Commission, http://www.psc.gov.za/documents/2010/PSC%20Overview%20on%20financiaL.pdf