Letter

Home affairs is improving daily, not plotting darkly

27 May 2018 - 00:00 By Mayihlome Tshwete

In "A parallel, shadow regime has hijacked control of SA's borders" (May 20), Gary Eisenberg claims that "control of our borders was ultimately wrestled by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including Sars, by Gigaba's championing of the Border Management Authority Bill".
Minister Gigaba was not at home affairs when the National Assembly approved the bill in 2017 and referred it to the National Council of Provinces - that was former minister Hlengiwe Mkhize.
It is unthinkable that Eisenberg's imaginary "complex" is busy hatching "a silent coup" in some quiet dark corner of the land, "seizing power from other departments" through a yet-to-be-established border management authority, for the use of top home affairs managers.
We are expected to believe with no proof shared that compliant applications are frequently rejected and appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied. The department maintains a high standard of professional ethics, provides services impartially, and strives for accountability and transparency.
The changes we have made, which Eisenberg ignored, benefit even foreign nationals, including developing a Trusted Traveller system for bona fide frequent travellers, providing biometric capability at four airports and six land ports and introducing a visa exemption for Russia that increased tourist travel from there by 51% in 2017, year on year.This year we will simplify visa requirements for Chinese and Indian visitors and ease the entry of people with valid visas from countries such as the US and the UK.
Working closely with stakeholders, including the departments of tourism and transport, the Airports Company South Africa and the tourism industry, we will develop and implement a strategy to grow South Africa as an attractive and efficient transit hub and destination for tourists and business people.
In June 2016, Gary Eisenberg accused Minister Malusi Gigaba of preferring an isolationist policy bent on creating a Department of Home Affairs for South Africans, not for immigrants. We gave him examples of states using similar border management authorities for secure border management. Cited was France, a modern state boasting high volumes of travellers. Other countries we listed were Canada, the UK, and the US, none of which he would dare label isolationist, or, of late, instigators of a “silent coup” to which we now have graduated, courtesy of Eisenberg’s myopic and opportunistic analysis.
He now alleges “the department does not operate solely within the ordinary legislative and constitutional framework” (Sunday Times, May 20), a very serious allegation he does little, if anything, to substantiate, empirically, or rationally. Adds Eisenberg in his twisted logic: “The home affairs complex has captured South Africa’s borders in a quiet coup that has escaped the scrutiny of the public protector and observers.”
Appalling of course is why, with his credentials in law, he opts for a newspaper to air his grievances. South Africa has in place mechanisms for promoting efficient administration, and ensuring administrators carry out their duties and perform their functions within the confines of the law and consistent with the Constitution and other legislation.
It is not sufficient to allege existence of a so-called home affairs managerial complex with no facts to back such outrageous claims.Equally impossible to fathom is this “established group”, including, as he claims, director-general Mkuseli Apleni and deputy director-general Jackson Mckay.  The director-general is the accounting officer, as in any other government department. The deputy director-general referred to is responsible for immigration management.
But alas! Eisenberg does know about executive authority vested in a minister and generally how government works. It is hardly four months since Minister Gigaba returned to Home Affairs. Transformation of South Africa’s international migration policy and management began long before he was Home Affairs Minister.
Eisenberg forgets it was Cabinet in 2013 that resolved a Border Management Authority be established that will include the ceding and transfer of functions from relevant organs of the state; not Minister Gigaba, the DG, or the mythical Eisenbergian “complex”.
It therefore boggles the mind to have him say among other strangest of claims that “control of our borders was ultimately wrestled by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including SARS, by Gigaba’s championing of the Border Management Authority Bill.”
Minister Gigaba was not at Home Affairs when the National Assembly approved the Bill in 2017 and duly referred it to the National Council of Provinces, it was former Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize.
The burden of proof rests on the shoulders of he who alleges a coup of sorts and existence of “a shadow decision-making authority within the department”. His perceived shift in policy from “isolating” foreigners, whatever that means, to isolating South Africans and other organs of state also needs to be motivated, as it flies in the face of reality.
It is unthinkable that his imaginary “complex” is busy hatching “a silent coup”, in some quiet dark corner of the land, “seizing power from other departments” through a yet to be established border management authority, for the use of top home affairs managers. This says much about what Eisenberg thinks of South Africa, its people and its government.It’s painful how he turns serious matters into jokes. The scourge of human trafficking is real. It is not fabricated, and was not the only consideration underpinning the comprehensive review of immigration policy.
It is easy to say this “has been widely observed” or to conjure some ill-defined “common belief” when you see no obligation, whatsoever, to elaborate.
The ethics of intellectual combat surely demand more than sweeping statements of an angry immigration practitioner, like claiming the eradication of corruption was a ruse and that our borders are effectively closed to foreigners. Sadly, we are expected to believe with no proof shared that compliant applications are frequently rejected and appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied.
As logic has it, in the wake of “gross inefficiency” and “designed chaos”, the department would not have achieved an unqualified audit outcome. We maintain a high standard of professional ethics, adhere to efficient, economic and effective use of resources, provide services impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias, and, importantly, we strive for accountability and transparency at all times, for better and improved public services.The changes we made, Eisenberg ignored, benefit even foreign nationals, including developing Trusted Traveller system for bona fide frequent travellers, providing biometric capability at four airports and six land ports and introducing a visa exemption for Russia which has increased tourist travel from Russia by 51% in 2017, year on year.
Among other things, this year we will simplify visa requirements for Chinese and Indian visitors and ease the entry of people with valid visas from countries with stringent criteria such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Working closely with stakeholders, including Departments of Tourism and Transport, ACSA and the tourism industry, we will develop and implement a strategy to grow South Africa as an attractive and efficient transit hub and destination for tourists and businesspeople.
I believe what would bring contempt for the law would be to approve all applications automatically, without following fair procedures, on the basis that we did receive an application. Eisenberg sees South Africa as “a country of foreigners” (his words). But, for many, it is home. And every home has rules. He should read our policies. Period.
• Response to Gary Eisenberg (opinion piece Sunday Times May 20) by Mayihlome Tshwete, Department of Home Affairs head of communication and spokesperson for Minister Malusi Gigaba
THIS IS AN EXTENDED VERSION OF THE LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE SUNDAY TIMES ON MAY 27 2018

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