Hon Chairperson, hon members, good afternoon. The Committee on Home Affairs visited the Barrack Street field offices on Tuesday, 26 August. It selected a Tuesday because they are the busiest days of the week, given the transport arrangements in Cape Town.
The objective of the committee had been to oversee the treatment of and services rendered to clients of the Department Home Affairs in its different areas of operation, namely, issuing of smart cards, which are an implementation of the biometric ID system; management of queues; the modernisation programme of introducing e-governance to assist in the combat of fraud, crime and corruption. We also wanted to oversee the treatment of immigrants as well as attitudes of staff towards clients.
Smart cards were issued free of charge to 16-year-olds and those over 60 years of age. There was no paperwork involved. According to the manager, Mr Mokgele, those who could not make it in the queue on any day were prioritised in the queue on the following day.
We found that because of the renovations a number of booths were not operational and therefore the issuing of smart cards was delayed. The delegation was taken to another floor where immigrants were processed. It was reported that the office had 19 newly appointed staff members of a total of 106 employees.
The offices have no detention facilities. Therefore, illegal immigrants were detained at Pollsmoor Prison before being sent to Lindela for repatriation; as a result of an agreement between the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Home Affairs. We found that each month there were 15 to 20 marriages between South Africans and foreign nationals. The majority of immigrants were Somali.
There were occasions when people could not apply for smart cards because internet services were down. The downtime was mostly caused by the State Information Technology Agency, Sita. The other challenge was high volumes experienced on Tuesdays because of the free transport that is made available to the elderly. We therefore recommended that the life capture functionality should be spread to other offices to reduce the numbers of people coming to the Barrack Street offices. More capacity should be generated to roll out more smart IDs. There should be arrangements with Sits to make arrangements to reduce internet downtimes. The impact of renovations should be minimised.
In conclusion, we found that the staff members were efficient, decent and professional to clients. We are becoming a capable state indeed. In that office the future is promising and we are proud of the staff, the Minister, the department and the management of the offices. Thank you. [Applause.]
There was no debate.