SOUTH Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has appointed a five-member committee to review permits and visas issued to most immigrants who have been in that country since 2004.
He said the move was meant to weed out rent-seeking activities in the Department of Home Affairs considering that in some cases permits or visas were being corruptly issued to the wrong people.
South Africa is home to an estimated five million foreigners including Zimbabweans and others from across the globe.
At least 300 000 Zimbabweans are in the neighbouring country under the three-year Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) which will expire at the end of December this year.
Minister Motsoaledi told journalists in Pretoria on Wednesday that the committee will review the Permanent Residence Permits (PRP), which are just a step away from citizenship, corporate visa, especially in the mining sector, business visa, (professional) critical skills visa, and retired persons’ visa, citizenship by naturalisation and study visa.
“We chose 2004 as the cut-off date because that is the year the Immigration Act, Act number 13 of 2002, came into operation,” he said.
The Minister said the review was necessitated by the trend emerging from the outcomes of cases involving prominent people investigated by the Department’s Counter Corruption Unit (CCU), which investigates wrongdoing by departmental officials.
He said they had established that 66 percent, or nearly two out of every three reported cases, involved permitting and that the cases were being reported by different whistle-blowers using different avenues to reach the CCU.
“In November 2020, during a high-powered investigation, I was alarmed when 14 members of the permitting section signed a petition demanding that the CCU should stop investigating their errors.
“This admission strengthened my resolve to have a more transparent permit issuance regime,” he said.
The committee members are Dr Cassuis Lubisi (Chairperson), with extensive experience in governance as a Director-General in Government, Advocate Sesi Baloyi –a Senior Counsel who is the Chairperson of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates and Mr Peter Bishop – a forensic investigations specialist with vast experience in both the public and private sector locally and internationally.
Others are lawyer, Ms Kathleen Dlepu – the Chairperson of the Legal Services Council, formerly Law Society and Prof Somadoda Fikeni – an academic with extensive experience at university level and a Commissioner at the Public Service Commission.
Minister Motsoaledi expects the committee to present an interim report in three months.
“The three months period is not an indication of the lifespan of this Committee, but this target communicates our desire for a speedy conclusion of the review because most of the information to be reviewed is already held within the Home Affairs Department,” he said.
Minister Motsoaledi said the committee will also identify loopholes in the Home Affairs system and recommend improvements.