The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Njabulo Nzuza, has told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that the high influx of unregistered foreign nationals into South Africa was putting a huge burden on the country’s social welfare spending. The department expects that the Border Management Authority Bill will be able to address this challenge.

During a report-back session of the Taking Parliament to the People Programme in Gauteng, the Deputy Minister also commended the NCOP for expediting the bill and enacting important amendments. The NCOP adopted amendments to the bill and passed it in December last year, before referring it back to the National Assembly for further processing and concurrence. The Bill is now with the President to be signed into law.

“We are grateful to the NCOP for processing the Border Management Authority Bill and we believe it will go a long way in resolving migration in our country and restore the integrity of our borders,” he said.

Deputy Minister Nzuza was also confident that the new legislation will encourage those who want to enter the country to do so legally and tighten border security.

Currently South Africa’s borders are managed by seven different departments and entities applying 58 different laws passed by Parliament. They are Home Affairs, South African Police Service, South African National Defence Force, Agriculture, Land and Rural Development, Health, Environment and the South African Revenue Service. Under the proposed Border Management Authority, which the bill seeks to establish, there will be one command structure and one governance system, and the management of the borders will become rationalised.

In 2018, the NCOP heard that the high number of foreign nationals coming into Gauteng, in addition to South Africans from other provinces seeking jobs, education and other opportunities, resulted in unprecedented population growth in the province. This affects budget allocation for the delivery of services.

The Deputy Minister also responded to concerns about undocumented children born to foreign nationals, which he said his department together with the Department of Basic Education were working to make sure no child was denied access to education. He also called on the parents to act responsibly to ensure their children are correctly documented. “Other people believe that if a child is born in South Africa, they automatically become a citizen, but the truth is that a child follows the status of their parents.

“The children who are born in South Africa are not denied the right to go to school. The issue is about parents acting responsibly and the children follow the status of their parents. We issue a notice of birth, which the parents must take their embassy which will inform their home affairs department to issue a birth certificate,” the Deputy Minister explained.

Mr Nzuza also warned foreign nationals in South Africa to respect the law and refrain from committing crimes. “There is no law in South Africa that says if you are a foreign national you must not abide by the laws. If you break the law, we don’t treat you differently because of nationality. You will be arrested and charged regardless of whether you are a refugees or asylum seekers, and a person who is undocumented means is in illegally in the country and must be deported,” he said.

Gauteng Community Safety MEC Ms Faith Mazibuko told the NCOP that since the Taking Parliament to the People visit in 2018, the province has since developed an action plan and hopes to reduce crime by up to 50 percent over the next five years. The NCOP also heard that overcrowding in the province’s correctional facilities has decreased from 30 percent to 27. According to the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services in Gauteng, Ms Grace Molatedi, this was mainly as a result of the remission of sentences that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last year.

Sakhile Mokoena

17 March 2020