Daily Archives: February 17, 2017

President Jacob Zuma: Re-launch of Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre

Address by President Zuma, on the occasion of the re-launch of the Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre, renamed as Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre Marabastad, Pretoria

Minister Malusi Gigaba and other Ministers present,

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs

Representative from the Desmond and Leah Tutu Family

Representatives from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and key national stakeholders present

Leadership of organisations representing foreign nationals residing in our country,

DG Home Affairs and all senior officials,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished Guests

Thank you for joining our government today on this important occasion of celebrating the upgrading and re-launch of the Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre.

I visited this centre last year as part of the Presidential Siyahlola Monitoring programme. I received lots of complaints from people using the centre, foreign nationals.

The challenges experienced at Marabastad included limited human resource capacity, slow information technology infrastructure, inadequate filing systems, poor management practices and a working environment that was not conducive for clients and staff.

The centre was also marred by allegations of corruption, long queues, overcrowding and the presence of criminal syndicates.

Today is a happy occasion as we have come to open the revamped centre. We welcome the improvements that have been made.

Improvements have been made in respect of infrastructure including the redesign and refurbishment of public areas and office accommodation, signage, counters and lighting as well as the installation of a new security system and electrical fencing.

Other key interventions include the introduction of new systems and processes such as an automated booking system and electronic applications, improved registry and filing and continuous engagement with stakeholders.

Most importantly government wants to stop crime and corruption in the system and prevent crime syndicates from using asylum seekers to make money through bribes for permits which poses a serious security risk for the country. We urge asylum seekers not to fall into this trap as consequences are dire.

Government will not tolerate corruption in the refugee reception centres as well as in the documentation process.

The interventions made will improve the service delivery standards of the Centre to guarantee that all clients are treated in a humane and dignified manner, while also ensuring security.

The revamping of the Marabastad Centre forms part of a broader government strategy on migration. Cabinet approved a Green Paper for public consultation on 25 May 2016 on international migration. The Green Paper was launched in June 2016 and a White Paper will be submitted to Cabinet for approval by March 2017. We urge the public to participate in this policy making process.

The White Paper on International Migration seeks to balance our international humanitarian commitments with the need for meeting our domestic requirements including security and the social upliftment of our citizens.

How do we balance the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment of our own citizens with the international responsibility of accepting refugees from other countries as well? We need public comments on these critical questions.

One of the proposals in the White Paper is to move refugee reception centres next to our borders.

This is intended to better manage the large numbers of asylum seekers received. The Department of Home Affairs would be able to ensure speedy processing of applications and provide quick integration assistance to qualifying refugees.

Let me emphasise that Government is not seeking to create camps or to restrict the movement of refugees.

The purpose is to ensure proper coordinated migration and to enable government to document and know refugees so that they can be provided assistance. It is also a serious security matter for the country.

South Africa remains one of the top ten countries to which individuals seeking asylum go.

At its height around 2008 we were receiving up to one hundred and fifty thousand (150 000) applications per annum. This number has significantly decreased and stabilised around sixty thousand in recent years. However, this influx is still high and remains a challenge given the economic realities that South Africa faces as a developing nation.

It happens as we are still trying hard to overcome the legacy of apartheid and provide an equitable society to South African citizens especially black people who were historically and systematically subjugated.

Most asylum applications are received from nationals within the African continent notably from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Burundi and Ghana.

At the same time, there has been an increase in applications from the Asian sub-continent especially from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Our statistics indicate that the profile of asylum seekers remain largely males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years old. The Department of Home Affairs rejects close to ninety-five percent of the asylum applications because they are not genuine.

Most asylum seekers are actually economic migrants. When they get asylum permits they use these to work, study and operate businesses.

They know that they would not qualify for corresponding visas under the Immigration Act.

Given these numbers, it becomes easy to understand why the Marabastad Centre had been plagued with allegations of corruption, poor service delivery and the operation of criminal syndicates.

The Refugees Act of 1998 is also currently under review in Parliament and set to be amended. These amendments seek to primarily stop economic migrants from abusing the asylum system to regularize their stay in the country for work or business purposes.

We appreciate the understanding and tolerance of the South African people and the manner in which they have received many refugees who have been integrated into many communities.

We also emphasise that government is taking action against illegal migration and that all the processes we are mentioning are aimed at ensuring that the process becomes transparent and legal, and that government is able to register genuine refugees and assist them, and send back those who are taking chances.

Let me also remind our people that not all foreign nationals are in the country illegally, which is sometimes the view of some frustrated South Africans.

Many foreign nationals are most welcome in the country. They add to the cosmopolitan nature of our country. They bring much-needed skills that contribute to growing our economy.

I mentioned in the State of the Nation Address last year that we had heard concerns from companies about delays in obtaining visas for skilled staff from abroad.

The Department of Home has since implemented a 10-year multiple entry visas to bona fide business persons and academics from Africa.

There is also now a 10-year visa waiver for business executives from BRICS countries to remain in the Republic for 30 days.

In respect of priority given to the processing of visa applications for corporate clients, the Department of Home Affairs has established visa and permit service centres in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

These centres will offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ to prospective investors and exporters to fulfil administrative requirements and reduce turnaround times for visas for corporate clients.

The beneficiaries of this service are large businesses, organisations, and employers who make an important contribution to the economy in infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, retail, professional and financial services, research and development, and knowledge production.

Foreign graduates in South African tertiary institutions in the area of critical skills are also able to apply for permanent residence status in order for South Africa to retain the knowledge they have acquired, to the benefit of the South African economy.

Furthermore, critical skills visas are also issued to foreign students graduating from South African universities in the critical skills areas who do not intend to explore the permanent residence option.

This maximizes South Africa’s ability to utilize the skills capacity produced within the country’s borders to meet the skills requirement for the country’s development and economic objectives in particular.

The Department of Higher Education and Training is currently drafting a list of Occupations in Demand, which is the Scarce Skills List that will support Home Affairs in this process of helping the economy.

Honoured guests,

We deemed it prudent to rename the centre in line with our commitment as government to deliver a standard of service in line with our Batho Pele principles, putting people first.

We are happy that the centre is being named after a distinguished South African who has fought tirelessly for justice, equality, human rights and freedom.

Government appreciates the willingness and support of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation to rename the Marabastad Centre as the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre.

The values and principles of the Tutu Foundation are in line with our commitment of instilling a culture of Ubuntu and compassion at the Centre and across all government service delivery access points.

The re-launch of the Centre will not result in the overnight eradication of all the challenges.

The influx of asylum seekers will continue to put pressure on this centre. We urge staff to work with clients in a manner that promotes efficiency, effectiveness and which underscores human dignity, which are values that the Department of Home Affairs has been instilling over the years as part of its turnaround.

Government is committed to improving service delivery standards. The work achieved in turning around the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre is a testament to this commitment.

We want to make certain commitments that we will hold ourselves to.

South Africa will continue to honour its international and continental commitments to host refugees deserving of our protection.

We will better manage the asylum process to balance humanitarian needs with security requirements.

We will strive to put in place people, systems and processes aligned to deliver quality and speedy adjudication.

We will work with our international partners and continental counterparts towards building an Africa of peace, stability and economic prosperity, and thereby minimise the root causes of forced migration and economic migration.

We will build regional partnerships to manage migration in a mutually beneficial manner.

We thank all stakeholders for support in making this initiative a success.

In this year in which we are celebrating the life and legacy of a true internationalist, Oliver Reginald Tambo, I wish all stakeholders in the field of migration great success.

It is my honour and pleasure to declare the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre officially open!

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma officiates 6th Armed Forces Day celebration, 21 Feb

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Jacob Zuma, will on Tuesday, 21 February 2017, officiate at the 6th Armed Forces Day celebrations at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

This year’s Armed Forces Day celebration also commemorates the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi steamship which killed more than 600 black South Africans during the First World War.

In 2012, President Zuma proclaimed that 21 February each year will be observed and commemorated as Armed Forces Day to expand public understanding of the military’s role and its purpose to society as well as to demonstrate the military combat readiness against threats and as well as to support government during peace time.

Armed Forces Day remains one of the most important events in the country’s calendar as it showcases the capability and contribution to society of the country’s armed forces.

“Armed Forces Day honours members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for their outstanding service and dedication during various military operations in defending the territorial integrity of the Republic and protecting our people as well as their selfless contribution in international peacekeeping missions, mostly on the African continent.

This year’s Armed Forces Day also marks the centenary commemoration of one of the worst tragedies in the South African history where hundreds of South African troops, including 607 black troops, died during the sinking of the SS Mendi steamship during the First World War on 21 February 1917,” said the Commander-in-Chief, President Zuma.

During the main event of the Armed Forces Day, the President, will take the salute from the South African National Defence Force during the military parade and subsequently bestow military medals to honour some members of the SANDF for their outstanding work and for service to the country.

President Zuma will also lay a wreath in honour of the 616 troops of the South African Native Labour Corps (SANLC) who perished on 21 February 1917 when the SS Mendi steamship tragically sank in the English Channel on the way to France to participate in the First World War.

The SANDF is also hosting various build-up activities in and around eThekwini Municipality to which members of the public are invited to participate.

Source: Government of South Africa

National Student Financial Aid Scheme briefs media on 2017 applications for financial aid for university and TVET college students, 19 Feb

Update on 2017 NSFAS applications

The Chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – Mr Sizwe Nxasana will address the media on recent developments regarding the 2017 applications for financial aid for university and TVET college students.

Source: Government of South Africa

Cooperative Governance on impact of ex-cyclone Dineo in South Africa

Progress on the impact of ex-cyclone Dineo in South Africa

Following the entry of ex-cyclone Dineo into South Africa yesterday, reports show that a number of areas are already receiving high volumes of rain. As forecasted earlier, the three Provinces of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo have indeed experienced Dineo.

Areas like Graskop, Blyde Canyon, Punda Maria and Makhado are some of those that have already received varying levels of rain. About 166mm in 24hours of rain has been the highest volume experienced thus far in Graskop.

At this stage, no damages to infrastructure or loss of lives have been reported as our plans were able to mitigate thus far across the three affected provinces. But it is important to note that large parts of the country, especially in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and eastern Limpopo areas as more rain is expected.

According to the latest forecast from the weather service, the situation will surely change as more rain is expected during the cause of the day.

With the widespread rain expected today, the risks of flooding is still high and communities are requested to exercise caution and should heed the messages about tips provided to save their lives. Communities are also asked to be cautious as the rivers and dams in some of the affected areas might overflow, thus endangering the lives of the people.

Areas that we mentioned yesterday in both Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces (Mbombela, Nkomazi, Bushbuckridge, Phalaborwa, Tzaneen, Giyani, Maruleng, Malamulele, Musina and Thulamela), are therefore still at risk, as such we urge that caution be exercised.

Our plans are being implemented in all the affected provinces and municipalities. It is therefore important to note that communities are at the centre of our contingency plans which are geared to mitigate the negative impact of the storms and rains expected to pounce some parts of our country.

To this effect, even though government is ready and disaster management teams are on standby, we urge communities to get involved if we are to achieve the envisaged success.

“As we are working to ensure safety of communities in our country, we would like to express our sincere condolences to the authorities of Mozambique who have confirmed to us that thus far they have experienced 7 fatalities”, said Minister van Rooyen.

The disaster management teams across the three Provinces will continue to remain on high alert across all spheres of government to deal with any eventualities if they arise.

Source: Government of South Africa