Home affairs should manage state security
2017-03-05 06:01

S’thembile Cele and Setumo Stone

The department of home affairs is currently “wrongly positioned” and should ideally be dealing with critical matters of state security, according to an ANC discussion document on peace and stability.

The document, which will form the basis for talks at the party’s upcoming policy conference in June, argues that the role of the department is “widely misunderstood” to be that of an administrative department that delivers routine services of low value.

Instead, it proposes that it be elevated to a strategic and crucial national security, service-delivery and economic development unit.

It says that the department has been severely underfunded over the past 23 years leading to ongoing tensions between locals and foreign nationals.

The abuse of the asylum-seeker system by migrants with low skills levels, combined with the 2008 influx of Zimbabweans, led to a systems breakdown and social unrest.

South Africa saw violent attacks on foreign nationals in 2008, 2015 and again in recent weeks.

While the department’s inclusion in the justice cluster in 2019 was a positive step, the document says its policy framework and security should be repositioned and its operational and organisational structures and funding remodelled.

The document advocates the department’s inclusion in the security architecture of the country, presenting Zambia’s home affairs system as a case study where the minister of home affairs is responsible for the police service, prisons and immigration.

The document also questions the wisdom of footing the bill for the long imprisonment of foreign nationals who commit serious crimes such as murder and robbery, instead of sending these convicts to their countries of origin to serve their sentences.

There are 6 440 sentenced foreign nationals in South Africa’s 243 correctional centres who are serving an average of 10.6 years for various crimes committed in South Africa, costing taxpayers up to R845m a year and R8.96bn over their average 10-year sentence period.

The cost of rehabilitation is also described as fruitless, “given the fact that on completion of the sentence, they get deported”.