It might just be me and some winter rains having come through in the Western Cape, but there seems to be a feeling of slight reprieve and recovery in the air, a gathering of energy for the next (big?) battle.

The disbelief and shock of, amongst other things, the cabinet reshuffle earlier this year have transformed into calm and determined action. Voices speaking up against poor governance, corruption and state capture are growing in number and force and now include senior and prominent ANC stalwarts. The thousands of pages of leaked emails involving the infamous Gupta family, as outrageous as some of their content is, only strengthen this faction. The ANC’s Policy Conference earlier this month mirrored the atmosphere in the country – one marked less by explosive confrontations, but rather by a quiet awareness and growing of the different groupings – those supporting president Zuma and his preferred successor and former Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and those opposed to him and in support of Cyril Ramaphosa as next president of the ANC and the country. No doubt there is feverish work behind the scenes, but up until the ANC’s presidential elections in November, the conflict is unlikely to erupt.

Bold steps towards abolishing university fees have been agreed on at the conference, even though the financing of these has not been clarified.

Similarly bold changes are envisaged by the Department of Home Affairs. According to a White Paper on Migration (approved by cabinet in March) and a Discussion Paper on the Repositioning of the Department of Home Affairs (published in May), a new positioning of this department is being proposed, and the idea is for it to become a key strategic nodal point in the country for questions of security, economic growth, and more. Amendments to immigration, citizenship and refugee laws are planned, as well as the establishment of a super-authority called “Border Management Authority” (see below for details). Systems and processes are to be considerably modernized, and immigration and citizenship are to be used more strategically to benefit the country.

Capacitating the Department of Home Affairs’ systems and people is not a bad idea at all and more than needed. Whether this will be done in a manner that allows for a smooth transition, transparently and efficiently, I am less positive about. Already there are concerns about foreigners’ (not only refugees’) rights being violated, but the full de facto impact of the proposed changes will likely only be visible in the time to come.

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