Corruption an 'entrenched culture' at Home Affairs

Corruption is endemic at the Department of Home Affairs, Deputy Director General Vusi Mkhize said on Tuesday.

He was responding to a question posed at a parliamentary media briefing on how widespread corruption was in his department.

“I think the issue of corruption ... and the department has not shied away from the problem, it is just generally an endemic problem.

“[We] have ... a situation where, constantly, throughout the years, it has become an entrenched culture to solicit bribes [and] to solicit any other untoward mechanisms,” he told journalists.

The influence of criminal syndicates was a long-standing problem that the department was doing everything it could to root out.

Society in general was suffering from moral decay and a “lack of concern about doing work honestly with integrity”.

Home affairs officials were part of this society too, he said.

“It takes someone outside to grease the palm of someone inside the department.”

Mkhize said there was a need for a “holistic approach” towards dealing with corruption.

“In a nutshell, we do have a challenge, but the impression is sometimes created [that] all home affairs officials are corrupt.
This is really not true. We do have people who are corrupt, but there are [people who toil] ... and do their work as honestly as possible,” he said.

Refugee centres in crisis
Meanwhile, South Africa’s refugee and asylum centres are in crisis, choked with thousands of people from neighbouring states seeking work, MPs heard on Tuesday.

“There is a crisis within the refugee asylum-seeker areas—just the sheer numbers who are coming into South Africa and applying for asylum,” Home Affairs Immigration Deputy Director General Jackie MacKay told Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee.

He said there was “abuse” of the asylum-seeking process.

“We find that most of the people who apply for asylum and for refugee status are what we call economic migrants. They do not qualify in the true sense of the word, as refugees, as per international [norms].”

Speaking later to the South African Press Association, MacKay said a total of 7 415 first-time applicants had arrived at home affairs’s seven asylum centres around the country in the first week of this month alone (August 28 to September 3).

Over and above this, the centres had handled 12 130 people who came in to have their permits extended.

In the second week (September 4 to 10) there had been a further 8 461 newcomers and 12 920 permit holders seeking an extension.

MacKay earlier told the committee his department was rejecting most of the applications it received.

“We find that we have a rejection rate of about 90% presently ... purely because they are not genuine refugees ... we find our systems are clogged.”

The department planned to approach Cabinet for “in-principle approval” to separate economic migrants from asylum seekers.

“This will take about 70% to 80% of people away from the asylum-seeking processes.”

There was also a need to establish transit facilities for refugees. “[Areas] where people are kept, with free but controlled movement, while their application for asylum is being looked at.”

An inter-department team had been set up to deal with this issue.

Mackay said later that the crisis in Zimbabwe was part of the reason the department’s centres were clogged with applicants.

“The situation in Zimbabwe has exacerbated the issue.”

MacKay did not say how many people were applying for asylum at the department’s refugee centres, and home affairs officials were not immediately available to comment on this.—Sapa

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