/ 9 January 2020

Motsoaledi report card is ‘way off the mark’



To respond, or not to respond, that is the question. For, by my truth, a Cabinet report card is, by its very nature, subjective, if not biased. Yet we’ve grown accustomed each year to bear the whips and scorns of its compilers.

The report card on Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, is way off the mark.

Notwithstanding my little knowledge of how a card like this is conjured up, I do believe the misappraisal stems from the items selected to justify the grading. When these are further from the truth, the grade is bound to be flawed. Take, for instance, this alleged “absence” on issues to do with refugees.

In this short period of being in the post, Motsoaledi has engaged diverse formations of asylum seekers and refugees. He’s met the United Nations Refugee Agency on the matter of the protesting migrants. I therefore don’t see this “absence” the report card mentions.

In addition to providing accommodation to more than 280 protesting refugees, for verification, the department of home affairs has attended to their needs and concerns, including during the latest visit to Lindela Repatriation Centre, on December 12 2019, by acting director general Thulani Mavuso, on the minister’s instruction.

Motsoaledi has ensured that quarterly consultative meetings are set up between the department’s managers and representatives of asylum seekers and refugees. This team recently had its first meeting in Pretoria where the modus operandi was discussed and some pressing issues raised by the representatives, among them the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa.

Mildly put, this report card isn’t a fair assessment. It’s based largely on allegations being peddled long before Motsoaledi took the reins at the department, such as “xenophobialite”, whatever that means.

The report card turns a blind eye to breakthroughs made by the department and the justice, crime prevention and security cluster in dealing with crime and corruption.

South Africa’s gratitude to freedom-loving countries that supported us during the bitter struggle against colonialism and apartheid is beyond reproach. During a recent two-day visit to South Africa, UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi pledged continued support to and co-operation with the South African government on the protection of refugees.

In an October 16 2019 statement, the UN Refugee Agency referred to South Africa’s decades of hospitality and open-door policy towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Grandi commended the country for its efforts to encourage their socioeconomic inclusion.

According to the UN refugee chief, “South Africa has been a place where many people have come to flee from war, conflict and persecution”. He noted, “like many other countries, South Africa is also challenged by increasingly complex migration flows, including people moving for economic opportunities”.

Volumes can be and are being written about the role we play as a country to silence the guns in our region, on the continent and beyond.

The report card says Motsoaledi is in a portfolio that is meant to oversee the status of citizens and migrants in South Africa. But, having said that, it continues to rate the minister and the department predominantly on the basis of the work it does in asylum management.

Only two paragraphs speak to citizen affairs. They show impressive progress on technological advancements to process things faster, reduction in waiting time for documents and on partnerships with banking institutions for online processing of applications for smart ID cards and passports. Since his arrival in the department, the minister prioritised these areas, as reflected in his speech at the 2019 home affairs budget vote.

I don’t know if your report card allows you to look at other issues outside those pre-selected and easily articulated from the compiler’s position.

It’s not sinful to give credit where it’s due. Motsoaledi has accelerated the implementation of the e-Visa system, to enable visitors to apply online for visas. This is a great stride in advancing the national drive to attract more tourists to the country and so grow the economy for a better life for our people.

As a major achievement in his first months in office, there has been a movement in the establishment of a border authority, which had been ultimately approved by the National Council of Provinces.

The less said, the better, about the illustrations by Carlos Amato, ’tis not nobler in the mind.

David Hlabane, department of home affairs media manager