It’s time to turn the department of home affairs around

The outcry is growing from the South African public about the lacklustre services that department of home affairs officials provide, a saga that has been ongoing for years. The list of grievances includes disheartening queues, which commence beyond the entrances of most of the home affairs branches, key machinery being intermittently offline, fallible officials prone to bribery and most recently, the growing calls for the resignation of Minister Aaron Motsoaledi

In my view, Motsoaledi is among the few performing ministers in an obsolete ANC-led government. He is sadly let down in his present ministry and its inept and corrupt staff. Removing him instead of the entire ANC cabinet would be similar to playing the man instead of the ball; such a move would not change anything. 

The department is plagued by obstinate challenges. The latest Hawks bust of a fake passport syndicate on 24 March 2022 is among a string of sagas that support claims of corrupt activities there. Motsoaledi confirmed that 29 suspects including an alleged kingpin, who was the mastermind behind the operation of selling fraudulent passports, were arrested in the home affairs office in Krugersdorp. More arrests are imminent at other branches. Details of the modus operandi of this syndicate confirm the deep rot of maladministration that disregards the immigration laws of South Africa. There have been many similar cases exposed at all levels of government by, for instance, the Zondo commission

Now there is “Operation Dudula” in Gauteng. These people justify their operations under the pretense of “putting South Africans first” and direct their aggression  against Africans they view as “undocumented foreign nationals”. Such categorisation of fellow Africans must be firmly rejected. 

Predictably members of the public unimpressed with Operation Dudula have slated it as being xenophobic. I opine that the latter charge is erroneous: in our local context it must appropriately be regarded as Afrophobia, as the attacks are taking place only between indigenous Africans. 

In a recent interview Motsoaledi found himself compelled to side with President Cyril Ramaphosa, who went as far as labelling Dudula as a “vigilante-like force”. Such demeaning name-calling by the President was unnecessary. Ironically, the “vigilantes” argue that they are helping government, especially the department of home affairs and the Police, by weeding out “undocumented foreign nationals”. Motsoaledi refutes any association between the department of home affairs and Dudula.  

His department has however been in a quagmire for quite some time. But he should not be in denial of the realities that his department must confront, and sketch out his plans to overcome the identified problems. For starters the department’s website should stop giving the misleading impression that it actually functions. Denialism will not solve anything.

In reality, when one considers the malfeasance by an array of rogue individuals with proximity to power, then the maladministration and corruption at the department of home affairs (as elsewhere) should not astonish anyone. Required solution(s) must begin from the premise that more than enough documents outlining the rules and regulations of running government departments exist. What has always been lacking is sufficient ethical officials, with the political will to adhere to and implement the law.  

Dr Tshepo Mvulane Moloi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

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Tshepo Moloi 1
Dr Tshepo Mvulane Moloi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies and research associate at the African Centre of Epistemology and Philosophy of Science.

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