Home South African Home Affairs report flags permit system flaws, fraud

Home Affairs report flags permit system flaws, fraud

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The committee set out to find irregular patterns in the issuing of permits and make recommendations in instances of fraud, among others.

CAPE TOWN – The matter of self-styled “Prophet” Shepherd Bushiri and pastor Tim Omotoso, whose documents in South Africa were found to have been attained irregularly, is what sent Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on a mission to discover the truth behind the flaws in the system that enabled it.

This came to light on Tuesday as Motsoaledi briefed the portfolio committee on a report which reviewed permits issued by the Department of Home Affairs.

He had established a ministerial committee last year to review the issuing of permanent residence permits, corporate visas, business visas, critical skills visas, study visas and retired persons’ visas and citizenship by naturalisation between the period October 12, 2004 and December 2020.

However, because the records from 2004 to 2014 were still manual, the review was done for the period 2014 until 2021.

The committee set out to find irregular patterns in the issuing of permits and make recommendations in instances of fraud, among others.

“The issue of the escape of pastor Bushiri during that period, we discovered he was a permanent resident of South Africa.

“We further discovered the permanent residence him and his family got were not in terms of laws of the country, they were approved and obtained irregularly.

“This was worrying. After that we learned there’s another pastor in the Eastern Cape who is being charged in court, Omotoso, for alleging raping a congregant.

“I also learned his documents to be in South Africa were obtained irregularly. My next question was, who else?” Motsoaledi asked.

Some of the key findings presented pointed to legacy systems which were not yet modernised.

Dr Cassius Lubisi, a member of the committee presented the findings which included: “The system is not advanced enough to flag anomalies pro-actively. People also work in silos with their own systems that do not talk to other Home Affairs systems. Unscrupulous officials were also found, who had created fake users on the system along with deliberate by-passing of controls to manipulate visa applications.”

He said the Counter-Corruption Unit reported that 66% of the cases it had investigated involved the issuing of permits.

While the unit’s work was ongoing, 14 members of the permitting department signed a petition demanding the unit should cease investigating their errors.

The review had been assisted by a number of whistle-blowers who came forward describing criminal modes of operation.

Lubisi said internal and external actors who manipulated the system had been identified.

Further findings highlighted that 34% of all critical skills visa approvals since 2014 till 2021 were for Zimbabwean nationals.

In terms of study visas, 23% of all study visa approvals were for Zimbabwean nationals, while 11% of all approvals were from Nigeria and 10% from Congo.

In terms of retired persons permits, a spike was detected in 2018, however, the reasons for the spike were not clear, he said.

“The highest increase involved Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nigerian and Indian nationals.

“78% applied for retirement before the age of 55 and 53% of these applications were eventually approved,” said Lubisi.

In terms of naturalisation, some applicants were also approved before the five year period.

Recommendations included establishing a multidisciplinary investigating task team, technology approaches to resolve system and data security challenges and a review of legislation and regulations.

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