OPINION

Illegal immigration: Secrecy the order of the day at SAPS and DHA – John Steenhuisen

DA says they were denied entry into holding cells and were unable to see the condition of one of immigration hotspots

Illegal Immigration: Inconsistency and secrecy the order of the day at SAPS and DHA

11 March 2019

Today, Democratic Alliance (DA) Team One SA Spokesperson on Crime, John Steenhuisen, and DA Team One SA Spokesperson on Immigration, Jacques Julius, conducted an oversight inspection at the Yeoville Police Station, in Johannesburg.

This visit follows an alarming report by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee that their resources are being heavily taxed by out-of-budget expenditure on immigration detention, which is a Home Affairs competency. We sought to engage with the station management about the challenges they face in trying to balance their primary function with this additional, unfunded responsibility that has been thrust on them. We also went to inspect the conditions in which the detained immigrants are held at the police station.

However, SAPS denied the DA entry to see the holdings cells, and we were unable to see the condition in which illegal immigrants are being held.

We were informed by the station commander, Colonel Mahasha, that Yeoville is one of the highest illegal immigrant hotspots in Gauteng. The Colonel informed us that on average the station detains five illegal immigrants per week. These are approximated numbers as SAPS does not have computerised systems to track numbers accurately. Furthermore, these figures are inconsistent with the statistics provided by SAPS in parliament, which indicate that during 2017 and 2018 alone, an average of 9 000 illegal immigrants were detained per month – with the highest number of detainees being drawn from Gauteng.

SAPS, according to the Deputy National Police Commissioner, spends on average R1.7 million per month providing meals to detainees.

The DA left the the station with more questions than answers. Responses by SAPS in parliament and Station Commander Colonel Mahasha made it very clear that the station had something to hide, as the answers we received were wholly inconsistent with the numbers and details presented in Parliament.

Regardless of the evasiveness with which our questions were met, it was clear that the South African government is in a complete state of crisis with regards to illegal immigration.

SAPS is paying for immigration detention despite the fact that Lindela Repatriation Centre is under-utilised. In light of the amounts of taxpayers money being spent by both SAPS and Home Affairs on illegal immigrants, it is unconscionable that we have no reliable statistics from either departments. It is clear that the South African government has no cataloging system for illegal immigrants who then become lost within our broken immigration system.

This demonstrates a further lack of coherence on the part of the ANC government, which has allowed illegal immigration to spiral out of control.

No government can make any progress in the fight against crime under the present conditions. SAPS have for far too long remained under-resourced, under-equipped, under-capacitated and under-trained. The exacerbation of these problems by additional expenditure on immigration detention is an assault on the State’s obligation to keep South Africans safe and secure.

It is for this reason the DA will write to both Ministers Siyabonga Cwele and Bheki Cele, to request clarity.

Minister Cwele needs to tell the South African people how the state will be facilitating immigration detention and what action his department will take to alleviate SAPS budget constraints due to Home Affairs’ dereliction of duty.

Furthermore, Minister Cele needs to inform us exactly how much money SAPS is diverting to detaining and holding illegal immigrants, when it should be spending such resources on protecting South Africans from crime. The Minister must also come clean on exactly how many illegally immigrants are detained by police – as this visit proves that the government has no idea how many illegal immigrants are in the country.

The ANC clearly does not have a handle on illegal immigration, and local SAPS stations are not being transparent with the severity of the problem.

The DA will continue to keep South Africans appraised of the dire situation we face and, come 8 May, a DA led government will implement a plan to get immigration under control by securing our borders and fixing the chaos and dysfunction at Home Affairs. Furthermore, a DA government will build One South Africa for All, by overhauling the police services and making the SAPS professional and honest, in order to keep all South Africans safe.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, DA Team One SA Spokesperson on Crime, 11 March 2019