The home affairs department plans to replace the current national population register with a new national identity system that it promises will reduce fraud and related crime.. Picture: SOWETAN
The home affairs department plans to replace the current national population register with a new national identity system that it promises will reduce fraud and related crime.. Picture: SOWETAN

The home affairs department plans to replace the current national population register with a new national identity system that it promises will reduce fraud and related crime.

The measure is contained in the White Paper on Home Affairs, which was published in the government gazette on Friday. Interested parties have until February 18 to make submissions.

The white paper sets out the policy framework for a “new and modernised” department, and aims to put an end to the long queues at its front offices, staff shortages and poor infrastructure, home affairs minister Siyabonga Cwele said in a statement issued on Sunday.

The national identity system will reflect key data relating to the identify, civic and immigration status of all persons.

“In a digital age, the national identity system will be the backbone of a more integrated modern state that provides citizens and other clients with fast access to efficient services,” said the minister. “It will thus be a powerful enabler of inclusive economic development and will drastically reduce fraud and other related crimes,” he said.

The White Paper on Home Affairs incorporates the department’s controversial 2017 White Paper on International Migration, which proposed de-linking residency and citizenship, along with the introduction of long-term visas based on a points system.

It also proposed establishing processing centres for asylum seekers at SA’s ports of entry.

“Migration can be a powerful driver of domestic and regional development, but this requires a state that has efficient systems, professional staff and the capacity to enforce its immigration laws,” the minister said.

Cwele said the department’s extended office hours between January 2 and 11 had been a success, and provided reassurance that its front offices would manage next weekend’s voter registration drive, which is expected to lead to a surge in people applying for identity documents.

During the extended-hours period, 116,404 citizens visited home affairs offices. The majority of these visits (88,328) were for applications for smart ID cards and passports.

Cwele appealed to citizens to retrieve the 297,000 uncollected ID documents that lay at home affairs offices.

The department recorded a marginal increase in travellers to and from to SA between December 1 and January 15, said Cwele.

During this period, there were 6.85-million movements across SA’s ports of entry, compared with 6.81-million in 2018, he said.

The top nationalities cleared through SA's ports of entry during the festive season were from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, the UK, Germany, the US, Namibia and Zambia, he said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za