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Parliament, Cape Town - The home affairs department has a 34 percent vacancy rate in its counter-corruption branch and is facing delays in filling the posts, director general Mkuseli Apleni conceded on Thursday.
Apleni told Parliament's home affairs portfolio committee that of 59 posts in the unit, 20 were vacant. It was one of several annual performance targets the department missed by far in the past financial year.
“There are delays. It's a matter of attractiveness (for aspirant candidates) and a question of finding the right people and then vetting them, which takes time,” he said after the briefing.
Home affairs in 2011 arrested 11 of its own officials at OR Tambo International Airport, and Apleni said more had followed since as the department sought to root out “a culture” of corruption.
“We do it all the time,” he told Sapa.
Apleni said the department planned to abandon the use of cash fines at all South African ports of entry to minimise the temptation for bribery.
“It used to be that if you overstayed your visa period you were fined so much. But we plan to do away with that so that we make a note on the electronic database instead.
“So people will know that there is no cash at South African borders, there is no need to give these officials your money.”
ANC MP Andre Gaum said it was “very worrying” that a third of the anti-graft posts in home affairs were vacant.
The department is riding a storm internationally after it emerged that Samantha Lewthwaite, wanted by Interpol after the massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, travelled for years on a South African passport issued in the name of Nathalie Faye Webb.
Apleni stressed that the passport was fraudulently obtained from the department by Lewthwaite by giving the name of a South African-born British citizen and was not a falsified travel document.
“We are on record as saying since we introduced the new passport system we have not had a passport faked.”
Apleni said the new, more secure passport was introduced in 2009, a year after Lewthwaite obtained hers.
Home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the multi-departmental investigation as to how Lewthwaite tricked officials into giving her a passport was still ongoing and he could not comment on it.