File picture: ANA pictures
Johannesburg - The Home Affairs Department is being slapped with about 50 cases of litigation on a weekly basis, deputy director-general for institutional planning and support Thulani Mavuso said.

Now the department is hiring legally qualified people who will be placed in the directorates of immigration affairs and civic services to monitor and act quickly on litigation-related issues.

“On a weekly basis we have to respond and instruct state attorneys to defend matters. Some of them are opportunistic litigations,” Mavuso said.

He made the comments after department offices in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, were closed when the sheriff of the court attached its goods last month.

This was after a foreign national took the department to court for wrongful arrest and was granted a default judgment of R150 000, which the department is now seeking to rescind.

It has been reported in the past how the department wasted millions in taxpayers’ money on court battles.

The department had revealed in a parliamentary reply that it spent R46.3 million on legal costs in 2011/2012, and R21.3m was spent in the previous financial year.

In 2014, out of 404 judgments that were granted by the courts, 385 were made against the detentions of illegal foreigners at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp or failed asylum seekers who filed judicial reviews against such rejections.

Mavuso said there were instances where people fly into OR Tambo International Airport, only to be met by lawyers, ready to take the department to court.

“It is quite bad in a sense that those opportunistic litigations, actually in the area of immigration, are quite huge,” Mavuso said.

“The same applies when people are arrested for fraudulent documents or documents that are invalid and then taken to Lindela,” he added.

“You have lawyers who make Lindela a hunting ground for those cases,” he said.

Mavuso also said the high volume of litigation was creating huge administrative issues in the department.

“People use the law to say these are their constitutional rights and we need to defend the cases. Sometimes we defend things which are actually a waste of money.”

Deputy director-general for civic services Vusumuzi Mkhize said the capacity of the department was being strengthened.

“We recently created posts for the core business in immigration and civic to have a legal person to deal with any matter relating to ligation,” Mkhize said.

When the department presented its budget to Parliament earlier this year, it noted the lack of capacity in its legal services, risk management, information services, financial management and counter corruption and security services.

Its 2017/18 annual performance plan said there was a phased restructuring of staff according to a plan proposed by a consulting firm to increase the proportion of specialists and prioritise posts.

Political Bureau