President Cyril Ramaphosa meets senior staff members during his visit to the Department of Home Affairs in Tshwane. The visit is in fulfilment of the president’s commitment in the 2018 State of the Nation Address to visit government departments and key state institutions as part of ensuring alignment in the work of government, as well as promoting good governance and professionalism in the public sector. Picture: Siyabulela Duda GCIS
Cape Town - The Department of Home Affairs has written off R331 000 owed by South Africans who were stranded overseas and rescued by the department, which paid for their return home.

Home Affairs would not say how many people were involved, in which countries and under what the circumstances they were stranded.

The department had waited for these people to pay the money back when they got home, but they failed to settle the amounts involved.

In the audited annual financial report submitted in the National Legislature, the department said it had to pay for these people to return home.

“The financial assistance balance of R331 000 was written off during the 2018/19 financial year. It was a long outstanding balance that was owed by South Africans that were financially challenged whilst overseas. The mission facilitated their return back to the country, but they are then obliged to pay back the funding or risk their passport being blocked. The balance was already three years or older,” said the department.

It was not clear whether any of people involved had had their passports blocked or suspended.

South Africa has missions in different parts of the world.

The Department of Home Affairs and other departments has been involved in measures to tighten the borders of the country.

Political parties have complained that the country’s borders were porous and it was easy for illegal immigrants and contraband to be brought in.

The Border Management Authority Bill is waiting to be passed by the National Council of Provinces.

The bill will provide for different departments operating on the borders of the country to fall under one roof.

The departments would include Home Affairs, Police, Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform and Sars.

The government said it believed setting up such an agency would enable the state to clamp down on illegal activities in the border.

But departments had initially clashed on how they would be able to perform their function and mandate without being interrupted.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said during the State of the Nation Address, this was an important bill to deal with the tightening of border security and any illegal activities.

But the NCOP has not indicated how soon it will begin to work on it.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2017.

The Department of Home Affairs has been questioned on the number of undocumented foreigners in the country.

The police have also raised concern over the high number of people with no proper documentation.

Politics Bureau