Bribery and corruption: an inside look at the dealings between some Home Affairs officials and foreign nationals
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Cape Town - For as little as R300 you can buy safe passage into the country as corruption and greed permeates South Africa’s border control.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed it takes just a few hundred rands as desperate and corrupt officials accept bribes from foreign nationals that need various documents.
Documents like citizenship and asylum papers can go for up to R200 000 but the Department of Home Affairs warned against the practice.
After a series of corrupt officials were arrested last week, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “If you are conducting your illegal operation at the Department of Home Affairs, law enforcement is coming for you. You are going to face the full might of the law.”
Motsoaledi said they were hot on the trail of corrupt officials and that undercover teams, along with the Hawks would unearth the corrupt.
Two weeks ago, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes Court convicted former Home Affairs Official Joseph Lebitsa on eight counts of corruption. Three more officials were arrested in Ermelo, for demanding money from foreign nationals who run businesses in the town.
“Some of these officials allegedly took as little as R300 to allow people to enter the country without proper documents. To me, this is not just crime or corruption, but it is an absolute disgrace and an act of treason against one’s country.”
Weekend Argus spoke to a foreign national from Pakistan, who agreed to talk anonymously.
“If new people come, they can charge up to R200 000 and the money is given to immigration people and they share it.
“There is someone who has a connection with Home Affairs at the airport. They bring the people from outside and the money is given to immigration and they release the people to come into South Africa without papers.”
A police officer, who cannot be identified, said often the game would be given away when the system would be updated in minutes after the foreigner had supposedly crossed the border.
“Foreign national comes here for a study or holiday visa, he hides his passport away and gets an asylum (document). When he goes back to his country, he jumps the border and pays the official who lets him go through and stamps his passport. When you have a permit like that in your passport, you need to have multiple entries to extend it.
“When he arrives at the airport, their system will show this man did obey by the rules and regulations and where we pick it up is our data, it shows a foreigner going over the border and getting stamped out and 10, 20 minutes later he is stamped back in again.”
“There was a list of Home Affairs officials’ stamps that was stolen. Each official at Home Affairs is issued with a date stamp. Each date stamp has a number at the bottom right hand corner, for example 32 would belong to a certain staff member. That is how stamps are traced to a specific official.
“During a joint operation, stamps were found in possession of foreigners which were used to extend people’s asylum.”
An official at Home Affairs said only their staff were skilled to determine whether a document was fake or not.
He said it depended on details such as the font, watermark or fake reference numbers, which would give the game away.
He added corruption was so rife, that a low-income clerk would accept payment to high-ranking officials, making sure they had regular customers.
“Pakistanis will call an official, they are legal but they want citizenship as soon as possible. They just buy it from officials, they get corrupted because they are offered money, like R70 000 and R90 000, R100 000, when they are approached in top levels.
“He asks the corrupter how long do you want to stay here, then he puts down a date for his prerogative. He chooses a date, but they become greedy and careless and they extend it beyond the date of expiry.
Institute for Security Studies migration expert, Aimee-Noel Mobiyozo said the blame did not only fall on foreign nationals but Home Affairs.
“If the document fraud is for South African documents, this implies people within Home Affairs are involved. This is consistent with our past research that has consistently demonstrated that corruption is rife within Home Affairs.
“Cape Town closed its refugee reception office in 2012. This was ruled illegal and Home Affairs was ordered to re-open the office in 2018.
“This has not happened to date and it means that people requiring documents are struggling more than ever to access them legally.”