Minister Siyabonga Cwele: 15th Leaders’ Forum

8 Mar 2019

Leaders of Home Affairs in the digital age an address by Dr Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele Minister of Home Affairs, at the 15th Leaders’ Forum, Pretoria

Programme Director, DDG Nkidi Mohoboko;
Acting Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Thulani Mavuso;
Distinguished academics and partners from training institutions;
Senior government Officials;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address you on this occasion. I am also humbled to be among the great achievers of the Department of Home Affairs. Earlier, during the parade, I was pleased to welcome a newly trained cadre of immigration officials who are part of Graduation Day 2019. I am proud that we have been able to increase our capabilities as a Department to execute our mandate to serve our people and fight the ills of society such as crime and corruption. His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa commanded us to embrace the THUMA MINA initiative as part of our contribution to the period of hope, unity and renewal for our resilient nation. He implored us to lend a hand to cleanse the bad and do the good. He made a clarion call to action  ‘LET US GROW SOUTH AFRICA TOGETHER to reduce poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Today, we are here to celebrate sacrifices made by the graduates to improve themselves by expanding their educational qualifications through our Learning Academy. We are also here to celebrate some staff members who have dedicated their adult lives in the services of others, thus demonstrating great loyalty in the Public Service.

I am advised that the Learning Academy provides accredited training programs in partnership with the National School of Government, other government department academies and some institutions of higher learning across the country. These qualifications are primarily, for immigration and civic services branches; as well as general leadership and management. They include administration at the ports of entry, performing the duties of an immigration officer, ethics and governance, solemnising marriages and prevention of fraud and corruption.

I’m also informed that the Academy trains our staff in disciplines such as Finance for Non-Finance Managers, Project Management, Emerging Management Development Programme, Advanced Management Development Programme, Manage Budget against Expenditure and Law Enforcement in an effort to professionalise the Department and to enable our staff members to perform maximally.

I am heartened that so many of our staff members regularly go beyond the call of duty to assist citizens. I have seen some of these colleagues during my visits to frontline services delivery offices, ports of entry and head office.

We must always draw from our consciousness that we are primarily here not for service but to serve our people. We are not here for good programmes but for positive outputs and outcomes to the lives of people we serve.  Our citizens come to our offices daily looking for a variety of services we offer. They are invested in what we do and how we do it. The evidence is all around us. If you are at a front desk, our citizens tell you what they think of our service, sometimes what they say is unpleasant. The length of queues at our offices and the amount of queries which come through our call centre tell a story. We must fix what the citizens complain about. We must communicate with them if it takes a while to resolve their concerns. Citizens have a right to be happy or concerned because the service we offer are not the ends by themselves, but critical enablers of other services they require to improve their lives and increase their utility in general. We must always strive to improve and exceed their expectations.

Our citizens are also moving with the times. Almost on a daily basis, citizens make positive comments on social media about staff members who are doing commendable work. It is important to always remember that our actions as individuals have ripple effects far beyond what we could imagine. For an example, a doctor who needs to come to our offices to apply for a child’s ID or passport, may need to decide whether or not to postpone operating on a patient in a hospital. No doctor should have to make such choices. As a department we touch the lives of every citizen from birth to death and every visitor who sets foot in our beautiful country. We must ensure that their interactions with us leaves them feel better.

Fellow South Africans,

We are living in the digital age of an Information Society and knowledge economy. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and disruptions, as a result of new technologies and materials, are a new normal. This revolution changes the way citizens consume or demand our services. It demands on us to put people first because now that consumer is king; we should keep pace with his or her new patterns  consumption and utility.  The revolution demands new skills in the public service. It demands not only hard skill of Maths and engineering but more importantly soft skills:

  • It calls for cognitive abilities such as creativity, logical reasoning, problem solving, mathematical reasoning and visualisation.
  • It demands physical abilities such as physical strength, manual dexterity and precision.
  • It requires basic content skills such as active learning, oral expression, reading comprehension and basic ICT skill including coding.
  • It requires basic process skills such as active learning, critical thinking, monitoring skill – for yourself and others.
  • It thrives on social skills such as coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, negotiation, persuasion, service orientation as well as training and teaching others
  • It needs system skills such as systems analysis, judgement and decision making, and
  • It requires complex problem-solving skill.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I recognise the partnerships that the department has been able to forge with other institutions of government, in particular, the Department of Health, the City of Ethekwini, the Matatiele Local Municipality and many other stakeholders. Through such partnerships the department has been able to extend services to more citizens. We are indeed grateful for meaningful partnership and remain indebted to such selflessness. I also recognise commendable actions by our staff who view their work as a calling. There is no higher calling than serving our people and country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The commitment to embrace new ways of doing things through education and the citizen-focused service delivery are at the core of the changes we plan to introduce to the Department of Home Affairs through the White Paper that we are processing. As the Department of Home affairs is repositioning itself it becomes more critical to develop the requisite skills-sets for the future.

Our journey in modernising the Department of Home Affairs involved taking inputs from stakeholders. The Department is processing the written comments received through the public comment period. We thank all those people who provided content and technical inputs. The Department will consult other key Government Departments and redraft the White Paper for final consideration by Cabinet.

The White Paper is a document which envisages a fully modernised and secure department, with professional staff and appropriate operating, organisational and funding models. It outlines the exclusive mandate of the Department of Home Affairs to;

  • Manage the official identity and status of a persons
  • Manage international migration
  • Manage asylum seekers and refugees

It also sets the Department of Home Affairs on the path to play its role as a critical enabler of citizen empowerment, inclusive development, efficient administration and national security. This adaptation responds to the evolving ways in which citizens consume data and access information. We must as a matter of urgency focus on improving both our ICT and physical infrastructure as well as accelerate online services. We must develop resilient, dependable and home-grown applications. The Department of Home Affairs is one of the biggest producers of data in South Africa. We all know data analytics are the drivers of the digital economy. We must work with other local stakeholders to develop our national data policy that will protect our data for the its use to develop our digital enterprises and GROW OUR ECONOMY TOGETHER. 

Ladies and gentlemen

In congratulating the Graduation Class of 2019, I invite them to consider expanding their horizons by continuing on their skills development journey. They have already demonstrated that they can learn and achieve.

I also compliment and commend those employees who have dedicated a large portion of their lives to service others through the Department of Home Affairs. Some of them have been in public service for more than 40 years. This is important for continuity and institutional memory. Others are new bringing fresh ideas and skill. This represents the dynamism of continuity and change for a learning organisation. It furthermore displays good values like loyalty, commitment and renewal.

In my engagements with officials and citizens alike I have heard their stories about the challenges pertaining to connectivity and down-time, unconducive office environments and long queues. I’m convinced that solutions to these challenges include better deployment of technology and increasing the capacity of our networks. We have to integrate our systems more efficiently to ensure that we improve the service experience of our citizens. Let us leverage on this Leadership Forum to explore what else we can do to improve our service delivery for the benefit of our citizens.

I contend that to turn things around there is a need for a profound intervention in transforming the way we do things.  We cannot continue in the same way and still expect different results. In the words of our revered former President, Tata Nelson Mandela, “the most difficult matter is not so much to change the world as yourself."

This means that we as the leadership of the Department, need to shift from our comfort zones. It means we need to break away from our normal routine, we need to reposition ourselves as innovators, problem-solvers and rise above the current challenges. We must avoid the practice of working in silos, one of the most common flaws described by those working within the civil service. 

We believe that building capability in leadership is as much about improving culture as it is about improving skills. We must always remember leadership is not inherited but an acquired skill. We learn to inspire and motivate others we learn to analyse and solve problems. We learn to communicate clearly and succinctly. Kennedy puts it more eloquently “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.

A good leader upholds positive values: high integrity, honesty, humility, sincere enthusiasm, courage, loyalty, collective responsibility, hard work, constructive criticism and self-criticism. Nelson Mandela talks of leadership responsibility “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the frontline when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership”. 

Fellow colleagues,

I encourage you to continue the culture of learning and entrench the professionalisation of the public service by rewarding excellent service delivery and recognising the contribution by employees across branches and provinces.

In the course of doing your work, you are sometimes confronted with a choice between doing the right thing and acting outside of the law. My advice to you is choose to do the right thing always. Our government doesn’t tolerate corruption because it steals from the poor. In this hall, we have law enforcement officials. You can decide what kind of relationship you want to have with them. You can do the right thing and be friends with them or you can be corrupt and face the law. Unlawful and corrupt behaviour of some DHA officials created unnecessary burdens on hard working and honest officials.

There is a major public outcry against corruption. If you are corrupt, you will be caught and your career will be cut-short and there’s no Pastor who can resurrect it. It will be buried together with the aspirations and dreams of your family and kids. It is simply not worth it. Always do the right thing, especially when nobody is watching. That’s integrity.

As we leave this venue, let us all play our part in the Good Green Deeds Programme which was launched by the State President, Mr Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa today. The President wants us to live in clean and habitable communities. We all have a roll to play in our own spaces and communities.

Let me conclude with the wise words of Lao Tzu “When the best leader’s work is done the people say ‘we did it ourselves’.”

Let us all lend a help fight crime, corruption and abuse of the vulnerable. Let us love our country and protect environment as a bequeath to our future generations. Let us commit to serve our people. LET US GROW SOUTH AFRICA TOGETHER.

Let us draw strength from our national and continental prayers. Some verse of the African Union anthem reads as follows;

“Let us all unite and celebrate together the victories won for all our liberation.

Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together to defend our liberty and unity.

O sons and daughters of Africa. Flesh of the sun, flesh of the sky. Let us make Africa the tree of life.”

Nkosi sikelel’iAfrika.

I Thank You.

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