Opposition parties react to new ID system

Opposition parties have questioned the Department of Home Affairs’ Draft Official Identity Management Policy, which aims to introduce a new identity system to tighten security on identity documents and be more inclusive of various gender identity minorities.

The parties argued the idea was good, but felt Home Affairs could not get the basics right, such as a properly functioning IT system and issuing passports and unabridged birth certificates timeously.

The policy said: “The Identification Act is now more than 20 years old. It is not based on a policy that considers key local and global developments in managing official personal information. This in part explains why the current legislation and systems are outdated, fragmented, and do not fully align with constitutional principles of equality, non-discrimination, and human dignity.”

The policy aims to create a digital population that is secure, accurate, and confidential and to position Home Affairs as the sole provider of documentation for civic and international migration status of citizens and foreign nationals. It also endeavours to establish rules that govern the access to processing of population records and data in line with the Cybercrimes Bill and the Protection of Personal Information Act.

IFP spokesperson on Home Affairs Liezl van der Merwe said the party welcomed any steps by the department to safeguard the personal information of citizens from fraudsters. “However, corruption has become endemic within the Department of Home Affairs. It is, therefore, our hope that the proposed changes to the ID system would also include a greater focus on clamping down on ID theft, the issuing of fake ID documents and corrupt Home Affairs officials in general.”

The party welcomed the inclusion of inters.e.x, transgender, and other s.e.xual identity minorities in the new ID system. Van Der Merwe said the IFP would closely scrutinize the policy once it reached parliament.

“While it may sound like a good idea on paper, the Department of Home Affairs is one of those departments that struggles to get the very basics right. It struggles to issue passports, ID documents, death and birth certificates on time, while it is also plagued with IT systems that are perpetually off-line, long queues, and a complete collapse of its immigration system. It is the IFP’s hope that the department will focus on fixing these systematic and persistent struggles first, before embarking on a revamp and roll-out of a new ID system,” she said.

Democratic Alliance’s Home Affairs spokesperson Adrian Roos shared Van Der Merwe’s sentiments. He said the department needed to get the basics right such as moving from manual to digital storage. “You can’t go with gimmicks and not solve real problems.”

He said the challenge of long queues at Home Affairs’ offices needed to be fixed. The long queues were caused by an IT system going off-line that led to people not receiving their documents. Roos also referred to the debacle around unabridged birth certificates where people waited up to 18 months to receive them.

He said he understood change was needed and an identity system that would reflect the times and provide extra security for people was good. “But the basics needed to be done right first.”

Home Affairs Ministerial spokesperson Siya Qoza said: “We are engaged in a public consultation process as it is required when developing public policy.”

The public had until February 28 to make the written submissions. People wanting to comment could go to the department’s website at www.dha.gov.za or email oimpolicy@dha.gov.za.

-Daily News

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