With a budget of more than R7 billion, the Department of Home Affairs remains under resourced. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigabi says he is concerned about the long queues, and backlogs at Home Affairs’ offices.

On Wednesday, during his budget vote speech, he said he hopes to improve the situation with the modernisation and digitisation of his department. Gigaba believes his department has not been recognised as key to economic development, national security and prosperity.

In his speech, he singled out the men and women who have the task of processing hundreds of thousands of applications each year.

“ I wish to particularly single out the staff of Home Affairs who have continued diligently to deliver much needed services to our people at increasing volumes, without increased resources.”

However, Gigaba remains upbeat about various programmes in the pipeline.

“This morning we launched the automated biometric identification system that will enable advanced identification and verification through finger prints, palm prints, iris, facial recognition and DNA. This will form the backbone of the future national identity system which will replace the national population register and the national immigration identification system.”

The African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament hopes the modernisation of the department will improve processes while opposition parties pointed out obvious flaws.

On managing immigration, Gigaba says with the advanced passenger processing system, the department is able to conduct risk assessment of people entering the country. South Africa has also introduced a visa exemption for Russia, which has seen a boost in travellers to this country in recent years.