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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

WATCH: ‘Maroon Passport’ – Inside the Home Affairs corruption scheme that’s implicated 120 officials

The Special Investigating Unit is investigating corruption between home affairs officials and foreigners.

120 Home Affairs officials are reportedly implicated in an alleged corruption scheme involving a syndicate and ‘international’ passports.

The Hawks and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) raided several Home Affairs offices across the country on Friday as part of investigations into alleged maladministration and corruption.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was part of an operation at an office in Pretoria and told eNCA that similar raids were taking place in other locations after a whistle-blower shared information.

“The corruption is done by officials and foreigners who don’t deserve to be in South Africa but have lots of money to bribe,” he said.

The scheme

The SIU explained the tip-off.

“The searches follow a tip-off from a whistleblower that suggested that Home Affairs officials in the identified centres work with syndicates to duplicate application status files applied for in other offices and process them for a fee.

“The whistleblower also stated that the officials bypass immigration systems to enable foreign nationals who have entered the country illegally to remain in the country and acquire Permits illegally and unlawfully. 

“Furthermore, the whistleblower alleged that Home Affairs officials are delaying the finalisation of the asylum seeker permits to facilitate bogus asylum seekers.

“Through the permits which were obtained illegally and unlawfully, the bogus asylum seekers will use them to remain in the country and later use the same permits to apply for Permanent Resident Permits and ultimately, obtain South African citizenship.

“After getting citizenship, they qualify to get a maroon passport, which allows them to travel all over the world except their country of origin.” 

ALSO READ : Official caught red-handed selling fake IDs

News24 reported that more than 60 home affairs officials have been identified as suspects in the investigation, with EWN later revising this number to 120. It said 60 of the 120 implicated worked at the Marabastad Refugee Centre in Pretoria.

The SIU said those implicated reached across several tiers of the department.

It said it got a court order to seize documents as evidence because they were told they may be destroyed.

Watch Motsoaledi speak about the raids

A Home Affairs official based in Malamulele, Limpopo, was sentenced to eight and six years in prison for fraud and corruption last month.

Amos Ngwenyama was arrested following a joint investigation by the Home Affairs Counter Corruption Unit and the Hawks in Limpopo in 2023 for issuing birth certificates to “undeserving” foreigners in exchange for money.

A few weeks earlier the Anti-Corruption Unit caught another official from the department’s Upington office for allegedly selling illegal ID documents to foreigners.

The 37-year-old woman was caught following a tip-off.

SIU probes Home Affairs

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate alleged maladministration at home affairs.

ALSO READ: SA needs to manage migrants better – That requires cleaning up Home Affairs

“Proclamation 154 of 2024 empowers the SIU to probe serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of Home Affairs relating to the issuance of permanent residence permits; corporate visas; business visas; critical/exceptional skills work visas; study visas; retired persons’ visas; work visas; and citizenship by naturalisation, contrary to the Immigration Act, 2002; the South African Citizenship Act, 1995; manuals, guidelines, circulars, practice notes or instructions applicable to Home Affairs; or manuals, policies, procedures, prescripts, instructions or practices of or applicable to the department,” the unit said.

Additional reporting by Vhahangwele Nemakonde