Minister details impact of SITA strike on DHA services

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 27 Nov 2023
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)

A total of 302 Department of Home Affairs (DHA) service points were impacted by the strike by State IT Agency-affiliated labour body, the Public Servants Association (PSA).

This is according to home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in a parliamentary reply to IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, on the impact of the strike action.

SITA acts as the backend office of government ICT and is responsible for developing, operating and/or maintaining ICT services consumed by government departments.

Last month, the PSA, which represents the majority of SITA employees, embarked on a weeklong strike at the agency that threatened services at departments such as home affairs, employment and labour, and the South African Social Security Agency.

SITA − which falls under the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies − and the labour body were at loggerheads on salary negotiations for the 2022/23 financial year.

At the time, SITA said it had activated its business continuity plans to minimise the strike action at the organisation.

While the industrial action eventually came to an end, the DHA detailed the impact of the strike on the delivery of its services, in its parliamentary reply.

In the written answer, Motsoaledi says 302 service points countrywide, which included mobile trucks, health facilities and a few ports of entry connecting via SITA/MTN LTE, were off for over a day.

Commenting on measures to limit the impact of the strike on the delivery of services, the minister says: “DHA engaged SITA executives to understand the risk associated with the industrial action for which SITA assured DHA that there are contingency measures in place to mitigate incidents that might come up.

“A plan was put in place for deployment of mobile trucks connecting via an RT-15 APN contract to the Presidential Imbizo. Other DHA outreach programmes were cancelled to avoid fruitless expenditure and efforts in vain by the public.”

DHA branches – whose core function is to manage identity, civil status and migration of citizens – experience interruptions and network downtime issues more often than not, with the blame sometimes placed on government IT agency SITA’s doorstep.