Home Affairs blowing millions on legal battles – and it’s getting worse

 ·22 Apr 2024

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has spent over R412.95 million in legal fees since the start of the 2018/19 financial year – with over R117.69 million of this spent between 1 April 2023 and 29 February 2024.

This was revealed by the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, in a recent written response in parliament.

DHA has seen an exponential increase in the amount that it spends on litigation, with the current amount for 2023/24 (note these figures are until the end of February, several months short of the full financial year) nearly 16 times that of the amount spent in 2018/19.

Since 2018/19, DHA has spent:

  • R148.57 million on private legal firms;
  • R264.38 million on state legal services.

Looking at the breakdown of where the money is being spent, the department used to have a relatively equal distribution of the amount spent on state and private legal services back in 2018/19 – spending around R3.6 million on each.

DHA then exponentially increased the amount spent on state legal services in 2019/20 by around 18 times more than the previous year, with these eight-figure bills remaining ever since.

Spending on state legal services has been hefty yet sporadic, whereas expenditures on private legal services have consistently risen, experiencing proliferated costs from 2021/2022 onwards.

2023/24 has seen the department spend, for the first time in this period, considerably more on private legal services than on state – over 21 times more than it did in 2018/2019.

Increase in litigation for the department

Home Affairs has seen a steady rise in not only the amount of litigation that the department initiates, but in the amount of times it (or the minister himself) has been dragged to court.

Among the numerous recent costly court battles for the DHA include the widely publicised Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) case and disputes over blocked IDs.


Back in 2021, the Cabinet made a decision not to renew Zimbabwean permits that are set to expire in December of the same year. After much resistance, the DHA then gave an extension of one year for Zimbabwean nationals to apply for alternative visas.

The Zimbabwe Immigration Federation subsequently filed a lawsuit against the department regarding the termination of these permits. They requested that the termination be declared unconstitutional and invalid.

In June of 2023, the court ultimately ruled against Motsoaledi, and granted an interdict.

The Minister has since approached the Constitutional Court, seeking a leave of appeal after it was rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Blocked IDs

Back in 2023, the DHA sought to block nearly 1 million IDs over suspected fraud.

Various legal groups challenged this, arguing that no law allowed the department to block an ID number, bringing into question the legality of this action.

The Gauteng High Court aligned with this argument, saying that blocking IDs is an unjust and irregular administrative action that is inconsistent with the South African Constitution – ordering that the department pay the costs of the application.

Read: South Africans love Home Affairs for its effectiveness, says Motsoaledi

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