The Department of Home Affairs is forging ahead with plans to introduce a smart-card identification system, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Friday.

“It is clear to us that we have to move in this direction as quickly as possible,” she told a media briefing at Parliament.

While some aspects of the home affairs national identification system, such as electronic document tracking and the automated fingerprint identification system, had already been successfully introduced, the smart-card ID was still to come.

When the green bar-coded ID was introduced some years ago, there was a view that this would help integrate the various existing documents in the country at the time and ensure a single document was issued to all South Africans, she said.

“But we also believed that in introducing the home affairs national identity system, one of the things that process would do would be to sanitise our population register.

“When we talk about sanitising, I think that every country has the responsibility of ensuring there is a continuous process of cleaning up the population register to ensure that undesirable elements should not find themselves in the population register of any country. So that’s what I mean by sanitising.”

However, the department had discovered that it might not have been done in the manner in which it had thought it would be done.

“It may not have achieved the desired result of sanitising the population register.”

The appropriate route to follow would be to move towards introducing a smart-card and developing an in-house capability for this.

The department’s senior management was investigating the possibility of developing a capacity in South Africa to produce such a smart-card.

“We need to develop this capability and there’s also agreement that we will then launch it as a pilot [project] to a small group of people in the beginning. We’re talking about 2008 for the pilot,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

The department was currently gathering information relating to the status of technology, costs of producing the card, capability of producing the card internally versus externally, and developing a logistical strategy.

The results of this exercise should be published by mid-November and a report made to the political principles by January, the department said.