South Africa

GroundUp: DHA DRAMA

South Africans hamstrung by Home Affairs as complaints over queues and service standards escalate

Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photo: Alet Pretorius/GALLO IMAGES)

Minister of Home Affairs claims the problem is being addressed.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has responded to frustrated citizens who are queueing outside Home Affairs’ offices long before dawn, and even then they might not be served. The need for IDs as the local government elections loom and also the school holidays has added demand. Meanwhile, the department has been reducing active staff due to Covid mitigation measures.

Wendy, from Lakeside, did not want to give her full name. She described the ordeal she had to undergo to renew her passport. She had to make three trips to Wynberg Home Affairs.

Her first trip was on 27 September. At 6am, the security guard told her that all the tickets for the number of people to be served that day had already been issued.

She returned, this time at 4:30am. At about 7am, an official told the queue that the 80-ticket allocation for the day had already been issued.

Wendy’s husband then went to Home Affairs to make an appointment, but he was told services were fully booked.

On 14 October, Wendy went at 2:30am. She was second in line.

“At about 7am, we were issued some tickets, but the official said, ‘You are not number two because there are 20 people who were not served yesterday.’ They took us down to the basement where we waited until the offices opened at 8am. At 10am I was given another number to go for biometrics. Before I left at 1pm, I noticed that there were 12 counters but only two people serving and there was only one cashier,” she said.

On Wednesday, GroundUp went to the Mitchells Plain Home Affairs office. We met eight-months-pregnant Marcha Micheals from Montrose farm. She was second in line, because she had arrived at 2am. “I came here last month around 10am and it was too full. Security said 100 people were given tickets, so I returned today [20 October]. We have been waiting here outside the gate since 2am. It was dark and very cold. It is also dangerous, but what more can we do? I need a [temporary] ID to collect the R350 grant, and return here to collect the original ID. That will cost R140 [in transport]. I also need an ID for voting.”

She said there were no toilets for people standing in the queue.

When GroundUp arrived at the Wynberg office at 5:45am on Wednesday, there was already a long line of people against the wall of the mall along Main Road all the way to the traffic lights on the Wetton Road corner.

At 6:25am, an official started screening the queue.

We proceeded to the Mitchells Plain offices, arriving at 6:40am. The queue was even longer than Wynberg. Women with children sat on the pavement. Elderly people, exhausted from standing, told the person either in front or immediately behind them to keep their place while they went to sit in their cars.

People listed the problems with Home Affairs: the computer system crashing or going offline, the office being understaffed, a lack of communication and a service backlog.

“We continue to see delays in the processing of IDs and instances of local Home Affairs offices losing residents’ documentation,” said DA Western Cape spokesperson Ricardo Mackenzie.

He visited the Mitchells Plain office on Tuesday and spoke to people in the queue. He said people had come from Nyanga, Khayelitsha and Philippi to Mitchells Plain in the hope of getting served because their local offices’ IT systems were more often off than online.

In a statement on Monday, Motsoaledi said the department has approved a temporary extension of operating times by two and a half hours at front offices, from 8am to 5:30pm to deal with the high demand.

Out of 412 offices, 197 are modernised to be Live Capture offices that can process smart ID cards and passports. “These are the offices that will operate for extended hours because that is where the high demand is being experienced,” he said.

Motsoaledi admitted that many complaints had been received from irate citizens across the country. He also said senior managers will visit offices unannounced to monitor operations on the ground.

“Most of these people have complained about a bad practice by some Home Affairs offices where queues are cut and people sent home, presumably because there are already more than enough people to serve for the day.

“We learnt that this wrong practice of sending people home can happen as early as 7am. The only people who will be sent home are those who arrive after 5:30pm. Everybody who arrives before 5:30pm should be served and not turned away.”

He said the temporary extension is only meant to resolve congestion at the identified offices which increased over the last two weeks and this intervention will be supported by a full return of staff in all offices.

“In the unfortunate event of the system being offline, we will ensure quick intervention and we appeal to members of the public to understand because this is something beyond our control,” said the minister. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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All Comments 17

  • The consequence of cadre deployment! Why in this day and age of digital technology must one queue for days for a passport or ID? Why does the government not appoint financial institutions like banks and insurance companies or SAPO who have the required biometric digital infrastructure as agents to process passports and IDs? If one needs a copy of a death or marriage or divorce certificate why is it not available online just like the COVID vaccine certificate?

  • ‘This is something beyond our control’
    No it isn’t
    This is one of the most important departments and it is one of the worst run
    It is the citizens right to get their documentation not a ‘nice to have’
    In this day and age with technology as advanced as it is , there is no excuse
    Staff can do a lot of work from home and the whole system can be done online

    Only when cadre deployment stops and staff are appointed on merit will it improve

  • I recall that some years ago a young man served a five year prison sentence simply because he was driven beyond reasonable behaviour by this utterly useless department. And where was his ID all along? Oh yes, in the very building that he was trying to collect from. It’s an affront to all citizens that the senior managers in that building didn’t have to serve his sentence for him.

    • A friend went to collect her passport at the NewHanover Home Affairs in KZN. Unfortunately it could not be given to her before her fingerprints checked out. They were unable to check her biometrics because there was no WIFI. Telkom had shut down Home Affairs for a long outstanding payment for connectivity! I shake my head. Racist BEE employment policies must end so that the correct people, no matter their race, creed or culture, can be employed on their experience and expertise! This has to end before the entire Social System collapses. Tax and Rate payers pay for this service. Anyone who pays VAT on every purchase pays for this service. Time to get some value folks…..

  • THIS IS ABUSE. Uncivil servants who often forget that their job is service. No tax payer should have to queue at 2am. Not acceptable under any circumstances whatsoever. Having recently experienced a 12 hour wait, and rudeness, this is NOT ok. In addition, the online system is faulty and a 9 hour wait (3 hours on 3 consecutive days) before the help line was answered. “The problem is being addressed” does not wash. Utterly shameful.

  • Home Affairs extremely suboptimal daily performance is simply part of the bigger picture of totally dysfunctional services visited on us by the ruling party. Until cadre deployment is given a good hard push, things will stay the same . Gate keeping on the scale with which it is used by the comrades, does not present a pretty picture- how can it be acceptable , that people have to queue in their own country, for their passport in the early hours of the morning, and than be told to come back the next day? That is simply callous and cruel.

  • Home Affairs is off-line much of the time and during this time nothing is done. The desks are empty or staff come and go. No one knows when it will get back on- line. The problem can be fixed but there appears to be no will to do so. I blame management from the top.

  • Go look at the DHA website and you’ll see that they are still in Lockdown Level 3!!!
    Also have a look at the DHA annual report. Under point 5.5 you’ll read that they only had an amount of R17,000.00 as fruitless expenditure!!!
    “5.5 FRUITLESS AND WASTEFUL EXPENDITURE
    An amount of R17 000 (as against R73 000 for 2018/19) was recorded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the current financial year. These cases mainly relate to non-attendance, where officials fail to arrive at a hotel after a booking has been made. In some instances, the official was at fault, while in others their non-attendance was beyond their control. These cases have been referred to the Loss Control Committee for its consideration. Depending on the recommendations of the committee, any official responsible for fruitless expenditure will be held accountable for the loss. Traffic fines are not recorded on the fruitless and wasteful expenditure register as such expenditure is summarily deducted from the salary of the driver involved.”

    The total expenditure for DHA for 2019/2020 came to R9,5 billion. I wonder if the banks and private sector spend that kind of money on verifying their clients and issuing cards…

  • The problem is being addressed….. Yes but IT WILL NEVER BE SOLVED
    Such a win in this country ……..being able to employ a matriculant…. with a 30% pass rate
    Trust me … they are unemployable
    Interested to know the total man hours per annum wasted by queing at SARS, Municipalities, Home Affairs etc, etc, etc

  • My son was born in 2017, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, at Edenvale Hospital to indigenous South African parents. I am still enduring the agony of long queues, and being sent from pillar to and post by DHA Edenvale and Kempton Park offices. My worry is that should his parents die without this matter being resolved, he will join a long list of young South Africans who, like Sikhumbuzo Mhlongo, lose their lives in the fight against DHA for an identity document. The DHA seem more willing to confer citizenship to wealthy foreign nationals. On the contrary, cases are rising against attempts by the DHA to deprive South African citizens of their citizenship. Currently, my son is rejected by early childhood development centers for not having a birth certificate. This is totally unacceptable, at this day and age.