‘Hell Affairs’ – readers share their sorry tales

‘Hell Affairs’ – readers share their sorry tales
The 7am queue at Home Affairs in Randburg. (Photo: Mark Heywood)

Following our story ‘Queue, the beloved country’, we asked our readers for their views on the crisis at Home Affairs. Here are some of the responses.

We requested feedback on the Daily Maverick website, asking readers to share their experience of service at Home Affairs. Their stories are dispiriting, to say the least.

See one of our reports here: Queue, the beloved country – Welcome to Aaron Motsoeledi’s dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs

We were robbed in the queue

I had a terrible experience at Home Affairs in Klerksdorp. My granddaughter and I went to apply for her passport and my ID card, and while standing in line outside I saw that a number of youngsters with expensive Adidas and Nike T-shirts and windcheaters on were also standing in line.

I was sure they were there to rob people of their possessions so I told my granddaughter to watch out for them, but in the meantime somebody phoned me.

I told my granddaughter to answer and I would keep an eye on things. But they were so fast – they grabbed the phone out of her hand and ran away. I ran after him and that’s when three other guys tackled me and tried to steal my wallet out of my jeans.

I am 77 years old but luckily fit, so they came away with a few bruises and without a wallet. It is amazing that SAPS is not on-site. One does not report these incidents because it’s even more dangerous around the police station than anywhere else in Klerksdorp.

Thank you for the opportunity to let you know how bad the situation is. I don’t think it will change in the near future. Luis Dias

No will to serve the public

Staff at Home Affairs are unhelpful, arrogant and inefficient owing to the “agents” who offer substantial money to acquire your documents in a back office. If the staff provide the service they are paid to give you, there is no “bonus” from the agents.

There is just no will to serve the public. Bruce Thomas

Kind lady in charge helped us

In 2018, it was a good day – only about two hours to queue with our granddaughter for her passport.

In 2019, we took our grandson. Arrived at 8am and half an hour later we were told the system was offline but we could wait and see.

At 1pm, the kind lady in charge came to us and she helped us and it was all dealt with on her own computer. This was Park Rynie South Coast. Valerie Williams

Problem for South African citizens overseas

I would like to point out that this chaos and inefficiency affects South African citizens overseas as well. We are a family of South Africans living in Florida in the US, as my husband is working here.

Fifteen months ago, we applied for my son’s new passport. We are still waiting.

Queue, the beloved country – Welcome to Aaron Motsoaledi’s dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs

His previous passport expired in August 2021, leaving him without valid identification. As a South African citizen living in a foreign country, a valid passport is essential. Without it he can’t apply for a driver’s licence, for college study or for financial assistance.

Soon, we will need to apply for a visa extension to remain in the US, which he cannot do without a valid passport. So he is at risk of overstaying his visa, and becoming illegal in the US.

I have made hundreds of calls to the consulate in Washington DC to get a status update. I have only managed to get through a handful of times.

I was told that they would email Home Affairs and get back to me. No update/response has ever been forthcoming.

We finally discovered in February 2022 that the application had been rejected and we needed to reapply. We have reapplied, but are desperately waiting, with no idea when this can be resolved. Moira Dewil

Monumental task takes a team effort

I am 72 and stood in a queue at Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs, where the line went way out into the street, and after 2.30pm, the staff were still on their lunch break. Extended lunch break?

So I had to find an alternative. I arrived at the New Hanover Home Affairs offices, 38km from my home, at 7am on a hot December day. I waited endlessly, wondering why the queue was not moving.

After a long wait, a group was invited into the hall. Just two ladies were present to handle everything.

The efficiency of the ladies was obvious. There was a real team effort in the monumental task for the large number of people.

Then came an electric storm as the loading was being done. All data was lost and I was asked to return the next day. All had to be repeated the next morning.

Stellenbosch waiting game — Is this among the worst Home Affairs offices in South Africa?

A notification for collection of my passport was to follow within two weeks. It didn’t arrive. I was due to fly out on Monday, so on the Friday preceding, I made the third trip.

On arrival at 9am at the Home Affairs building, the guard told me to come back on Monday, as the offices were closed.

My leg was in a brace, which he noticed. I told him my plight and he proceeded to help – he went into the office and I followed, seeking help. The kind lady tried phoning her supervisor in Pretoria for authorisation of a manual issue, to no avail. Eventually, when a copy of my visa was available, my passport was issued.

Home Affairs closed on a weekday early in the morning? It was a disruption of an essential service! Mariam Cassimjee

I have given up trying

I have lived in South Africa for almost 50 years but was born in the UK. I have been a South African citizen for 40 years and have an ID book that is so old and tattered it’s a joke. I have tried several times to renew it at Home Affairs and the queues have been so long that I have given up.

I am 80 years old and can’t stand all day waiting my turn. I was excited a few years ago when they permitted the banks to perform the renewals of IDs, but when I tried I discovered that only persons born in South Africa can use this method. Surely after 50 years in South Africa and as a citizen, I should be able to renew without the inconvenience of queuing for hours on end? Antony Wonfor

Long wait for collection

After my fourth attempt, with an appointment booked, I finally got my applications done. My question is: what happens to these applications once you have paid?

All you are told is that you will be sent a message when it’s ready for collection. As far as I can ascertain, your wait for collection is as long as doing the applications. I would be happy to hear via DM168 if they ever clear the backlog and how the system is organised with incoming applications.

We so enjoy DM168, with its topical subjects, and we like the new format. We’re senior citizens, 84 years young. Harvey and Myra Havenga

As a nurse, I was horrified by the suffering I saw

My daughter needed to get an ID for matric. As the ID card is more convenient, we attempted to get this three times from Pietermaritzburg. This was a huge performance. I had to take leave and stand in the never-moving queue for entire days.

We ultimately had to settle for the ID book, which we did in Howick. This took about three weeks, but at least we had it before the June exams. (By this point we had visited Home Affairs six times.)

The same with a passport: it took five visits, with us not even getting in the door. As our home town of Howick cannot do passports, we had to travel to Pietermaritzburg and even tried other locations such as New Hanover, which we also visited three times on three days with no success.

The sites are terrible. None has public toilets and people are forced to urinate in public or use facilities at local restaurants.

No seating is available, so one either brings a camp chair, or you stand for up to 12 hours. As a nurse, I was horrified by the suffering I saw, including one lady with a newborn in arms. She said she could lose her job as she had to register the baby but could not keep missing work to do this. An old lady in a wheelchair, frail and exhausted. People on crutches, young and old, rich and poor. Essentially, it is a great leveller.

After five useless visits, we finally paid a “contact” to stand in the queue for us. These ladies start queuing for others at 3am so that we can be third, fourth or fifth in the queue at 7am. If the “system is online” and we have no power failures and a million other ands, you are able to get in the door.

What can make it better? As the application can be completed online, why can’t a booking be made for the completion of the application? Why are there not more banks made available for this? Manage the queues: there should be different lines for births, deaths and passports outside already. The aged and the frail should be given preference, as well as those with infants.

Basic facilities should be provided – toilets, seating, shade and safety.

The “online/offline” situation should be addressed urgently! How is this such a disastrous situation?

Generators or back-up power should be available for the constant interruption of power, or facilities like these should be exempt from cuts. Robyn DeWet DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ian Wallace Wallace says:

    Here are a few simple things that could elevate some pressure at ‘Hell Affairs’ a few years ago ‘Hell Affairs’ arbitrarily brought the business passport down from 60 something pages to forty two.

    I am guessing to make more money but it means that you have to renew that passport more frequently. Put it back up to 62 pages.

    Instead of collecting documents at ‘Hell Affairs’ offer a service whereby once processed in Pretoria it is courier to the recipient. They could charge for this make some money and alleviate some of the stress on their system.

    They can start to issue passports that are valid for 15 years until such time as they have ‘caught up with the back log’

    ‘Hell Affairs’ could offer internship’s and get young people todo a lot of the grunt work, while learning the job.

    They could open an hour earlier, close an hour later and be available to the public on weekends.

    “Where’s the money going to come from?” My answer to that is we pay for these documents the more effective the department the more documents they produce the more money the department will earn.

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