Readers share their solutions to the breakdowns at Home Affairs
Following our story ‘Queue, the beloved country’, we asked our readers for their suggestions regarding the ongoing crisis at the Department of Home Affairs. Here are some of the responses.
We requested feedback on the Daily Maverick website, asking readers to share their solutions to the array of issues at Home Affairs.
See also: Readers share their sorry tales
How we can fix the Home Affairs shambles
Like many things in South Africa, the Home Affairs crisis can be fixed if we:
- employ the right people with the requisite skills;
- scrap affirmative action;
- stop cadre deployment;
- upgrade the information technology (IT) systems;
- integrate all IT systems such as banking, motor vehicle licensing, driver’s licences, municipality billing, etc;
- open more offices in malls and taverns;
- simplify all processes, e.g. no need to have photos taken for every application;
- reduce unnecessary paperwork;
- apply online approval similar to e-visas in other countries;
- integrate everything, e.g. tax, banking, ID, passport, licences and municipality bills; and
- stop corruption. — Dr Devan Singh
Adopt proven systems
I am not an expert on ID cards, but I do know that the US has perfected the ID card.
The card has your details such as driver’s licence, gun licence, education qualifications, home address, criminal offences, etc.
If we arrange with the US to help us implement the system in South Africa, I am certain that this will help most organisations eliminate fraudulent documents.
It will also help the justice department to help the courts to identify repeat offenders.
The system can also be adapted by the Justice Department to raise red flags for prosecutors, helping their prosecution of criminals and other civil matters. SA is in the habit of reinventing the wheel when we can buy the wheels from countries that have the perfect wheels to help us in most departments — Eskom, Prasa, Denel, SARS, health, water and sanitation, agriculture, SAPS and so on.
We need a new system of government to eliminate the inefficient three-tier government system that we inherited in 1994. — Suresh Bhikha
More counters than staff
I went to the Home Affairs office in Umgeni Road in Durban about a month ago. Fortunately, I was in the senior queue, so instead of the process taking 12 hours, like it did for my nephew, it took about three hours.
I noticed that the office infrastructure catered for more staff than were present. Why are all counters not staffed?
The management of human resources at Home Affairs’ offices needs investigation. Including absenteeism. — Hersheela Narsee
ANC is an agent of destruction
There is no need for any scientific study or sitting consultation with experts. All that is required is the recruitment of appropriate personnel and the inclusion of work ethic into their work and performance contracts.
Hell Affairs is not the only organisation that handles the public. How come the others don’t have issues?
The ANC government is an agent of destruction. Never view solutions via them. Providing solutions will only alert the ANC to greater efficiency in the destruction project. I’m not paranoid. You only have to open your eyes and it’s obvious.
Please make it a priority to highlight and expose the conscious and deliberate destruction of South Africa. — Krishna Viranna
No ID cards for naturalised citizens
I have enquired repeatedly at the Home Affairs office at the FNB branch in the Lifestyle Mall in Centurion. Each time, I’m told that I can’t get a new ID card as I’m a naturalised citizen. I acquired South African citizenship in 1964.
Surely some or other Home Affairs IT system only requires minor adjustments to enable all naturalised citizens to acquire a new ID card? Currently, Home Affairs must be running two parallel IT systems to renew passports for born citizens and naturalised citizens. If so, this must contribute to unnecessary red tape. — William Le Crerar
Clearly marked queues would help
Simply having clearly marked queues would help. Usually, there are people standing everywhere and I have no idea where I am meant to wait or in which queue. For example, at Randburg, there are three queues outside the births, marriages and deaths office — waiting to be helped, waiting to apply and waiting for documents. However, it is entirely unclear what is going on and where to stand when you get there.
Simply making this clearer would surely help unnecessary queuing? I realise this is unlikely to solve the much bigger problems that DHA has, though. — Colin Pilkington
System needs upgrading
There is not a week that goes by without the Home Affairs system going offline. It is advisable that they upgrade their systems.
The workers would be indebted as well. — Khethiwe Mathe
Passport still missing after 27 weeks
My brother (on a SA passport) recently needed to travel to the UK for the funeral of an aunt. He applied for an urgent visa and was told it would take 10 days. That was 27 weeks ago, and he has still not been able to find out anything about where his passport is.
The last US visa I obtained had me standing in the burning sun outside the US embassy for about five hours. I had an appointment for 8am and I was finally at my interview a little after 1pm.
In terms of solutions, I don’t think we should be looking at engineering or IT systems as you suggested. The problem lies primarily with the trade unions and their insistence on not allowing any form of performance agreement or performance-related increments and the difficulty of firing non-performing workers.
If each worker had a target number of people to be served in a day, and accrued positive points for exceeding that target and negative points for not reaching that target, and if each office was awarded positive points for cleanliness, availability of the relevant forms and various other measures of performance, and if the points accrued contributed to a higher or a lower salary increase each year, then I don’t think it would take too long before we would all see a marked improvement.
We have to get the economy moving so that the ANC does not have to remain hell-bent on creating and keeping public sector jobs so as to maintain their electorate. Only then should we turn to better IT systems, which can track progress with documents and ensure individuals book interview slots rather than companies that sell those slots on, etc. — Geoff Krige
Enough is enough
Thanks so much for tackling this issue as I believe it is one that impacts all South Africans equally, as everyone needs to deal with Home Affairs at different points in their lives.
Rather than recount all of the many times that I have been frustrated at Home Affairs, I would rather share some more general observations of my experiences there.
Accountability and traceability: One key issue with service delivery from Home Affairs is that there is neither accountability nor traceability on services delivered by the staff there. One simply submits applications, pays and then prays that at some point in the distant future said documents might magically arrive from Pretoria. This is especially problematic for old paper-based systems that rely on working with the archives in Pretoria.
We are simply told to accept that this system is broken and that, at some point, we may — or may not — receive the documents requested. The staff at the branches have no way of tracking the progress of a request and absolve themselves of any responsibility for the request. The level of apathy is enraging.
Empowerment to deliver services: In a situation in which the branch staff are basically powerless, it is understandable that they are apathetic and irritated with their customers.
I believe they must encounter rage, despair and a whole range of negative emotions on an hourly basis, so I can understand that many staff members no longer care whether they are able to deliver on what they are supposedly paid to do.
New digital systems: One aspect in which I have seen a high level of service and delivery is where digital systems have been put in place. These by their very nature build in accountability and traceability.
I have had extremely positive experiences with our local Home Affairs in Caledon (we are extremely lucky to be living in the Overberg, Western Cape) with renewing my and my father-in-law’s passports on the new digital systems. In my case, it took less than 20 minutes to process my application, which had been prepaid online. And 48 hours later, I collected my passport there! I was delighted.
In my father-in-law’s case, he travelled down to stay with us from KwaZulu-Natal. They are in the Drakensberg and had not been able to find a functional Home Affairs branch anywhere within a three-hour drive of them. They had eventually tasked their lawyer with finding one, to no avail.
His application took us one hour at Caledon as the branch was busier, and we received his passport 10 days later. Hooray!
At the same time, I had agreed to deal with collecting an unabridged birth certificate for a friend who is living in the UK. Her father had had a stroke and was not able to travel to Caledon to deal with it.
I assembled the required paperwork and permissions and was delighted to find that the document was ready for collection.
I sent a photograph of the birth certificate to her, saying that I had just collected it and would courier the original.
She immediately responded to say that both her parents’ names had been misspelt. No problem, I said, I was at the branch and could get it rectified. Ha ha.
No, we would have to reapply and I would have to get a whole slew of paperwork brought up to date. I raged to be met by the blank indifference of someone who sees this a hundred times a day.
I pointed out to the lady that this is a gross clerical error by someone who is obviously not competent and that there is likely no accountability for this mistake.
Unfortunately, Home Affairs is just another system of a bloated and parasitic government bleeding ordinary South Africans dry, and unfortunately, we have become apathetic ourselves, quietly accepting that this is how government functions.
We see lots of examples all over the world where things can function better, and we need to start kicking inept politicians into touch. I can see that the staff at Home Affairs branches are ordinary South Africans who would like to be able to put in a day’s work and deliver the services that they are employed to deliver.
Thanks for tackling this issue. We need to stand up and say enough is enough. — John Thorne Seccombe
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.