‘Please be patient, your call will be answered’ – we test four key SA government hotlines
‘Please be patient’ was the automated message from Home Affairs following a more than 10-minute wait on the phone to access crucial information. Daily Maverick has spent time recording how long it takes for a voice to answer calls to four key government services. The longest by far was Home Affairs, where the wait went to just more than 20 minutes before a human voice said ‘hello’.
The toll-free Home Affairs call centre number 0800 60 11 90 is easily found through a Google search.
Experience: The automated voice on the phone said Home Affairs, under the watch of Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, was waging a war on queues. After one minute we were asked if we would like self-help services or refugee/asylum services. Then we were told that Home Affairs is experiencing a “high call volume” and asks for patience. Then came a reminder that those older than 60 and first-time applicants can get their new Smart ID cards at Home Affairs offices countrywide, followed by a reminder that all babies must be registered with the department within 30 days of birth, whether the parents are South African or foreign. Then came another reminder about high call volumes. At the 10-minute mark there was a reminder about the birth registration, followed by music and a request for patience amid high call volumes. The music became more upbeat after about 15 minutes, but still no answer. Only at 19 minutes did a human voice say “hello”.
Home Affairs is yet to respond to media queries.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Hell Affairs
National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
A search for the NSFAS hotline yielded email contacts, an SMS line and a toll-free call centre number: 0800 067 327.
Experience: After 15 seconds of ringing an automated voice asked for a breakdown to assist with either 2023 applications or rejections; 2023 allowances and the NSFAS wallet services; accessing your NSFAS account or an email for NSFAS repayments. One couldn’t reach a human voice without selecting the automated options. The whole process took one and a half minutes.
The NSFAS media desk is yet to respond to media queries.
The customer service number 0860 037 566 is immediately listed online after a Google search. It is not clear whether it is toll free.
Experience: After five seconds an automated voice said South Africa was currently at Stage 6 load shedding, then asked that we keep a meter number close by for when assistance could be provided. It then asked us to select our province by pressing a number, after which it asked for an account or meter number, which we did not have. We could not proceed without an account number. Eskom then provided numbers and emails for different services, such as distribution, but several numbers would be easily forgotten if not written down. This process took two and a half minutes.
In response, Eskom’s media desk said it received about 20,000 contacts from customers per day from different channels and 70% of them are electricity supply-related calls.
Besides the toll-free number, queries could also be made on the Eskom website here
- To report power outages, please use Alfred Chatbot https://alfred.eskom.co.za/chatroom/
- For account balances, submitting of meter readings and to report power outages, please use the MyEskom Customer app (for Android click here to download; and for the IOS version please click here to download) or CS Online, csonline.co.za
- For all other queries (application-related service requests, account-related service requests, disconnection and credit extension-related service requests), customers can resubmit queries to [email protected]
The subject headings should be as follows:
- For Applications related queries, please use # Application and the Province your Request relates to.
- For Accounts related queries, please use # Accounts and the Province your Request relates to.
- For Move In / Move Out related queries, please use # MIMO and the Province your Request relates to.
- For Disconnections and Credit Extensions, please use # DCE and the Province your Request relates to.
NB: For Eskom to effectively assist, customers are requested to provide: their account or meter number, two contact numbers and a description of their request.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Eskom Intelligence Files
Gender-based violence hotline: 10111 (SAPS emergency number)
When searching for a gender-based violence hotline online there are several sponsored posts for non-governmental organisations. On gov.za, we were referred to the South African Police Service for help in instances of domestic violence or assault. The number given online was 10111, which is toll free on a landline but on a cellphone normal call rates apply.
Experience: On 10111, the call was answered after 20 seconds, and the person on the other end laughed. When Daily Maverick said “Hello”, the phone was slammed down in our ear.
A response from the SAPS was not forthcoming by the time of publication. DM
Daily Maverick will update this article with responses if and when they arrive.