South Africa

COLD DIS-SERVICE

‘Please be patient, your call will be answered’ – we test four key SA government hotlines

‘Please be patient, your call will be answered’ – we test four key SA government hotlines
From left: People queue outside Home Affairs in Cape Town on 7 May 2021. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | NSFAS logo. (Image: Supplied) | An Eskom office in Braamfontein on 13 February 2023. (Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

‘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’.

Home Affairs 

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. 


Eskom 

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 

  1. To report power outages, please use Alfred Chatbot https://alfred.eskom.co.za/chatroom/
  2. 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
  3. 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.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    This a poorly researched article. One needs only basic understanding of Statistics to know that one cannot make inferences (as the author does) from a small sample size, in in this instance it is a sample size of 1! And is a 19 min response good or bad? What is one comparing 19 min to? DM Editors should know better.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Your comment sounds like it is made by someone who has never had to suffer through a Home Affairs experience, where people have been queuing for so long they are literally lying on the ground sleeping. Portraying it as a “sample of 1” is misleading, as the reason for running the article is no doubt a response to many many many (sorry, I don’t believe it possible to put enough “many”s in the space provided so will stop at 3) privately and publicly made complaints about exactly this problem. Also worth mentioning is that this article does not to me portray itself as a scientific analysis, but rather a lived experience which it does eloquently.

      Personally I welcome any efforts to publicise “what is” – which is, in my personal sample of 1 experience simply shocking – in the hope that it will help save our economy or possibly even help protect a single person from abuse. I certainly do not expect perfection in this country – that ship has long sailed – but let’s not be so quick to shoot down elevation of awareness that at least help focus us on the path to improvement.

      • Hester Dobat says:

        The article might lack the requirements of research but I agree. You need to be on the other end of the phone to appreciate the summary made

    • John Smythe says:

      If the author only has one example to present, I have about 30 more I can add to that if required (for 2022/2023). The one example is a good representative assessment.

    • I believe you do not understand the problem, and try to support your argument with “statistics 101” .

    • Ritey roo roo says:

      How much time do you want them to waste on the phone. Do you honestly think it would get better? I suggest you conduct your own experiment in order to share in the experience and in the interests of good “statistics”

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Try and phone the UIF

  • Change is good sa says:

    The great pity about this lack of service from Government employees, is that they are South Africans perpetrating this misery on South Africans in need. What is wrong with us.
    We need a morals and values reset.
    These systems are out of date and they are not improved on every financial year because the money is being stolen by ANC cadres. We don’t have a budget problem in South Africa, we have a theft problem. This is the legacy of the ANC.

  • charlesbotha says:

    It is a pity that the author did not have an electricity account number to proceed with Eskom. On several occasions, due to breakdowns in supply, we have experienced waiting on line over half an hour, that is excluding the many times the line simply went dead and we had to start all over again!

  • Oliver Rissik says:

    SARS. Try calling after about 9am – you’ll be told you are number 362 in the queue!! That could be a wait of over 1 hour. They offer a call-back option which when you can connect to it (which you cannot now) worked with a call within 10 minutes. All-in-all very frustrating.

  • Renn Moore says:

    For those who deem themselves sufficiently experienced to criticize this article, do yourselves a favor. Try the SARS call center. Fair warning. These characters are still living in COVID times and work from home! They warn that you may hear strange sounds in the background. Waiting time in excess of an hour, simply to have your call dropped. But do not believe me, find out for yourselves. You deserve the taste of what is bound to be our future!

  • Jan Malan says:

    DM should try a couple of private companies like Telkom and Vodacom. My experience is that it is not much better than the government services. I am so sick and tired of hearing how important my call is but nothing happens.

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