In October, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi responded to complaints by the public about long queues, saying offices were being modernised. He promised extended hours, a full return of staff, and that senior managers would visit offices unannounced to monitor operations on the ground.
But when GroundUp visited several Home Affairs offices last week, the queues were still long, and people had still been queuing since dawn in the hope, often vain, of being assisted.
Meanwhile, on 24 November, Home Affairs briefed the Standing Committee on Premier and Constitutional Matters about systems, operational hours and staffing in the Western Cape. Provincial manager Yusuf Simons said that the department’s working hours are 7:30am till 4pm, with the office open to the public from 8am to 3:30pm.
Simons said that between 2013 and August 2020, Western Cape Home Affairs had lost over 2,500 staff members. “To address the problem of under staffing, DHA is working towards implementing automated services and training staff that has been working on manual services. The booking system has been completed, tested and will be implemented soon to make appointments to avoid the stampede and overcrowding. The department has also entered into partnership with organisations and municipalities to help with queue marshals, cleaners, sanitising, screening and recording of clients queueing outside offices. EPWP [Extended Public Works Programme] workers have been deployed to high volume offices like Cape Town, Nyanga, Mitchells Plain, Bellville and Khayelithsa,” he said.
He said most of the Western Cape offices have been modernised and have live data capture systems. “Home Affairs has declared war on queues to reduce waiting time by displaying signage outside offices to categorise queues into smart card and passport applications, smart card and passport collections, prioritise client categories, such as elderly, physically challenged persons, mothers with infants as well as scholars in uniform. We have also extended office hours during the festive season. Challenges experienced are system downtimes due to cable theft and loadshedding which damage servers and equipment when generators refuse to kick in,” he said.