Doing her job right: Gigaba’s secretary responds to 200 emails a day

2015-04-06 10:15

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Home affairs minister’s secretary treats each citizen’s query with great care

‘Please email nobuhle.mazibuko@dha.gov.za. She will assist. Thanks.”

That is the standard response of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to the thousands of people who write to him on social-media networks with queries about the services rendered by his department.

For months now, and several times a day, Gigaba has been referring South Africans to his administrative secretary, Nobuhle Mazibuko, who handles most queries on his behalf.

Unlike her boss, Mazibuko is not a social-media butterfly. She is not on Twitter, but can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

City Press tracked her down to put a face to the name.

“I receive about 200 emails a day, written in all the official languages of our country and to which I have to respond and also forward to the relevant people in the department and follow up on,” she said.

“Sometimes I can’t make sense of the inquiry and sometimes the entire email is written in the subject line. In such cases, I follow up with a telephone call, but we make sure every inquiry is addressed,” she said.

The majority of the emails are from people following up on their applications for ID documents, passports, unabridged birth certificates, applications for permanent or temporary residence and other services provided by the department.

“I have to speak to the department on behalf of each and every one of those clients. I then respond to the client on the status of their application.

“I also try to make it transparent for the client. If you send me an email, I will copy you on the email to the people dealing with your application, so that you know exactly who is dealing with your query and, when they respond, you can see what exactly is going on,” she explained.

Mazibuko joined the department in October last year, having previously worked with Gigaba on special projects in the department of public enterprises.

Before she joined home affairs, Gigaba had encouraged her to be on social-media networks, saying “it would be useful when I join home affairs; it will be handy”.

But of course, not everyone who mails has a home affairs query – job seekers try their luck too.

Mazibuko told City Press she occasionally received emails from people who inquired about vacancies in the department, but others emailed her to report corrupt officials soliciting bribes from desperate citizens.

“No one has ever tried to bribe me, but I get emails from people who want to report officials who are seeking bribes, which, of course, we then investigate,” she said.

Mazibuko also fields telephone calls – but unlike emails, callers are angrier and shout at her out of frustration.

“Fortunately, I was a high school teacher, so I know how to deal with frustrated people and make them understand – because I have to make people understand the processes.

“When they do give me a chance, we get to a solution and, later, they send me an email of appreciation,” she added.

Mazibuko loves receiving compliments.

“They uplift me. I enjoy it when people acknowledge our work. I have noticed that people want to know this face. I have taken people into my office, because sometimes they want to come in and see the face of the person helping them,” she said.

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