A frustrating wait

2015-01-29 00:00

FRUSTRATED Pietermaritzburg citizens have criticised staff at the Department of Home Affairs for being “slow” as queues grow at the offices every day.

This dissatisfaction pertains to the attitude of the staff at the local office as well as the amalgamation of the passport centre — which used to be a separate entity on the third floor — with the systems in place on the ground floor for identity documents.

This effectively means that passport applicants now have to take a number and queue with the myriad of other applications and registrations.

But it is the often lacklustre attitude of some staff that has raised residents’ ire.

Complainants allege the staff, who mostly work on the ground floor ­dealing with applications for identity documents and passports, sit on their cellphones and leave their work stations randomly for breaks while hundreds of people wait to be served.

The Witness visited the department on Monday to see if the allegations were true.

After one hour spent on the ground floor, it was found that out of seven workstations at the applications desk, only three staff members were present to help those waiting. At the collections desk where there are three workstations, only one woman was working.

When asked where her fellow employees were, she said, “They’re probably out on lunch”.

One complainant, Ayanda Malinga, said he observed one staff member take 20 minutes to get to helping clients when she returned from lunch after “mincing and mashing up and down chit-chatting with her friends”.

“This is very wrong, the staff are slow and they will tell you straight that they are going to lunch, so wait until they come if no one helps you, or go home and come back tomorrow,” Malinga said in an e-mail to The Witness.

Coincidentally, The Witness sports editor Lloyd Burnard went to the department on Tuesday to apply for a new passport.

Burnard said the process of paying at the cashier and proceeding to the photo-booth took roughly 15 minutes, but this line moved faster than the one at the applications desk, resulting in a backlog of patrons.

When Burnard got into the queue, the number given to him was 248 and the current number being served was 160. He joined the line at 1.30 pm and only had his application completed at 4.30 pm.

“During lunch time between 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm, only one person was present. Each application took roughly around five to 10 minutes. The entire time I was there, there were never more than three people at the applications desk.”

An employee at the department who asked not to be named in fear of victimisation, admitted this does happen.

“We see too many people every day and we also need a break. We can’t get through them all so we take it easy because it’s too much stress,” she said.

All attempts to get comment from the Department of Home Affairs national spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete were unsuccessful.

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