Guest Column

Hoping for better service at home affairs next time

2018-05-27 10:24

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Early this month I wrote about my ordeal when I went to renew our sons’ passports.

Following the article, I received calls and messages of support from friends and those within the public service. Had I used my position where I work and taken their advice, my passports’ application woes wouldn’t have been a problem.

I considered many options, but settled on giving the dreadful process another go. This was after the online service rejected applications because 2012 ones were still pending.

I went back to the home affairs’ office in Randburg. But this time I was a little clever. I was in the queue at 5.30am and was lucky enough to find myself being number seven in the line. Some of those who were there already had been there an hour earlier, so they said. It was a freezing Thursday morning in Joburg but I persevered – with a blanket to block the early morning chill.

After two and a half hours, the gates were opened. And, unlike the previous occasion when the official came out to let us know that it couldn’t assist because of technical problems with the numbering system, this time he was there to direct us to where those of us who were there for applications and those for collections should go.

Once inside, the queues moved smoothly and within an hour we had pictures taken; fingerprints done and payments made. The SMS to acknowledge the application beeped immediately afterwards. But there was a small problem – while the applications for two of the three boys were complete, the third boy’s application was still stuck in the online process, which required us to wait for at least 24 hours before it could be deleted. Another trip was made in the afternoon of the following Monday. Within 40 minutes we were done.

A week later the SMSes notifying us that the passports were ready for collection came, with the last one arriving on Friday morning. The collection queue awaits me now. At the previous visit, this queue was very long.

But the lessons for me after the previous encounters were clear. Don’t arrive early in the morning to apply for documents. The three hours of queueing for the 8am service is not worth it. If you can make time, go during the day. After-lunch arrivals could work, but not on a Monday or Friday.

Above all, government needs to speed up to avoid the lengthy queues for services that should not take the whole day to access.

Maybe next time I interact with home affairs there will be some improvements.

- Follow me on Twitter: @DumisaneLubisi.

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