The photo used in the original article was taken at around 12pm outside the Department of Home Affairs in East London on Monday the 9th of April by myself and a friend who merely wanted to renew our ID's and return a stolen drivers' license. We joined the queue at 10:30 in the morning and only moved 5 to 7 metres. By 2:30 everyone was told to go home because there was no chance of being seen today.
There is no shade and the sidewalks are too narrow and filthy, as there is not a single rubbish bin. The staff only came out at 12:15 to assess the situation, after I'd called an official and the Daily Dispatch.
Mr Ntlokwana and another official said, "The queue isn't so bad".
Well then why are we at home without applications? Why did nobody think to see to the frail older people and women with new born babies first instead of forcing them to stand in the heat? Why can’t home affairs go to high schools, clinics, the SASSA and hospitals to process ID's and birth certificates anymore?
The paramedics, who carried the young girl like a sheep, laying her down on the road when there was a stretcher clearly visible in the ambulance, were called because of the state of the service that we have come to expect from government departments!
Why is it accepted that the East London office has the only 2 smartcard ID processing machines in the region? For this reason, the residents of Mdantsane, Engcobo and Tsolo have to travel to East London. They cannot be helped in their own towns.
Why must people stand in queues from 10am and are then told to leave and to come back again another day WITH NO GUARANTEE that they will be helped? The least that the officials could have done was:
1. Put up signs for queues for collections separate from applications.
2. Get staff to walk the queue and give numbered tickets till 280, while checking to see if we have all the papers we need. (280 is apparently the average number of people they can process per day)
3. Make sure the website works so that we can actually fill in the forms and whatever the website is supposed to do.
4. If the system is down in the satellite offices, get those staff to come assist the overworked staff here.
5. Contact numbers on the website must be updated.
6. Offer to go to schools again in order for grade 11 and 12 to get ID’s.
7. Try to find a solution. People should not go back and wait in a queue again if they were successful in applying for ID’s. Can’t the ID's just be sent via registered mail or to people's banks?
Minister Gigaba must leave so that the Department of Home Affairs can get the leadership and training in problem solving and customer service they obviously lack. Bathopele doesn't exist here, or SASSA, numerous police stations where people are being turned away if they want affidavits, municipal offices, etc.
By 4pm, the official with whom I was corresponding throughout this ordeal called me twice already and thanked me for the running comment and improvement suggestions I sent her via SMS. She assured me that she has taken my advice to heart and that the suggestions I made are easily implementable. I ensured her that I was not angry with her or her staff, but that something must change. I told her that I had personally forced two really old and frail people into the building even though they were standing behind me.
What is so difficult for the staff to walk the line and see to disabled people, frail elders and mothers with babies? I don't think anyone with a sense of civic duty and respect for all people would mind.
When staff members walk the queue, they should separate the ones waiting to collect their ID from everyone else. They should check that all the people in the queue carry all the necessary documents. Had I been lucky enough to get in eventually, I would have been sent away because I didn't have an affidavit and proof of residence with me…