Home Affairs queues: ‘No quick fix’

2018-04-24 16:15
Minister of Home affairs Malusi Gigaba speaking to two pupils during his visit to the Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office.

Minister of Home affairs Malusi Gigaba speaking to two pupils during his visit to the Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office. (Nhlanhla Nkosi)

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Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has declared war on the long queues and waiting time at the city’s controversial Home Affairs office.

However, he has admitted that there is no “quick fix” and blamed “under-funding” as the cause of the long queues.

On a visit to the city yesterday Gigaba vowed that over the next 12 months, he will improve the management at the Church Street service point so that it loses the “negative reviews” it has been receiving from members of the public.

For several years now, the office has been criticised by members of the public for being inefficient and poorly staffed.

On Monday the minister promised that immediate action would be taken to improve long queues bedeviling the centre’s operations but admitted it will not be a quick fix. However, he said: “We are going to win the war on queues.

“There is no way we are going to allow our people to be subjected to the indignity of standing in long queues at our offices. Over the next 12 months, our singular attention will be to increase our footprint, improve productivity and lessen waiting time,” said Gigaba.

The Pietermaritzburg office has been earmarked for immediate intervention to reduce waiting times and ensure that clients do not wait outside the office to be served.

Members of the public who were queuing at the office on Monday told Gigaba that the office was often plagued by long queues and online system crashes.

Gigaba said the department did not have a budget to update its technology.

Gigaba told The Witness that he noted with concern that there were people who had arrived at the offices as early as 5 am to try and process applications for smart ID cards and passports.

Nomfundo Gabela from Maqongqo, a first-time identity document applicant, told Gigaba that she had left home at 4 am.

“I had to miss school to come here,” said Gabela. She stood in the queue from 5 am and only completed her entire application process around 10 am.

However, the minister was adamant that this challenge will be better managed with a plan in the pipeline to get another service point for Pietermaritzburg.

The minister pointed out that the problem of long queues was because the department was under-funded, therefore, it currently does not have sufficient resources for additional offices or staff.

“The reason why we have long queues is because we have people who come from far away areas to be serviced here because we don’t have enough resources and enough smart card offices in those areas,” said Gigaba. His conclusion was that in order to alleviate pressure at the Pietermaritzburg service point, the department would increase capacity at all nearby offices to divert traffic.

The minister said Home Affairs provincial manager Cyril Mncwabe was currently finalising the deployment of additional staff at New Hanover.

Gigaba said there was also a plan to establish Live Capture System offices in Bulwer, Impendle and Howick.

“We are also engaging with some of the banks that we are currently working with to have another work station here in Pietermaritzburg.”

After pronouncing the Pietermaritzburg office as one of the worst service points in the country during his last visit in 2016, Gigaba said he had noted an improvement in the service and workflow.

“The office has improved greatly. When I was last here there was tremendous confusion about the workflow process. People didn’t know where to go, but you can already see that operationally speaking there is better management of the office. The work flow is clearer.”

Although he noted an improvement in the workflow processes, the minister said the critical challenge now was to reduce the amount of waiting time.

Gigaba said he had also been alerted by disgruntled members of the public that collections took too long.

He also assured concerned parents that the department would soon be providing mobile services to schools where pupils will be able to process applications for identity documents and birth certificates.

“By the beginning of July we would have introduced 78 live capture mobile units which will be used for schools and rural areas.”

He said the department was also looking at re-establishing operations of Home Affairs services on Saturdays.

“We want Home Affairs to open for full services on a Saturday,” Gigaba added.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  home affairs

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