Nightmare on Church Street

2017-07-21 13:37
The lengthy queue outside the Home Affairs office on Church Street.

The lengthy queue outside the Home Affairs office on Church Street. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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Irate residents from the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg have described the “appalling” service they encounter at the Home Affairs office.

This week, long queues were seen outside the Home Affairs office in Church Street. Many residents braved the early morning chill queuing outside from as early as 6 am and by 9 am the line had snaked onto Chapel Street.

Home Affairs acting spokesperson David Hlabane said they will investigate the challenges at the Pietermaritzburg office.

“The challenges could be emanating from the office’s inability to open on a Saturday due to ongoing negotiations with unions.”

He said the problem related to the computer network was being attended to. The fed-up residents blamed inefficiency for the slow- moving queues.

Kalpana Singh from Raisethorpe said after spending hours in the queue, when she finally got inside she was told the system is down.

“Coming to this office is a nightmare. We stand in the queues for hours. There are elderly people here and it’s not fair. Home Affairs needs to improve their system and make it more efficient.”

Sikhumbuzo Lukhozi from Bulwer said putting the blame on their system was a frequent occurrence.

“Even when the system is not down the queues are long. The problem is with the way they work inside. You can’t have the queue move once in three hours. They need to hire more staff.”

Lukhozi said he had visited the office twice this week. “I have been here since 6 am and it doesn’t look like I’ll get in today.”

A Home Affairs employee who spoke to The Witness said the long queues were as a result of people inundating the office at once.

“Residents are part of the problem. They all come in at the same time. The system becomes overloaded when we experience large volumes of people and it slows down.”

The employee said the biggest challenge facing the office was a shortage of capacity.

“We have made numerous requests to the department for another office to be opened within the CBD. We are a capital city and one office is a disadvantage.”

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s spokesperson on Home Affairs issues, said Home Affairs offices across the country were in a state of crisis.

“Government started rolling out the new smart ID system without a sufficient number of offices. Their budgeting process is also upside down and many positions have not been filled.”

Hoosen said the department needed to introduce an appointment process to deal with the large volumes.

“This way citizens will be guaranteed assistance when visiting the offices. Hopefully with the new minister we get a different shift in attitude,” Hoosen said.

In October last year, The Witness wrote that Pietermaritzburg’s Home Affairs office was deemed
one of the worst service points in the country by the then national minister Malusi Gigaba. Gigaba promised immediate action would be taken to improve things. His unannounced visit there was prompted by comments on social media by disgruntled people complaining about poor service. His conclusion was that the Pietermaritzburg service point was facing a serious maladministration crisis. He added that management was to
be held accountable.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  home affairs

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