‘We’ll fix PMB Home Affairs’

2018-02-12 13:30
The long queue outside the Home Affairs building on Church Street.

The long queue outside the Home Affairs building on Church Street. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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The Department of Home Affairs says it is taking steps to improve the service at its notoriously dysfunctional Church Street office.

For several years now the office has been criticised by members of the public for being inefficent and poorly staffed. In 2016 the then Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba described it as one of the department’s worst offices in the country.

Last week the office was again plagued by long queues and online system crashes.

Thabo Mokgola, the national spokesperson for the department, said various interventions had taken place to address challenges that had been identified.

These included improving the workflow inside the office to ensure efficient service delivery.

“Our managers continue to undergo training that equips them with the skills and the experience to confront client-related challenges in a professional manner,” said Mokgola. “Equally, our officials are adequately trained and we are in the process of ensuring that every counter is occupied by competent officials.”

On the issue of long queues, Mokgola said there are various factors that contributed to them. These included the beginning of the school calendar and fake messages about the discontinuation of green barcoded ID books.

A dispute with labour had resulted in operations being halted on Saturdays.

“We have embarked on a recruitment drive to fill key vacancies and enhance our service delivery and strengthen capacity.”

Mokgala said minister Ayanda Dlodlo continually engaged senior managers to find ways to improve client experiences.

“In due course, the minister will make key announcements in relation to measures that will be implemented to effect change in the department,” he said.

Mokgala said Home Affairs was exploring various avenues to expand its footprint, particularly in areas where there is a greater need for Home Affairs services like Pietermaritzburg.

“Further to this, it is anticipated that the reintroduction of mobile units will alleviate the pressures experienced by the offices.”

Since 2016 The Witness has written a string of articles on the shocking service at the office.

Gigaba visited the local office in 2016 and deemed it to be one of the worst service points in the country.

Gigaba said the office was facing a serious maladministration crisis and that management should be held accountable. He was critical of the management’s performance and said it was not well equipped to manage operations. He added that the long queues at the office were “worrying” and said they could be better managed.

Gigaba made a commitment that improvements would be made by the end of 2016, but to date little appears to have changed.

When The Witness visited the offices on Tuesday there were long queues.

Frustrated patrons lost patience while standing in a queue that was not moving and caused a stir by starting to push one another.

One local resident decided not to bother applying for her passport after seeing the length of the queues.

“I’ll have to postpone my overseas trip. The queue here is crazy and there’s no hope of getting in.

“I feel sorry for people who have to take taxis and spend money to get here and they are turned away. It’s a sad situation and it must be attended to with urgency,” she said.

Nomfundo Mdladla from Maqongqo, who lost her identity document in December, said she had been at the branch from 6 am to apply for a smart card ID.

“Just after 11 am they told us that the system has crashed. It’s frustrating. As the public we deserve better. The system crashes all the time, they must do something to repair it,” said Mdladla.

She was angry that the staff prioritised lunch breaks ahead of serving the people.

Gogo Elizabeth Mtshali from Copesville said she had been trying to get her grandson’s ID smart card from November.

“The service is pathetic and we find no joy. We stand in the queue for hours and as decent citizens we deserve to be helped. They should do whatever is needed to help the public. I am old and my body is taking strain ... standing in this queue is exhausting.”

Alicia Naidoo from Northdale said she felt the staff was not equipped to manage operations.

“Why don’t they hire temporary staff to attend to the public during their lunch hour? It’s unfair that we had to sit and wait. They don’t even have bare necessities like a toilet in this office, it’s appalling,” said Naidoo.

The patrons queuing outside the office said they have to pay R5 to use a toilet at the restaurant next door.

Naidoo said a new service office was needed in Pietermaritzburg.

“One office is not enough for Pietermaritzburg. It’s just not working out,” she added.

Another member of the public who was queuing to renew her passport also vented her frustration.

“I’m travelling to Australia in March and need to apply for a visa. What does one do? I’ve travelled down from Tanzania to get this done but it looks like I won’t be getting my passport. I was told its quick but obviously the system is not efficient,” she said.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  home affairs

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