Sassa and Home Affairs offices stand empty

Offices for Home Affairs and SASSA officially opened in Maqongqo Centre, Pietermaritzburg, in 2011 have been closed for years. (Nompendulo Ngubane, GroundUp)
Offices for Home Affairs and SASSA officially opened in Maqongqo Centre, Pietermaritzburg, in 2011 have been closed for years. (Nompendulo Ngubane, GroundUp)

In 2011, offices for Home Affairs and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) were officially opened in Maqongqo Centre, Pietermaritzburg. But resident Nolwazi Chiliza says the offices only operated for a short time before they were closed down.

"What is the use of having offices which are statues?" asked Chiliza.

Though they have been closed for years, people still go to the offices unaware that they are not functional. At the building there is faded signage for Home Affairs and Sassa.

When GroundUp visited, there were two women and it seemed their job was to redirect people to Sassa and Home Affairs' other offices.

Residents from Emboyi, Nonzila, Manzamnyama, Nyavu and Maqongqo mostly go to Sassa in Pietermaritzburg with the return trip costing R34 by taxi.

Sassa spokesperson Mbizeni Mdlalose said they had to close the office due to staff shortages. He said it was always only a satellite office under the Sassa Camperdown local office.

"The number of people who were using it were very few. The office had to take officials from Camperdown … officials sat there doing nothing," said Mdlalose. "We will continue to engage with the community leadership regarding this matter.."

"When the offices were officially opened they invited us. They gave us food parcels and told us that travelling was over," said Chiliza.

"We are surprised when we are told to use offices in town (Pietermaritzburg centre) or Camperdown … We suffer with travelling costs while we have offices – that's unfair."

Sindiswa Myeni said she went to the office on Home Affairs business recently.

"I went there and met two ladies. They said they were social workers from the Sassa office. They told me to use offices in town or Camperdown. There was no one inside the Home Affairs office."

Home Affairs spokesperson Xolani Maphumulo said they never had offices at Maqongqo; it was just a strategic point to send mobile teams to take applications for ID books.

"After the introduction of smart ID card, mobile services stopped … It did not make business sense to continue taking applications for an ID (green book) which we are spending money to replace," said Maphumulo.

He said the department would resume with mobile services once the modernised trucks were installed with new systems.

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