The opposition Democratic Alliance has called for changes to be made at Home Affairs offices across the country – including the full adoption of the planned appointment system and changes to queues.
The DA said it has been ‘inundated’ with complaints from residents in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and North West, stating that Home Affairs offices in their areas continue to have ‘unbearably long queues’.
Specific issues include allegations of bribery and continuous IT system downtime.
“Bribery operations have allegedly become rife at the gates of these Home Affairs offices, where members of the community allegedly pay a bribe and leave their IDs to be prioritised in the queue. This causes queue delays and members of the community spending days at Home Affairs offices.
“Repeated visits to the Department of Home Affairs are not only inconvenient, but they also cost a lot of money, especially for those who are poor. People are forced to use their last cents to obtain important documents only to be turned away time after time due to Home Affair’s operational inadequacies.”
The DA wants the announced appointment system to be formally introduced and for separate queues to be designated for each service and help address long queues at the various Home Affairs offices.
Planned changes in the works
In February, the Department of Home Affairs announced it was piloting a new e-booking system which it says will drastically reduce long queues and wait times at its offices.
The new system forms part of a wider push to improve service delivery at Home Affairs offices, including a plan to address ageing equipment and an unstable network which has led to infrastructure issues. The department also plans to improve internet speeds and system downtime through new technologies, it said.
The booking system, which is currently only being trialled in select high-volume offices, has been integrated with the national population register to allow clients to use their ID numbers to book a slot. This will prevent agents illegally operating in home affairs offices from blocking slots to sell them on.
In November, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said his department was making progress in addressing system downtime issues at offices, but that the upgrade project could take longer than expected due to fiscal constraints.
The minister said several challenges had been identified by his department and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), which are now being addressed.
Some of the key issues include:
- Power supply issues have led to systems being offline – Generators have now been installed in 197 modernised Department of Home Affairs offices. Discussions are also taking place with telecommunications providers to provide backup solutions for their facilities.
- Cable theft and vandalism have led to downtime – SITA has begun a process has to install multiple connectivity links to offices.
- Ageing equipment and an unstable network have led to infrastructure issues – Since 2019, 180 new routers and 130 network switches have been deployed. Work is now underway to roll out the 1,050 routers and 1,000 network switches required, Motsoaledi said. He added that SITA is currently doubling internet speeds connecting some Home Affairs offices, which should help increase processing times for applications.
Motsoaledi said that this upgrade project is still ongoing, and due to fiscal constraints, the project’s completion date might be stretched to the end of the 2024/25 financial year.