Home Affairs queues

President Cyril Ramaphosa joined by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza shown the eVisa Application System (Photo: GCIS)

Here’s why you have to wait so long in Home Affairs queues

Long queues and processing delays – a staple of Home Affairs.

Home Affairs queues

President Cyril Ramaphosa joined by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza shown the eVisa Application System (Photo: GCIS)

Entrepreneurship with a bitter sweet South African twist was revealed as one of the reasons you have to wait so long in the queues at Department of Home Affairs offices in many parts of South Africa, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi revealed in Parliament.

Addressing the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs, Motsoaledi agreed to lift the veil on some of his department’s challenges; including long queues and the reason each one of the country’s 412 home affairs offices was recently offline for two days running.

Motsoaledi and top officials of his department gave feedback as part of the parliamentary budget overview hearings which are currently at full throttle. And one of the challenges the minister addressed was that there are home affairs offices where you will queue for hours, no matter how early you arrive.

‘Selling spots’ in Home Affairs queues

Motsoaledi explained that homeless and unemployed people started queuing before sunrise at some of the departmental offices – not to make use of the department’s services but in order to sell their places in the queue to wealthier members of the public.

The minister pointed out that the tragedy inherent to the situation cuts both ways – the desperation of the poor, who queue for ours just to earn a relative pittance, and the desperation of the working public to do anything to limit the huge amount of time wasted by waiting in queues.

Motsoaledi saw fit to rally against the department of public works and infrastructure, currently under the political stewardship of Patricia de Lille as minister. He says he has been complaining for years about that department, which recently (claims Motsoaledi) caused great distress for South Africans all over the country.

According to the home affairs minister, his department utilises a building in Pretoria which is practically its nerve centre – all requests for passports, IDs, birth and death certificates must pass through it, no matter where in the country they originate. In essence, the whole country’s home affairs offices are dependent on that building functioning for them themselves to function.

Read: Home Affairs step-up plans to secure visa-free travel from SA to the UK

Electricty cuts leave department powerless

Recently, the Tshwane metro cut electricity to the building for two days because the department of public works and infrastructure queried an outstanding account of R36 million and refused to pay it.

That decision led to the building being without electricity for 48 hours which meant that every home affairs office in the country ground to a halt for that period because it was offline.

Motsoaledi pointed out that, were that decision up to his department, he would have instructed that the account be settled first and disputed with the metro later if it proved to be erroneous. According to him, it is not worth having a national home affairs blackout for the sake of R36 million.

He has now joined several other ministers in requesting President Cyril Ramaphosa that their departments be allowed to take ownership of the buildings they use rather than be compelled to pay rental which they have no control over – about R300 million per year, in the case of home affairs – to the department of public works and infrastructure.

The department also revealed that it wants to switch to a seven day working week to adapt to the economic and service delivery needs of the current era, using flexi-time to ensure that officials can take their weekends any two days of the week and the public can use the department’s services over weekends if that is their preference.

The department has yet to convince the trade unions of the advisability of the plan, but negotiations are continuing, departmental officials told the oversight committee.