POOR service delivery and long queues have long been a problem at home affairs offices around the country but The New Age has uncovered offices like the one in Umgeni Road, Durban where hard-working staff are doing sterling work in trying conditions.
When The New Age visited the office which has been plagued by complaints about bad customer service and unfriendly staff.
Early yesterday morning, the queues were already snaking past the parking lot as clients waited for the offices to open at 8 am.
The ID, passport, marriage and birth registrations queues were the longest. Those in line had come prepared for the long wait bringing their camp chairs and packed food.
Contrary to expectations, however, once the doors opened at 8 am the lines began moving quickly with staff and officials on hand to assist with the queues with a sense of urgency and directing people to the correct queues.
Security, who have often been accused of reserving parking and places in the queues for up to R200, were seen chasing vagrants away.
Meanwhile, enterprising vagrants and hawkers are doing brisk business selling “space” to “late comers” who arrive at the Umgeni and Dr AB Xuma (Commercial) street offices unwilling to wait for hours in the long queues.
Vusumuzi Zwane said it has become so competitive that now the “space sellers” themselves arrive as early as 2am to make sure they are in front of the line and can reserve as many places as possible to sell to home affairs customers.
Their prices range from R30 to R80 for the front of the queue.
“It depends on how much you have and where you want to stand. As vagrants around the Durban CBD saw that there was a demand for the service, it’s simply business. No matter how many times they chase us away, nobody wants to stand in the queues that early in the morning, because even arriving at 6am is very late to join the line,” he said.
In Bloemfontein, people are fed up of the long waiting times at the only home affairs office, in Rocklands. Nomvula Ndimande, 35, from Bergmans Square said she had been turned away twice from the home affairs to apply for a smart card ID.
“The first time I got there at 2pm, I was told that I came too late and had to come back the following day. I could not go the next day because I had to go to work and went there the following week about 11am but still could not get help,” she said.
The Free State Home Affairs manager, Bonakele Mayekiso, confirmed that customers had to wait for long hours to apply for documents.
“Our system can only assist 120 people per day for the smart card applications and some days there are more than 400 people. However we came up with a plan and have two lines for the smart cards, one is for applications and the other for collections,” Myekiso said.
He said a meeting had been scheduled with Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to explore ways in which to tackle the challenges. At the Cape Town centre in the old customs building, three flights of stairs were crowded with frustrated asylum seekers waiting to be seen.
“I got here yesterday and waited for hours before I was told that the systems were offline.
“I came here today at 6am, it is after midday and I am still not helped, Whether we will get help today remains to be seen,” a woman who identified herself as Cena, said.
Amien Mohammed was another highly frustrated customer.
“Today is my third day here.
“I have to come very early and then have to wait for hours to be seen before I am told to come back again the next day. When I return, I again have to wait for hours because I don’t have an appointment.
“This system does not work well, we get sent back and fourth and every time we come back we spend hours in queues waiting to be seen. Many days we don’t get help and have to return the following day,” he said.