The long queues and even longer wait at the Home Affairs offices in Tongaat continues. Despite residents complaining bitterly of the shoddy service, and previous reports in the Tongaat and Verulam Tabloid, the problem persists.
Some people going to the Home Affairs offices as early as 4am, many who are there to apply for their identity documents, while others arriving a little later claim that they do not get seen to by officials.
When the Tongaat and Verulam Tabloid reporter visited the Tongaat offices in Maharaj Street, the situation was worse than expected. At 8am the queue was already snaking through the car park and on to the street. The waiting area was filled to capacity.
People waiting in line were seen complaining to the officials that they had other commitments, with some having to go to work. Some said that they were waiting there for hours and did not expect to be seen to by officials ‘any time soon’.
Others residents who spoke to the paper said they were forced to visit other branches of the Department of Home Affairs to apply for travel documents.
Vishan Ramnarian, who was at the Home Affairs at 4am, and was barely at the entrance gate at around 8am, said, “I had to return six times just to apply for my passport. Each time I had to stand in queue for four hours and yesterday for seven hours.
“I’ve sent several letters to the local manager at the Home Affairs to complain about the bad service and to ask for help with a problem that they were unable to solve. However, there was no reply or even an acknowledged that they received my letters.”
He said that when he applied at the offices in the Durban CBD he waited in the queue for barely an hour. “The staff at the Durban CBD branch are also friendlier and more helpful than the the Tongaat branch.”
When the branch manager, who refused to give his name, was approached for comment he said: “I am not a right person to talk to about those issues, but you should contact the provincial or national spokesperson of the department, I think.”
Another resident Vukani Khanyile applied for his children’s passports in November last year. He was told by an official that he should also apply for unabridged birth certificates. “The official at Home Affairs neglected to inform me that I have to complete different forms for the unabridged birth certificates. I thought it was part of the same process despite me telling him that I need to apply for passports and unabridged birth certificates.”
“Only when I returned to Home Affairs to collect the passports, did I realise there were no unabridged birth certificates attached. They simply said that I could apply and that it takes about eight weeks. I told them that I had applied in November upon applying for the passports. The staff simply said that they do not know and that I must re-apply,” said Khanyile.
He said that surely home affairs staff would know that a child’s passport without an unabridged birth certificate is worthless because one cannot travel with just a passport. “After numerous phone calls I ended up with an employee from the Home Affairs head office in Pretoria. They managed to help me with the unabridged birth certificates just in time for our upcoming holiday.”
Other people waiting in the queue travel from Mount Edgecombe, or other surrounding towns. “We have to take time off from work. We are paid hourly. We lose money if we are not at work,” said an annoyed Raj Pillay.
Another irate visitor to the Home Affairs offices, Sizakele Mbhele, said: “I want to make an official complaint to you about the unhappy experience I had, and the disgusting state of the offices in Tongaat. On 2 May I went to collect my new passport, which was issued within two weeks of my application, the application process took three hours.
“However, I feel that you should know about the wasted time I had to spend in queues to just collect the passport. I arrived at the offices at 7.30am. At 8.30am, because I am a pensioner, I was positioned in a special queue of about 35 people outside the entrance.”
She said for the next five-and-a-half hours, they had to stand in the hot sun until when she was finally called in by the roving official.
“This official was moving between our growing queue and the two others of at least 120 people each. He selected about 15 people from each and five from our pensioners’ queue leading them into the office. This meant all three queues became mere ‘general’ queues,” she said. She finally got to collect her passport at 3pm.
Ward 106 councillor Johnson Chetty said that he was ‘aware’ of the situation at the Home Affairs offices. “The ordinary man in the street dreads going to a state institution, especially Home Affairs. This is due to the long queues and tardiness of officials that work there. The public have a right to a reasonable degree of service as the public’s rates and taxes pay the salaries of those officials,” said Chetty.
“Several months ago, an irritated person filmed the officials tinkering on their cellphones whilst the people were forced to wait. The people deserve better. In a caring society, the management would remove those non-performing officials and replace them with dedicated recruits,” he said.
When the newly sworn in KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala delivered his first State of the Province Address (SOPA) on 28 June, he said, “As part of improving service delivery and quality of services provided to the people, the Premier’s office will embark on the new Operation Siyahlola which will focus on monitoring the functioning of departments, government service centres and implementation of government projects.”
Zikalala said it was time that the government “end the culture of impunity” for those who do not live by the principles of Batho Pele and ethical conduct in the public service. An email was sent to the Department of Home Affairs for comment. No response was received at the time of going to press.