Home Affairs queues get ugly

Aside from the usual inconvenience of a repeatedly crashing or offline system the continuing woes and long queues at Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office were aggravated by last week’s load shedding.
This was because the back-up generator — which broke down in January — had not been fixed.
However, manager Xolani Maphumulo said a team of technicians arrived on Friday to repair it and it was up and running by that afternoon.
Maphumulo attributed the delay in fixing the generator to the workload of the service provider, stating that only one service provider was available to all Home Affairs branches across the country.
“The technicians were only able to attend to our offices today [Monday], they have been busy throughout the country,” he said on Friday.
He said normally due to the limited uninterrupted power supply the office receives from Msunduzi Municipality during load shedding — which helps power the computers — they tried to work through the planned outages.
But with the generator also out of order the system was extra slow.
Maphumulo said now that the technical problems with the generator have been fixed he did not foresee further disruptions to services this week.
One frustrated resident who had stood in queues repeatedly from 7 am last Wednesday, said she managed to get her application done on Friday.
She said on Wednesday, while the doors were opened at 8 am, only people requiring marriage and birth certificates were allowed in.
“This went on for most of the morning and they kept saying that their systems were offline. The security guard said the biometrics system had crashed, and that IT was working on it. I stood there the whole of Wednesday and nothing happened,” she said.
She said when she went back again on Thursday nothing happened because of load shedding.
The resident went back again on Friday and eventually managed to get in and process her passport application.
“While I was standing in the queue it got so ugly and people were very angry. The guards didn’t have control over the crowd.”
She said at that stage, whoever pushed the hardest managed to get in through the door.
While she was inside, the resident said she and other patrons were locked inside because the crowd outside was banging on the glass doors demanding to be let in.
“It was the most traumatic experience of my life and I never want to go through that again,” she said.
More than 100 people, including the elderly, pupils and women carrying newborns, complained on Friday that they had been waiting since 3 am that day to be helped.
The outraged residents from Pietermaritzburg and the outskirts, who were desperately trying to get official documents had hoped that after spending over 10 hours in the queue they would be seen to, but by 2 pm they had not been helped.
Several said they were tired of leaving their homes before dawn to wait outside the Home Affairs office, only to be turned away in the afternoon without having been served and forced to return day after day.
Some complained that the employees at the office should extend their working hours to compensate for the backlog created by load shedding.
A woman from Mountain Rise, who asked to remain unnamed, said she was applying for a Smart ID card for her son who is in matric.
“I got here at 5.30 am. Besides the load shedding, they are slow and inefficient.
“The queue is always long and its just pointless to wait but where else can we go? It’s the same everywhere,” she said.
She said it was frustrating to stand in the queue the whole day only to be turned away.
“If my son doesn’t have his ID, he will not be able to write his final exams. Nobody has even come out to inform us that they had load shedding,” she said.
Another parent, who also asked not to be named, suggested that Home Affairs should revive its mobile service units for schools.
“We can’t keep taking leave from work for nothing. The last time I was here I got as far as the door only to have the security guard close the door in my face.”
Gillian David said she had been standing in the queue from 5 am on Friday. “I left here at 12 pm when they had load shedding and went to New Hanover. There I was told that their systems have been offline from Tuesday.”
David said she also required a Smart ID card and passport for her son.
“This is a government department servicing many people daily. They should have a functional generator and back-up for load shedding. It’s really not fair.”
Ntombenhle Buthelezi (54), from Swapo informal settlement near Copesville, said although the power was restored around 12 pm, the queue was still moving at a snail’s pace. “You are lucky if you get in.
“Every two hours, only 10 people move, at times you are lucky if the 10 even move.”

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