Well done Home Affairs and Standard Bank

I recently applied for my Smart ID card through the eHomeAffairs portal, and was surprised at how well it worked.
I booked and paid for my ID application via the Home Affairs website, and selected Standard Bank Centurion – which contains a Home Affairs office – as my application point.
Besides an hour-and-a-half wait to have my biometrics captured, the experience was pleasant. The facilities were excellent and the staff were friendly – which is all you can ask for.
My application took place on 11 January 2018, and I was told I would receive an SMS when my ID was ready for collection.
Quick turnaround
On 23 January, less than two weeks after I visited the Home Affairs branch, I received an SMS stating that my Smart ID was ready for collection.
I waited until that Friday to collect my ID – 25 January – and returned to Standard Bank Centurion.
After I arrived at the branch and stated I was there to collect my ID, an employee checked my details and gave me a ticket with a number on it, and asked me to take a seat in the waiting area.
My ticket number was called after 15 minutes, and I was instructed to enter the collection section. In there, you are required to provide your thumb prints on an electronic fingerprint scanner, and sign on a digital signature pad.
Once my details were verified, a Home Affairs employee handed me my Smart ID with a letter detailing the features of card.
And that was it – I had my ID and could be on my way.
I also received an SMS right after collecting my ID card stating that it had been collected.
Having visited “regular” Home Affairs branches in the past, the process of applying for and obtaining my Smart ID card through the Home Affairs online portal and linked bank branch was a pleasure.
Well done Home Affairs for the smooth system and quick turnaround, and well done Standard Bank on hosting the office at your branch.

A South African’s guide to surviving the dreaded Home Affairs queue

Most South Africans dread going to Home Affairs. Who wants to queue anyway?
Anything Home Affairs-related is such an enormous, overbearing task that we simply shy away from important things like collecting our ID cards or that equally pesky task of changing a surname.
Forms to fill in, queues leading out the door, coupled with our troubling weather – hot or cold, it’s equally annoying. Mixed together it all just builds up to a very unpleasant experience.
If you need to visit your friendly Home Affairs office at some point in the near future, rejoice! Gabriel Sithole from Vuma103fm compiled the ultimate checklist of do’s and don’ts to get you through the day.
He shared the wisdom on Facebook and explained that it’s his “citizen’s duty to inform you as a member of the public, that somewhere in your lifetime, you WILL have to go to a government department. I have compiled just ten topics that will help you in getting things going well for you.”
Entering the premises
To start off on the right note, greet the security staff. Sithole says it is essential and said not greeting them is a sign of disrespect or arrogance. He adds:
“If you want things to go smoothly for you, acknowledge these ladies and gents.”
Good manners
Good manners never hurt anyone. Sithole suggests that you greet everybody loudly. A simple “Howzit,” “Sanbonani,” or “Heita” will suffice. By greeting others, you inform your fellow citizens that you are approachable.
“This is an investment for you, because when the queue slows down, you WILL need someone to talk to. This is super-critical.”
Seating arrangement
Once seated, don’t act like you’re at home, chilling on the couch and watching Netflix. Respect your seat neighbour’s boundary and stay out of their space. And then possibly the most crucial bit of advice:
“While seated, PLEASE do not play your Whatsapp voice notes, for ALL of us to hear. You won’t like it when we comment…now that you invited us into your private space.”
If you’re in for the long run, you’ll need sustenance to get you through the day. But Sithole warns not to “show off by eating your protein bars and drinking green liquids called smoothies.” Don’t be pretentious, toe?
“Please South Africa! A crunchie will do! A squashed, melted lunch bar is even better. It says, ‘You are with us.’”
ithole says that checking your wristwatch is a no-no. He continues:
“You’ve been on your phone since you got here. Does it not have a clock? Then why are you making all of us anxious by looking at your wrist! STOP IT!!”
Talking in the queue
Talking loudly is important. If you don’t, you might be earmarked as a gossiper, and nobody wants that. Sithole says others want to be part of the conversation too, but suggests to keep the topics light and relatable.
Sports, fuel prices, the weather and SABC channels are all in order. Discussing Netflix, Showmax and DSTV will only get you alienated. He also warns:
“Feel free to ask for our input as well. As long as you have not been served and I’m sitting next to you… I’m your EVERYTHING. I’m your pastor, brother, psychologist, tv guide, your consumer watchdog, financial advisor, marriage counsellor. I’m your EVERYTHING. Treat me as such!”
Phone etiquette
This should go without saying but please don’t play music on your phone. However, don’t wear headphones either and put your phone on vibrate. If you do need to take an urgent phone call, be quick about it:
“Be brief! Why are you having a conference call with ALL of us? We do not care about your tender deal that you got. Why are you here with us, if you are so “loaded”. Respect us please!”
Body Language
Find the balance between being comfortable without slouching. If you slouch, other citizens might think you’ve been queuing the entire day, and that will only make them lose hope. He suggests:
“Relax! Don’t tense up!! You are making us unsure why we are or if we are in the line! Just…just…just sit properly damnit!”
Service window
This is the most crucial bit of advice: When you do get to the service window or counter, greet the employee loudly and friendly. Sithole said everybody in the queue behind you would be judged by your actions and how you approach service personnel.
“Do not greet them by their name on the name badge. This only proves that you think you are smart and you can read. Call them “Sisi or Boetie”. DO NOT say “baba, uncle, bro…mama. Why not? Read the above point again for an answer.”
Always carry cash and don’t ask that dreaded question: “Do you take cards?” Sithole said this isn’t Woolworths. Always take cash. He says it’s important to look “humble and depressed,” and flaunting your Umhlanga accent will win you no favours here.

“Be interested in the employee/official hard work. Mention something random like, “Wow you guys start early!” Or ” It’s tough to work with people hey.” Show them you are on their side! You and I know good and well that you HATE every moment. Common man Smokes and mirrors! Remember our hopes as we are sitting down… rest upon your attitude at this window.”
Bonus tip: Say goodbye
Sithole said it’s important to greet the employee or official when you are done. However, under no circumstances do you greet those behind you in the queue. He explains:
“We haven’t been served yet! Just keep walking to your good life and leave us alone. Can you not see that we have service problems, hence we still sitting here! You insensitive piece of….”

New satellite network will make it impossible for aeroplanes to go missing

CBS News reports that a new satellite network which will ensure commercial aeroplanes can be tracked from anywhere will launch soon.
On 11 January, the final 10 of 66 replacement satellites were transported into space by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
These “advanced Iridium Communications satellites” are each the size of a small car, and alongside new Aireon air surveillance technology, will also be used to power satellite phones and Internet networks.
Currently, aircraft are mainly tracked with radar technology, which struggle when planes fly over oceans.
“70% of the world’s airspace has no surveillance,” said Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon.
“Aircraft fly over the oceans and report back their positions to air traffic control every 10-15 minutes at best – and in between those periods, no one knows where they are.”
All commercial flights in the US and Europe must have GPS transponders installed by 2020, which will allow the new satellites to track their movements.
This new technology may also allow more flights over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at one time.

Japanese government plans to hack into citizens’ IoT devices

Japanese government wants to secure IoT devices before Tokyo 2020 Olympics and avoid Olympic Destroyer and VPNFilter-like attacks.
The Japanese government approved a law amendment on Friday that will allow government workers to hack into people’s Internet of Things devices as part of an unprecedented survey of insecure IoT devices.
The survey will be carried out by employees of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
NICT employees will be allowed to use default passwords and password dictionaries to attempt to log into Japanese consumers’ IoT devices.
The plan is to compile a list of insecure devices that use default and easy-to-guess passwords and pass it on to authorities and the relevant internet service providers, so they can take measures to alert consumers and secure the devices.
The survey is scheduled to kick off next month, when authorities plan to test the password security of over 200 million IoT devices, beginning with routers and web cameras. Devices in people’s homes and on enterprise networks will be tested alike.
According to a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications report, attacks aimed at IoT devices accounted for two-thirds of all cyber-attacks in 2016.
The Japanese government has embarked on this plan in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The government is afraid that hackers might abuse IoT devices to launch attacks against the Games’ IT infrastructure.
Their fear is justified. Russian nation-state hackers deployed the Olympic Destroyer malware before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics held in South Korea in early 2018 as payback after the International Olympic Committee banned hundreds of Russian athletes from competing.
Russian nation-state hackers also built a botnet of home routers and IoT devices –named VPNFilter– that the Ukrainian intelligence service said they were planning to use to hinder the broadcast of the 2018 UEFA Champions League final that was to be held in Kiev, Ukraine that year.
The Japanese government’s decision to log into users’ IoT devices has sparked outrage in Japan. Many have argued that this is an unnecessary step, as the same results could be achieved by just sending a security alert to all users, as there’s no guarantee that the users found to be using default or easy-to-guess passwords would change their passwords after being notified in private.
However, the government’s plan has its technical merits. Many of today’s IoT and router botnets are being built by hackers who take over devices with default or easy-to-guess passwords.
Hackers can also build botnets with the help of exploits and vulnerabilities in router firmware, but the easiest way to assemble a botnet is by collecting the ones that users have failed to secure with custom passwords.
Securing these devices is often a pain, as some expose Telnet or SSH ports online without the users’ knowledge, and for which very few users know how to change passwords. Further, other devices also come with secret backdoor accounts that in some cases can’t be removed without a firmware update.

Get visas for South Africa in a breeze; Thailand, Malaysia ease rules These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists

Planning a trip to South Africa to see the wildlife at the Kruger National Park or the beaches of Durban? Getting a visa could be a breeze. Shopping trips to Malaysia and Thailand will also be cheaper now, with both nations waiving visa fees.
These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists. With the rupee’s value falling against the dollar, overseas travel for many Indians had become more expensive.
In 2017 tour operators had also complained about the frequent delays in visa processing, especially for South Africa. Earlier this week, the South African government announced a scheme to make visa processing quicker, with the consulate in Mumbai accrediting travel agents and tour operators to fast-track the process.
At present, it takes about five to seven days. In the peak season, it can take even longer.
“India has been a key source market for us and will continue to play a critical role in our long-term vision. We aim to surpass 100,000 visitors from India in 2019,” said Sisa Ntshona, chief executive officer, South African Tourism.
The tourism board did not share 2018 arrival figures.
The Malaysian government has waived visa fees for a 15-day single entry visa from this month. Under the policy, visitors will only have to pay a $20 processing charge for the visa.
Thailand has extended its free visa scheme till April. In November, Thailand had waived fee for visa-on-arrival for Indians and citizens of 20 countries till end January.
“Visas play a critical role in influencing travel decisions. Hence, visa facilitation announcements by Malaysia, South Africa, and Thailand can lead to strong demand, particularly during the key booking window for the summer travel season,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays and visa services), Thomas Cook.
He added, “Our booking pipeline sees a surge of 15-30 per cent after such announcements. Free visa or visa-on-arrival schemes have sustained impact on demand.”
Keyna is a beneficiary of relaxed visa norms for Indians. In 2018, the number of Indians visiting the African nation increased to 125,000 from 80,000 in 2015. This is partly because children aged below 16 get a free visa, said Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi, marketing development director of the Kenya Tourism Board.
Travel industry sources say that demand for short breaks has been low in January. One reason for this is there has been no long weekend.
But, summer booking trends look good.
“Overseas tours are now more expensive because of rupee depreciation. Reduction in visa complexities and free visas will encourage demand. Free visas will especially benefit group packages,” said Rakshit Desai, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions.
Greece and Kazakhastan are relatively new destinations for Indian travellers. But, these nations are also stepping up promotions.
In May last year, Kazakshtan announced a 72-hour free visa for Indian passengers taking an Air Astana flight. The Greek tourism ministry is also working to make visa processing smoother.
Last year 42,000 Indians visited Greece; in 2017, the number was 22,000.
“We are certain that these figures can grow within the next few years. The tourism ministry is in close co-operation with the foreign ministry and is doing its best to speed up visa issuance,” said Konstantinos Tsegas, secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organisation.

South Africa: Home Affairs Extends Working Hours for ID Collection

More than 20 000 identity documents haven’t been collected from various Home Affairs offices throughout the country.
The Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria on Saturday saw large amounts of young people, who collected their identity documents, to register for the forthcoming general election.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has its final voter registration drive this weekend.
Home Affairs has extended working hours for Saturday and Sunday.
More than 20 000 identity documents haven’t been collected from various Home Affairs offices throughout the country.
Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Siyabonga Cwele has urged those who haven’t yet collected their IDs, to do so this weekend.
The Home Affairs offices in Pretoria are open for those who have not yet collected their IDs and are anticipating to register to vote in the 2019’s elections. This weekend is the last chance for those who haven’t registered to book their place on the voters roll.
Ruth Mkojo collected her ID on Saturday and is satisfied with the service she received at Home Affairs.
“The service was excellent and they were so professional with us, and we didn’t even spend more than 20 minutes here. From here, I am going to my voting station, as we know that for me to vote is very important. It is one of the privileges which we have since 1994 and I want to use this opportunity so that I know that my vote is my voice,” says Mkojo.
Political parties have mainly targeted the youth and are encouraging them to register to vote. Some of them responded to the call by collecting their ID’s in large numbers.
“I am here because I heard my father telling me last night that the voting stations are open. So, I need to go and fetch my ID as soon as possible so that I can vote. I am going to register tomorrow. I am very excited because I am finally 18. I am happy because now I can be able to vote and make change,” says resident Lunga Thabethe.
Ndileka Bongane is looking forward to casting his vote for the first time.
“I am a first time voter. I am excited … finally stepping up as an adult. I am hoping all the parties deliver in whatever they have promised in their manifestos,” says Bongane.
The Home Affairs offices will open again on Sunday to allow more collection of IDs

Home Affairs to open refugee office in Maitland

The Department of Home Affairs intends to open the new Cape Town Refugee Reception Office in June 2019 on new premises in Maitland.
In a progress report to the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Home Affairs said vacant land in Maitland had been identified by the Department of Public Works and the proposed date of occupation of the office was 1 June 2019.
Home Affairs decided in 2012 to stop processing new applicants at the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office.
In a judgment on 30 August 2012, the Western Cape High Court ordered Cape Town Home Affairs to start serving new applicants again. The judge said the cost to Home Affairs of assisting newcomers was negligible compared to the harm done to them.
He said that delaying implementation of the court order would cause grievous harm to asylum seekers. While undocumented, they would be subject to arrest and deportation.
But the office was not re-opened. The LRC took Home Affairs to court on behalf of the Scalabrini Centre and the Somali Association, and in September 2017 the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Home Affairs must “reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in or around the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality, by Friday 31 March 2018.” Home Affairs sought leave to appeal from the Constitutional Court but this was refused. This means the SCA ruling is final.
Asked to confirm the opening of the new office in Maitland, a Home Affairs spokesperson referred GroundUp to the Department of Public Works. Contacted on 21 January, Public Works spokesperson Lunga Mahlangu promised to respond but had not done so at the time of publication.