Durban - Long queues have plagued the roll-out of the new smart ID cards for pensioners and first-time ID holders, but the Department of Home Affairs says the public’s rush is to blame.
In Durban on Wednesday, long queues were evident at smart ID card centres in Dr AB Xuma (Commercial) Street in the CBD.
Another contributing factor was that passport applications and renewals had been moved from the Umgeni Road offices to AB Xuma while third party agents were no longer allowed to assist the public with their applications.
The smart ID cards were introduced in KwaZulu-Natal at three Home Affairs offices on Monday, in Pietermaritzburg’s Church Street, Durban’s AB Xuma Street and in Mtubatuba.
Currently, only first-time applications, for those aged 16 and 17, and pensioners born in January and February, are allowed to apply for the smart ID card.
Some people have been frustrated by the slow process and having to spend the whole day applying for an ID card or a passport.
Charlene Govender said her 17-year-old daughter, Tanya, missed her academic school award function on Wednesday because she was stuck at Home Affairs.
She said they had been at the offices since 6.30am and she was not allowed to accompany her daughter into the centre.
Tanya had not completed the application process by 5pm on Wednesday, and was expected to return at 6am today to queue for her smart ID card.
“We thought if we go at 6.30am we will be done by 9am, and go to school so she can receive her award for design art… it was a disaster, the queue management was terrible and people who came after her left first,” said Charlene.
Another angry parent was Leon Gengan who accompanied his daughter Leititia, 16, who was to apply for a smart ID card and a passport.
He had been to Home Affairs in Chatsworth and to the office in Umgeni Road, and was then referred to the office in AB Xuma Street for the application.
Leititia has already missed two days of school, and will have to miss her third day of school on Thursday as she too was told to leave at 5pm on Wednesday.
Gengan said he would be at the centre by 5am on Thursday, because the queue started early.
“I’m not a happy chap at the moment. We were told we have to leave at 5pm, but they promised us first preference. I have already lost a lot of business, but something needs to change, I don’t think it’s the staff – the system needs to be changed,” he said.
“There’s only one machine for photographs there, and it takes five minutes at least per person. That’s too long; you can’t blame the staff for that, it’s the machine,” he said.
Nosipho Shandu, the acting provincial manager of Home Affairs, said the delays were caused by the excitement and people rushing to the centres to apply for their smart ID cards.
She said that adults could still apply and get their green, bar-coded ID books at the other Home Affairs centres. These were valid until 2017.
She said the smart ID card pilot project was for first-time applicants and pensioners born in January and February, and would be rolled out gradually to other members of the public.
“What we are finding is that there are people in the queues who should not be there,” she said.
Another disgruntled group are the passport agencies who have been facilitating the issuing of passports for years.
They have been told they can no longer issue the documents to the public.
Informal business has also been affected by the changes at Home Affairs. Passport and ID photographers can no longer sell ID or passport photos to applicants as the new system provides for them.
One of the informal photographers, Nkosinathi Nhlangulela, said he earned R150 a day on average and this was likely to decrease as he was now only relying on photos for people’s driving licences.
Shandu said it was unfortunate, but it was to the benefit of the public that they could now use free photos.
She said the passport applications office had moved to AB Xuma Street because they required a similar system with the smart ID card.