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Durban - Pensioners applying for the new “smart” identity cards in Durban have criticised the process after they were turned away from the Department of Home Affairs in Dr AB Xuma (Commercial) Street on Monday.
The ID cards will replace the green, bar-coded identity books and were to have been rolled out to first-time applicants and pensioners from the beginning of the month.
Pensioners aged at least 60 who were born in January and February were eligible to apply this month.
From next month, pensioners of 60 and above could start applying for the smart ID cards in accordance with their dates of birth, the department has previously said.
But, despite falling in the applicable birth months, pensioners queueing outside the Durban offices on Monday were allegedly told by home affairs officials to leave.
One exasperated applicant, Ahmed Hoosen, 63, of Bonella, shouted at an official: “Tell your government to abolish the smart card system because it is useless.”
He was told by a manager to calm down or leave.
“I am here for the umpteenth time. It is irritating especially if someone like him threatens to chase us away,” Hoosen said later.
“We have been told to leave because of the large number of applicants inside. My precious time is wasted. This is a painful exercise as I am a chronic patient with spine problems.”
He said it had been his third visit to the offices in the past week.
Nosipho Shandu, the department’s acting provincial manager, said people had rushed to apply for the cards, wrongly fearing they would lose out on their pension. She said green bar-coded ID books were still valid.
The department’s Pinetown offices would begin issuing cards next month and this would ease things, Shandu said.
Some people have been frustrated by the slow process and having to spend the whole day applying for an ID card or a passport.
James Reddy, 63, of Phoenix said he had received e-mail notifications reminding him to apply because he was born in January, but he was chased away because the department had reached its quota for the day. “They are very arrogant. I have asked them to give us numbers to use tomorrow but the official could not listen to us,” said Reddy.
Dharmanand Nowbuth of Isipingo Hills said the hiccups showed the department was not prepared for the roll-out.
Some pensioners sat on the pavement after standing for hours in the queue.