South Africa will need to consider reciprocal visa waivers if it is to keep up with its BRICS partners on the Henley Passport Index.. Picture: Etienne Creux
Durban - Conditions at the Umgeni Road Department of Home Affairs office are not only dismal in the front office: behind the scenes lies chaos, filth and disorder.

Last week employees stopped working, complaining of the heat because the air conditioners were broken. Long lines of people queued outside in the hot weather, suffering with the staff and not able to carry out their business.

The Public Service Association (PSA) this week told the Independent on Saturday staff faced many other problems.

PSA provincial manager Mlungisi Ndlovu said employees had been complaining about the appalling state of the building since 2014, citing non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) and regulations.

He said workers had been subjected to unsafe conditions and other problems not conducive to productivity.

“Owing to broken air conditioners, snakes, and rats in the building - which was last serviced in 2018 by the landlord - employees are continuously feeling nauseous, dizzy and fainting because of heat exposure and muscle pains.

“Employees brought this to the attention of office manager, (Mbongeni) Magagula, who proposed that employees go in and out of their work station periodically to get fresh air,” Ndlovu said.

A DEAD rat on the stairs leading to a storeroom upstairs.
A PUBLIC toilet with newspaper soaking up the water on the floor, and a strong stench of urine.

He said that on December 27, a client had collapsed because of the heat and an ambulance had to be called to take the person to hospital.

Ndlovu said on Tuesday that fans had been delivered to the offices for employees.

He took the Independent on Saturday around the building to report on the conditions there.

There were two fans in the main hall and one small one which Ndlovu said an employee had bought to supplement the other two.

Documents tied with string, broken boxes full of papers, and files filled an abandoned storeroom. There were more such piles in an office. Among the documents visible in the piles were burial orders and ID books.

At least one dead rat was seen lying on stairs in the building, and the stench suggested it was not the only one.

A STOREROOM with filing cabinets, documents and rubbish on the floor.

The broken staff toilets had a leaky pipe, and the public toilets were in an even worse state.

Ndlovu said employees could not continue to work under such conditions, insisting that something had to be done.

“The PSA has requested that an inspector from Labour (Department) visit this office. Should the inspector find major non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act in this building, it must be shut down and the department must provide an alternative building for employees to continue serving the public.

“Our members are committed to serving the public and the department must ensure that this building complies with the OHS regulations to protect the lives of the employees and the public,” he said.

The Department of Public Works said it would respond to queries, but had not done so by the time of publication.

Despite numerous attempts to contact Magagula, there was no response.

Independent On Saturday