Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni denounced false notices notifying citizens that their old green identity books are being terminated soon. Picture: ANA

Pretoria - Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni on Wednesday denounced false notices, purported to be from his department, notifying South Africans that their old green barcoded identity books are being terminated soon, and they must strive to get the new identity smart cards.

“These reports, which first appeared towards the end of 2017, masquerade as a notice from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and claim that 31 March 2018 is the termination date for using the old green-barcoded ID books. This had an effect of driving citizens, in great numbers, to Home Affairs offices to apply for smart ID cards in panic. At the time, we had responded swiftly to say such reports are false, and do not come from us. We are again confronted with the same incorrect reports, from the beginning of January 2018, circulating largely on social media,” Apleni said as he addressed reporters in Centurion.

“We therefore call upon members of the public to ignore these mischievous messages. Responding with panic affects our systems negatively, thus making it very difficult for us to deliver services as expected, professionally and in the most humane of ways. Among others, our offices in the KwaZulu-Natal Province can barely cope with the numbers. As you will indeed understand, these false messages are putting our offices under extreme pressure, unduly, as people rush there in their numbers to get smart ID cards.”

He said Home Affairs cannot turn the people away, and therefore the staff now has to battle with long queues, “with people standing in the heat, fuming”. He said the South African government is following a systematic way of replacing the green barcoded ID book.

“When we rolled out the smart ID cards, in July 2013, our data showed that 38 million people were in possession of the green-barcoded ID books. As informed by studies we had conducted, we had then set out a strategy for a smooth roll-out. For instance we knew that one workstation can handle 28 [smart ID] card applications per day. It takes 17 minutes on average to finalise the capturing of an application. On average, an office with three computers is expected to take in 84 applications per day,” said Apleni.

“We were therefore able to estimate how many cards we could produce at a given time with the number of automated offices we had, that were equipped with live capture. As a result, when we started, we had invited first-time applicants and senior citizens to be the first to apply for smart ID cards, free of charge. This was based on our capacity at the time. For example, Centurion has only five workstations for this task, therefore in line with our norm, it can only produce 140 cards per day.”

Home affairs encouraged South Africans with access to the internet to apply for their smart ID cards and passports online, using the eHomeAffairs portal, which is accessible on the official Department of Home Affairs website – www.dha.gov.za. These online applications require finalisation in 14 participating banks - of which 13 are in Gauteng and one in Cape Town - as pilot sites.

African News Agency/ANA