Pretoria - A University of Johannesburg (UJ) student’s dream of participating in a fully funded exchange programme at the George Mason University in the US was nearly shattered when a Home Affairs vehicle was hijacked, leading to her new passport being lost during the crime.
With a little over two months to go before the 30 students jet off to the US, Minenhle Linda, who is a final year humanities student, nearly lost out on the opportunity.
Though the trip and the exchange programme was fully funded, students had to pay for their own visa and passport applications.
Through the assistance of IOL, Home Affairs has promised to have the students documents ready by next week at no extra cost to the student.
Linda applied for her passport immediately after she received the news of her nomination, she recalled.
“I applied for my passport in March, together with my ID because I had lost it and it was also necessary to process some documents.
“I went to Home Affairs in Maponya, Soweto. I was not the only one who applied, another student who was nominated also applied with me the same day.
“A couple of days later, the other student fetched her passport. I waited for a while to received an SMS saying I should fetch my documents.
“But I did not receive anything, so I decided to just go there physically and fetch mine. That’s when I was told that it was stolen during a hijacking,” Linda said.
The only document which was available was her ID. Unfortunately, she did not get it and was told that the batch which has her ID is not yet open and she will have to wait for an SMS saying her ID Is ready for collection.
Linda, 29, said officials assisting her did not explain anything or assure her that the matter would be resolved, instead she left Home Affairs confused and angry.
“See, if I had money, I would have instantly applied for another passport, but unfortunately I come from a very disadvantaged background and getting more money was serious a challenge,” she said.
Speaking to IOL on Tuesday, Linda produced long emails as proof of her attempts to get the department to attend her issue as she was running out time.
“They didn’t reply to any of my emails. This really frustrated me because the passport is blocking me from completing the submission of my documents, and now it seems like I am not committed.”
Explaining her background, Linda said both her parents are unemployed. She also has a 4-year-old daughter and three brothers.
“I grew up in a low income household and both my parents weren’t formally employed. As it is, my other brother is the only one working and supporting the whole family. That’s why I work hard, because I want to make things better at home.”
Linda said that if she performs well in the programme, she will stand a chance to get an internship in Europe at the end of the year.
Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza confirmed that Linda did apply for a passport and it was lost when the delivery vehicle got hijacked.
“The department is finalising the process of reproducing these documents at no cost to the lady. The documents should be ready for collection next week,” Qoza said. - IOL