SEVERAL interventions have been proposed to deal with the long queues at Department of Home Affairs branches. This is a queue in Pretoria yesterday. Bongani Shilubane African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The portfolio committee on home affairs has identified several measures to deal with snaking queues at Home Affairs centres countrywide.

The queues have resulted in frustration as travellers scramble to apply for or renew passports before the festive season.

The measures include opening on Saturdays, extending footprints within banks to ease the load on branches, increased funding to cope with demand and a roll-out of mobile trucks to townships and rural areas.

Individuals such as Philemon Kgari said this would help greatly. He had taken a day off work to renew his passport at the CBD yesterday.

He said he was not sure if he would be assisted or even receive his passport in time.

“I have been coming regularly and the queues remain this way daily.

“I had to request a day off to come early to renew my passport as I plan to visit my wife in Malawi.”

He said the department had to get serious when it came to efficiency, mostly for the elderly who still preferred to visit branches and were not tech-savvy.

“Why do they not hire extra staff during this period to cope with the large numbers of people who come?”

At the Centurion branch, the reception was crowded, with people looking to apply or renew documents being sent back at 1pm. The line was cut for the day and people told to return today.

The announcement was met with moans and groans by frustrated applicants, who said the system was unfair.

Heavily pregnant Joylene Erasmus said she had trouble when trying to apply online and had opted to visit a branch, but the queue was long. She wished there were mobile offices stationed outside or around Centurion.

Nadia Swanepoel said she had difficulty using the online application system as she could not find an opening for an appointment with her bank, and did not know the Centurion branch would cut the line at 1pm.

A car guard outside said people queued as early as 6am, and now that December was here it was worse, with many people being turned away when they arrived due to overcrowding.

Meanwhile, the portfolio committee has suggested a holistic approach to dealing with long queues.

Chairperson Advocate Bongani Bongo mentioned technological advances, the reintroduction of Saturday office hours, a reduction of downtime and an extension of the relationship with banks as options.

“The committee welcomes the announcement that the issue of queues has been taken up as a ministerial priority, which will ensure that the challenge receives attention at the highest level.

“Then we will be able to gauge the impact with time. What the committee is interested in is to see the queues decreasing and our people receiving quality service.”

Bongo said that in relation to finding workable solutions, they were unanimous in the need to utilise technological advances such as the online appointment system that would ensure clients arrived at the department when they were expected.

“While this might be a solution, the committee is cognisant of the challenges caused by the unreliable network provided by the State Information Technology Agency, which must be resolved with urgency.”

The committee also called for the extension of the department’s footprint in banking institutions to lighten the load on departmental offices.

“Also, the committee has called for a re-engagement with labour unions to resolve the impasse on the opening of the Home Affairs offices on Saturdays, which alleviated weekday pressures on the offices.”

It also committed to engage the National Treasury on departmental funding.

“The current footprint is inadequate to service the population and requires the extension of its services, which will include opening more offices.”

Bongo said the rollout of mobile trucks, especially to rural areas, was highlighted as an area of focus.

He said training for front-line employees was also underlined as a key area that must be prioritised.

“There are ongoing complaints about the unpleasant attitude of Home Affairs staff, which can be addressed through training.”

The department said the online application system had faced technical problems in the past few weeks but would be sorted out soon.

Pretoria News