The queue outside the Department of Home Affairs in Tongaat. Picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Kitted out in hats, bottled water, umbrellas and camping chairs, one could easily have assumed that some Tongaat residents were flocking to the beach on Friday morning.

Instead, that was how they prepared to queue outside the offices of the Department of Home Affairs in Maharaj Street.

More than 100 people, including the elderly and women carrying newborns, waited to be attended to from 6 am.

They had hoped, with the final day of the extended office hours - from 7 am to 7 pm - they would be seen to. Those who POST spoke to were eventually helped.

But beforehand they had complained about the queues and alleged corruption at the branch.

They hoped the issues would be ironed out so others would not be affected.

Some of the people, who had helped a woman after she had fainted, spoke about “runners” allegedly working with security guards to sell places at the front of the line for R350.

They said a manual ticketing system, instead of an electronic one, was in place and was open to corruption.

A woman, who declined to be named, said: “I came here with my grandson a month ago for his passport. He kicked up a fuss about the queue being so long but he was eventually attended to.”

She said that while her grandson waited in line, she headed for the car and a man, who posed as a car guard, approached and offered her a stamped ticket to be among the first in line.

All she had to do, she said, was pay R350.

“I was shocked and reported this to the manager on duty. I was then simply told they would investigate.”

After returning to the queue, she claimed the same man offered the ticket to someone else.

Asked what she was doing at the office again, she said she had accompanied her granddaughter as she needed to also apply for her passport.

A frustrated Reshma Singh, 42, of Phoenix, said that a week earlier, she waited from 7 am to 6.30pm only be told she would not be able to apply for her an ID. “That day, the computers went off-line for three hours. After we were turned away, I asked to speak to any of the supervisors, but a security guard said they were too busy to see us.”

She said tickets were not issued at the front desk but by a security guard at the door.

Maharaj said that with the extended hours had ended on Friday, the problem of long queues would probably get worse.

Deeno Naicker, of Westbrook, who needed to apply for his passport and was number 172, said: “It is terrible to stand outside like this.”

Rebecca Odayan, of Phoenix, who lost her ID after a robbery, added: “I went to the branch in Umgeni Road at 6 am (on Friday) but there were already hundreds of people in line. I came here but the line is more or less the same.”

She said the government should open home affairs branches in every community.

Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said it had zero tolerance for maladministration and corruption. “Where instances of corruption are properly reported, the department would take action. The director-general of the department, Thulani Mavuso, conducted an unannounced visit to the Tongaat Home Affairs office. No irregular activities were spotted.”

Qoza said even the people who reported alleged corruption could not provide evidence.

“We invite members of the public to properly record instances of alleged corruption and report them. Home Affairs prioritises, among others, the elderly, people with physical disabilities, and people with very young children or newborn babies. Such people are usually taken to the front of the queue.”

He encouraged those who applied for their IDs and have received SMS notification, to collect their documents.