Waiting in long lines from the early hours of the morning, systems offline and senior citizens not being treated with respect are some of the issues the Mitchell’s Plain Home Affairs office has been called on to address.
Last Wednesday, April 13, representatives of the Democratic Alliance arrived at the Home Affairs office to deliver a memorandum of demands which detailed the measures that need to be implemented in order to improve services at the facility.
While the DA has no jurisdiction over the Department of Home Affairs, said member of the provincial legislature, Ricardo Mackenzie, “we do have a responsibility to bring this issue to its urgent attention in order for the necessary action and feedback to be taken”.
The Home Affairs office is the only facility in Mitchell’s Plain where births, marriages and deaths can be registered, and identity documents and passports applied for.
Residents who use Home Affairs’ services said the office needed to increase its capacity in order to service more people per day, highlighting that many people have to take a day off work to go to Home Affairs. If they are not seen to, they have to spend more money on getting back there, and take another day off work.
They also highlighted a lack of professionalism among staff, long queues, with people arriving as early as 3am to ensure they will be served, a lack of secure and safe spaces for people to wait in line, and inadequate facilities to protect people in line from the rain and cold.
Mr Mackenzie said he had even witnessed people selling their ticket numbers to those who arrive late.
Residents also claim that people disabilities are not accommodated, older persons are not being treated with respect, and that there are no proper toilet facilities. They also suggested that Home Affairs acquire more mobile units to go to communities. Based on information he had received, only one out of three was in working order in the Western Cape, said Mr Mackenzie.
“We’ve received many complaints from residents about the long queues and Home Affairs reaching the daily limit, with people travelling from Tafelsig, coming back the next day and having their system be offline,” he said.
“We want Home Affairs to address these issues. This is one of the most important departments that needs to be of service to the people.”
Eastridge resident, Glynnis Sellar, said she had had many challenges with Home Affairs, having been sent to Cape Town Home Affairs to be assisted with an application for a birth certificate for her daughter.
“When my daughter was born, we had a period of 30 days to submit forms for a birth certificate. We missed the 30 day period to be registered at Lentegeur hospital. Usually a Home Affairs official would be there to assist. As time went by we found it challenging to get her birth certificate as we were working a lot and had financial challenges,” she said.
Apart from the inconvenience, she said, when they arrived early and had to wait in line, “it is dangerous and not safe”.
Gaironesa Jacobs, 30, from Old Woodlands said she waited over a year for an appointment to apply for a birth certificate. “This process is really stressful,” she told Plainsman.
They wait in the queue from 4am or 5am in the morning. Sometimes they are not assisted on the day and they need to come back the next day, she added.
“We want to see an improvement in customer service, we would like to be treated with respect at this branch,” said Ms Jacobs.
Linzy September, 24, from Rocklands, however, said she had had no problems as a social worker had assisted her.
“The process did take a while to get a birth certificate for my son. (But) I did not stand in the line. I really needed the birth certificate as my son needed to get to school, to name a few. I had no challenges with Home Affairs Mitchell’s Plain,” she said.
Reagen Allen, member of the provincial parliament, said Home Affairs played a key role in the community and needed to improve its service delivery.
“When I came here 21 years ago to obtain my ID, the service was amazing and I received it. We’ve seen systematically over a number of years, how national competence has been starved of resources. With the residents we want to help with service delivery and also bring the issues to light. We are here in the spirit of cooperative governance. We want to work together,” said Mr Allen.
Plainsman contacted Home Affairs for their response to the complaints, but by the time this story was published they had not yet responded.