Nightmares thanks to Home Affairs

Home Affairs (HA) is probably the most dysfunctional government department in the country: just ask the Hodges, the Hansells and the Waltons.

Dominique Hodges, her husband, Neville, and their children, Julietta, 12, and Michael, 10, of Claremont, were looking forward to their MSC cruise from Durban to Pomene, Mozambique.

However, their children’s unabridged birth certificates were not accepted by immigration so the Hodges set sail without them, leaving them with a friend.

Trying to get answers from Thabo Mokgola, a media spokesman at DHA, is like pulling hen’s teeth.

Ms Hodges applied for unabridged birth certificates in 2006 when it wasn’t “even a requirement”.

“We used them when we were immigrating to the UK. The information is the same as on the ‘recent’ unabridged birth certificates. So does this mean that my own birth certificate, 1974, is no longer valid?

“Immigration refused to accept the unabridged certificates and they would not allow my children to embark. I was devastated. I booked the cruise two years ago and saved to pay for it, our flights to Durban, accommodation and car. As a family we went through a tough time and this was the first opportunity we had to have a holiday together,” said Ms Hodges.

“The ‘go-to’ person at MSC was astounded at immigration’s decision and she tried to reason with them to no avail. I thought the purpose of unabridged birth certificates was to stop child trafficking. Unabridged means both parents and the child’s details are on the document: abridged means just the mother and child’s.

“We spent four hours at HA after we returned and they told us they are not Immigration.

“We applied for ‘new certificates’ but the information is exactly the same. HA just had to print them, we didn’t have to get new ones because we had the originals. If I believed I had the wrong documents I would have sorted it out immediately.

“HA said if Immigration had checked on the system they would have seen the documents. Immigration told us the certificates didn’t say unabridged but the ‘new’ ones don’t either. We have been treated like abductors,” said Ms Hodges and added that MSC refunded R1 800, the children’s portion of the fare.

When I asked Mr Mokgola if I could send the query to him he replied: “Good day Brian, I have been out of the office, please do send the enquiry to me.”

And despite several prompts Mr Mokgola ignored my requests for an explanation, although he did ask for my phone number. Perhaps he is still out of the office or standing in one of those interminable queues at HA waiting to get an unabridged birth certificate or a smart ID card.

Big Bay’s Linda and John Hansell have lived in South Africa for 46 years and though not South African citizens, they have always had an SA ID book and a permanent residence number stamped in their British passports by HA.

“When we received our new British passports we were told by HA that we can no longer have permanent residency numbers stamped in our passports and we have to apply for permanent resident certificates to enable us to travel and to return to SA shores.

“Over the years we lost our certificates and as instructed by HA applied online to VFS Global for new ones and paid R1 350. We had a fixed appointment at VFS offices in Cape Town on October 30 2015.

“After a three-hour wait we paid R100, the HA fee and were told it would take eight to 10 months and we would be notified when the documents were ready. We repeated the process for my husband on December 4 (2015). We did our applications separately to stagger the costs as we are pensioners. VFS Global told us the same story.

“Now 28 months later we still don’t have our permanent resident certificates,” Ms Hansell said.

“We are extremely worried as we are due to visit my daughter and grandchildren this month (June). We saved hard for the trip and it seems we have been ripped off paying R2900 for the certificates.

“I also heard that VFS Global is no longer doing work for HA and all I get from VFS and HA is disinterest and apathy.

“I have repeatedly phoned VFS and get a recorded message requiring me to select an option but no options come up and I am requested to send an email. I can’t even get to talk to anyone. This has now been going on for 30 months. Can you help?”

When I tried contacting VFS I got the same response as Ms Hansell.

Ms Hansell left for the UK on June 8 for three months and her husband will join her on July 13.

I do hope they’re allowed back in to South Africa and not declared undesirable citizens.

Cheryl Walton’s son who is getting married in Kuala Lumpur where he works has been waiting for his unabridged birth certificate. He needs it because he is getting married and it is a legal requirement and he has been waiting since April 25 when he applied for it while he was here on holiday.

Ms Walton who has a power of attorney has made countless phone calls to Home Affairs and a visit to the Paarl office without success. The answer is always, “It’s still in Pretoria.”

I didn’t bother to contact Mr Mokgola about Ms Hansell or Cheryl Walton. I would have hit another brick wall.

It’s no wonder that young footballer, George Maskini is suing Home Affairs. I hope he wins.