Home Affairs IDentity crises

AS matric learners prepare for their final exams scheduled for mid-October, many of them find themselves spending more hours standing in queues at Home Affairs than at school. Learners are required to produce an official ID to be able to write the final exams. Gené Griesel a Grade 10 learner at Port Natal High School, has missed on ten days of school trying to apply for her Identity Document. According to her mother René Griesel, they have visited several Home Affairs offices, some of them more than once.

“We were either told that the office had reached its limit for the day and were told to go home, or that the office was offline for the day. On 5 April 2018 we were at the Umgeni office at 4am. At 10am when they were giving out numbers we were told they were only assisting 150 people on the day as they were short staffed due to school holidays. This quota included 80 people from the day before. This is despite us getting to the offices just before 5am. On Friday, 10 August 2018 we attempted for the 10th time. We arrived at the Tongaat office just after 5am and when the offices opened we were told they were offline nationwide,” she said.

Griesel said she and her daughter had tried again on 13 August at the Pinetown offices.

“We went through the entire process just to be told that their scanner was not working.” She said soon after, the system went offline again but she had stayed hoping it would come back online. “They came back online but the scanner was still not working and I was told that I would have to try again some other time. However, I will have to go through the whole entire process again starting in the queue and face the possibility of being sent home because the office has reached its limit or the system is offline,” she said.

Responding to queries from Berea Mail, Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgoba, dismissed the case saying people had to arrive at centres early and could not blame Home Affairs officials for not being helpful.

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“People must get there early and they will be helped. The only time centre managers can turn people away is when there are more people in the queue and the centre is about to close. The public must realize that Home Affairs centres run just like any other business, if you are late we cannot help. Going to the media will not help you. I must say that, in my entire experience at Home Affairs I have never heard of such a case. Prioritizing the elderly, disabled and school children is not a policy of the department but is up to the centre manager,” he said.

According to the Department of Basic Education, learners who do not have valid South African ID books, will not be excluded from writing matric but need to produce some alternative form of identification, with an affidavit confirming the reasons for their failure to produce an official ID. They will receive their results, but will not receive certification from the quality assurance council Umalusi.

“In the case of foreign candidates who do not have the relevant documentation, but have attended the South African schooling system, the department will allow these candidates to register to write exams. These candidates will not have their results issued until they produce the necessary documentation. Both departments are committed to ensuring that every learner has an ID or passport, but there are always people coming into the country without documents, so the matter will remain with us for years to come,” said spokesperson for the department, Elijah Mhlanga.

After her eleventh visit to Home Affairs and sheer persistence, Gené Griesel said was finally assisted in Pinetown after her Uncle who was with her, refused to leave the office without them being assisted. “They told us that she will be getting her ID in two weeks time,” said the relieved mother.



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