4 big changes coming to Home Affairs
The Department of Home Affairs says it is working on a host of measures to escalate its “war on long queues”, with some already being put in place.
Responding in several written parliamentary Q&As this week, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that the department’s recently launched Branch Appointment Booking System (BABS) has already proved successful, with over 117,000 clients making use of the system since its launch in June.
The system is also proving to be a deterrent to the trend of unscrupulous individuals exploiting queue times by standing in line early and then selling their spot to other Home Affairs visitors, he said.
Despite the progress made, however, Motsoaledi said more is being done to make Home Affairs services more accessible and more convenient.
1. Fighting downtime
According to the minister, the biggest contributor to long queues at Home Affairs offices is system downtime.
He previously mentioned that Home Affairs’ tech package with state information company SITA was the lowest one. This led to severe bottlenecks and long periods of downtime.
“SITA is upgrading its network infrastructure for a total of R400 million, they had promised that this work will be completed by (September),” he said.
For its part, Home Affairs is installing new switches and routers, the minister said.
2. More branches
Home Affairs currently has 412 offices throughout the country. The minister said that the department is increasing its footprint by securing office space at selected malls across the country.
“We are of the view that this initiative will provide some relief for clients due to improved queuing conditions – not exposed to uncovered areas – secure parking, adequate ablution facilities and clients will have the convenience of conducting other personal business all under one roof once they have completed their visits to our offices.”
Motsoaledi previously confirmed that discussions are already underway with the following shopping malls around the country:
- Menlyn Mall in Tshwane
- Cresta Mall in Johannesburg
- Southgate Mall in Johannesburg
- The Pavillion in eThekwini
- Tygervalley Mall in Cape Town
South Africa’s big banks have also confirmed that discussions with the department are ongoing for satellite offices to be set up in more bank branches across the country.
3. Mobile trucks
To address the need for Home Affairs services in more remote areas, and cut down on travel times and costs, the minister said the department will also extend its mobile units.
“We have bought 10 extra mobile trucks for R15 million and will add another 20 for R35 million this financial year,” he said.
“We will continue adding more trucks each financial year until we have increased our total tally by 100% i.e from the present 100 trucks to 200 trucks.”
4. Extended hours
Home Affairs is also in process of changing its categorisation to a security department, which will enable it to open on Saturdays.
The department previously extended operating hours to provide services past 17h00; however, longer shifts have been met with pushback from workers and trade unions.
The intention is for Saturday working hours to be conducted through the shift system in the same way police and nurses work. However, unions want the same workers to work the shifts and get paid overtime.
Motsoaledi said that his department is in ongoing discussions over the changes and is drafting a bill, which it hopes to submit to parliament before 31 March 2023.
The minister said the delay in the process is because the department needs professional drafters to work on the bill due to the complexity of the issues.
“The office of the Solicitor General has approached to assist, and the process of procuring professional drafters is in progress,” he said.