Residents of Mkhondo witnessed the local Home Affairs office on SABC 2’s news headlines, on Wednesday, 10 January. The insert focused on complaints lodged against the Department with regard to the dilapidated infrastructure, staff shortages and lack of ablution facilities.
A local pastor, Mr Sifiso Ntumba, contacted the media to raise his concerns about the current state of the office, and on Friday, 12 January, a meeting was held in the Mayor’s Chambers to discuss a way forward. The meeting was organised by Cllr. I. Brussow, from Ward 7 and it was attended by Mr R. Khubeka, Communications Manager for Mkhondo Municipality, Ms D. Chiloane, Acting Principal for the Provincial Department of Home Affairs, Mr N. Msibi and Ms S. Shibangu, from Mkhondo FM, Ms L. Manamela, Secretary of the Mayor’s Office and the Excelsior News.
Unfortunately, Mr Ntumba could not attend the meeting, but was asked questions via phone. Mr Ntumba voiced his concerns regarding the long queues, the lack of sufficient staff members to assist customers and the shortage of ablution facilities. Furthermore, he mentioned that customers have to stand in the sun without any shade and people with disabilities are not prioritised.
According to him, he asked employees at the local Home Affairs office why the service is so poor and they informed him that they have a shortage of staff and that they do not even have a cleaner. Ms Chiloane addressed Mr Ntumba and expressed her disappointment with him as to why he did not raise his concerns with the Provincial Department before he informed the media.
According to her, there are specific protocols that have to be followed when there are grievances. He apologised and said that he was unable to get the correct contact numbers for the relevant people at the time. She assured him that the Department will listen to their customers and assist with any grievances that may surface. It was also mentioned that it is not the Department of Home Affairs’ responsibility to maintain the building and ensure sufficient facilities.
These issues were addressed with the Department of Public Works a while back, and they have already started to work on the various problems. The lack of a palisaded fence was one of the problems that arose during previous meetings, and the fence has now been erected. Ms Chiloane informed the attendants of the meeting that the reason for the long queues are as a result of the hoax message regarding the expiration of the green ID books. Community members are under the impression that as from 31 March 2018, the green ID books will no longer be valid and they have to apply for their Smart ID cards before then.
Home Affairs offices throughout South Africa are facing the same problem and it is being addressed. (See the article in the Excelsior News for more information). She admitted that the local Home Affairs office is understaffed. The Department has already completed a number of interviews and more, qualified employees will be appointed in the near future. The reason for being short staffed over December is due to employees who took their annual leave.
It was also stated that it is a false accusation saying that disabled, elderly people and pregnant women are not prioritized. These individuals are always put in the front of the line and they receive assistance in a professional manner. Questions were asked as to what will happen from now on. Will the infrastructure receive the necessary attention, as the building is too small to accommodate the town’s capacity, and will ablution facilities be erected in the near future?
Ms Chiloane answered these questions by saying that the owner of the building and the Department of Public Works had numerous meetings regarding these matters and the issues will be attended to. She furthermore asked that anyone who has a query or grievance towards the local Home Affairs office, should follow the correct procedures for the issues to be resolved.
The protocol is to contact the local office manager on 017 826 0121, if you don’t get answers here, then you can contact the Provincial Departement of Home Affairs in Nelspruit on 013 753 3131.