/ 22 April 2024

Home Affairs opens office in Durban shopping mall

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Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi opened the department’s first office at a super mall in KwaZulu-Natal, the Pavilion Shopping Centre in Durban, on Monday.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi opened the department’s first office at a super mall in KwaZulu-Natal, the Pavilion Shopping Centre in Durban, on Monday.

Motsoaledi said the new office, the third to open at a mall, had been preceded by the opening of branches at Menlyn Park in Pretoria and Cresta Mall in Johannesburg over the past two weeks.

Motsoaledi said the Pavilion office, which had a soft opening to the public on 12 April, had already processed 238 identity documents and 142 passport applications.

“Some of the documents are already here to be handed over to their owners,” he said.

“Many people may have forgotten that a while ago it used to take six months to receive your ID and three months for a passport and I can assure you now we have cut those waiting times to 13 days,” he said. “Of course, there are exceptions here and there where people find problems and these are the exceptions that find their way into the media. 

“While our standard is 13 days, we can produce a passport in 24 hours. We do it when we understand your circumstances,” he said.

Motsoaledi said the government hoped the owner of The Pavilion, Pareto Limited, would open doors for additional home affairs offices at other retail properties such as Westgate Shopping Centre and Sandton City in Johannesburg and Mimosa Mall in Bloemfontein.

He said additional branches scheduled to open over the next two weeks included those in Tyger Valley in Cape Town and Southgate in Johannesburg.

“We are no longer going to rely on traditional home affairs office services,” he said. “We are expanding into the malls and we are expanding into the banks and you are no longer having to queue in home affairs offices,” he said.

He said the department offers its services at 29 bank branches countrywide, and is in the process of signing up additional branches. It is also opening home affairs offices in hospitals, preferably near labour wards, to ensure every citizen is documented at birth.

“On this continent we still have people who are born, get married and die without having any record of them ever having been on this planet, and other countries call it the ‘scandal of invisibility’,” he said.

He said Egypt, with 98% of its population documented, was leading the pack on the continent followed by South Africa, which has an 89% documentation rate, meaning 11% of people remain invisible.

“We are fulfilling a promise we gave to parliament that we are expanding into malls, banks and hospitals,” he said.

He said home affairs offices that had been a “nightmare” were Umgeni Road in Durban and Randburg in Johannesburg, which had generated countless complaints because of the “over-subscription” of citizens using these branches. 

Motsoaledi said the Pavilion branch offers both appointments and walk-in services and urged the public to take down the names, or even take photographs, of any officials who turn people away.

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He added that citizens could also expect a “huge” announcement from home affairs in two week’s time.

Pareto Limited chief executive Malose Kekane said the group had been quick to offer retail space when Motsoaledi announced the department’s mall strategy.

“We realised how important it is to make it easy for the public to access services. There is nothing more important in your wallet than your ID card,” he said.

Kekane then alluded to the suicide of S’khumbuzo Douglas Mhlongo, 22, who he said was a young person who would never be forgotten for his struggle with the home affairs department.

Mhlongo’s body was found in a shack near Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2009, along with a suicide note saying he had taken his life because he could not obtain an ID. He had been unable to take a permanent job he had been offered because he did not have an ID and officials had allegedly asked him to pay a R400 bribe.

Kekane said: “It is not easy to do business with the government, but I have found collaborating with the department of home affairs to be refreshing and businesslike,” Kekane said.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza said that since last year, more than 1.5 million people had had appointments with the department at bank branches. He said the department had also rolled out 100 mobile unit offices to rural areas and schools and planned to roll out a further 100 units “soon”.

“The purpose of today is to expand our footprint by opening this state-of-the-art office where you are able to come here to apply for your passport and any other services that home affairs offers. We are doing this because the identity of citizens is important for the basic functioning of the economy. If citizens cannot access their ID they cannot enter basic contracts,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the provincial government had been “concerned” about the state of services at home affairs offices in Pinetown, Umgeni Road and Durban’s city centre because people were exposed to crime, poor access for older people and a lack of ablution facilities. 

“We are looking forward to the alleviation of these kinds of conditions people are experiencing in these offices,” Dube-Ncube said.

Other offices opening in KwaZulu-Natal later this year will be in Kwadukuza and Chatsworth.