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Calls for Home Affairs to get its house in order

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“The department is failing not only its employees but millions of South Africans who rely on the essential services provided by Home Affairs.”

RECALLED Department Home Affairs officials could not work on Wednesday as they waited for their work stations to be disinfected and proper measures to be put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) in the Northern Cape said on Wednesday that it was disappointed in the department for failing to comply with the recall readiness measures as stipulated in the regulations.

According to PSA spokesperson Russel Bindeman, no updates regarding the readiness of the employer, as requested by the union, was received.

He confirmed that the recalled workers reported for duty on Monday and were in the building, but did not work as the offices were not compliant.

It has been alleged that the workers were threatened that a “no work, no pay” policy would be applied if they did not report for duty.

“The offices were supposed to be disinfected before the workers were called in but this was not done. We demand that the offices where they work, including the front desk, be disinfected before work starts,” said Bindeman.

He claimed that compliance at offices of the Department of Home Affairs was an issue all over the Northern Cape as the only building that had been deep-cleaned to date was in Springbok.

“This is irresponsible behaviour by the employer to put the lives of people at risk in this manner. Why can’t they follow procedures and comply with the regulations as stipulated?”

“We have sent letters to ask for updates on the department’s readiness to recall employees but they have not responded. They have also not provided statistics of which areas were serviced, as per request, either.”

The PSA further questioned the ability of the employer to monitor aspects like social distancing and proper screening.

The manager of the Northern Cape Department of Home Affairs could not be contacted on Wednesday for comment, while the Department of Home Affairs indicated that it would provide comment within the next 48 hours.

According to the DA, Home Affairs offices in several provinces have been closed either due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) or to Covid-19 infections.

“We call on the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to urgently get his house in order,” the DA’s Angel Khanyile said in a statement.

She pointed out that the department had promised that all of its offices would be operating between 8am and 4pm on weekdays to render essential services. “However, the department surely cannot expect employees to conduct these services without the necessary regulations being followed. This is not only putting the employees’ health at risk but also the health of their families and the public.”

Khanyile added that closing a department responsible for the important task of issuing birth certificates and death certificates which are needed during this time was deeply concerning. “People who want to bury their loved ones have been left in the lurch with no possibility of getting death certificates.”

She stated that the DA would write to Motsoaledi to find out what his department was doing to address the safety of front-line staff and what measures were being put in place to ensure that Home Affairs offices that have been closed were reopened safely in a way that would not compromise the health and safety of staff and expose them to occupational risks.

“The department is failing not only its employees but millions of South Africans who rely on the essential services provided by Home Affairs. The DA calls on the minister to address these matters without delay so that grieving families, in particular, will not be kept waiting and incurring unnecessary expenses due to the department’s failure to carry out its obligations.”