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War on the ques

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Home Affairs is tasked with delivering critical services that affect people’s lives

Picture: Cindy Waxa/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY/ANA

The queues at the Department of Home Affairs are legendary; people know that if they need a document they are going to have to take time off work and wait.

The scenes are the same at big city offices and those in small towns, and one can even arrive and be told that one must come back another day.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has announced that he will on Sunday announce his much anticipated “War on Queues” campaign. He says it is part of efforts “to ensure that clients who visit Home Affairs offices are served in a dignified manner”.

The problems in the department are many, and manifest. They start in the queue and extend into its various sections.

First the queue. Ordinarily, you arrive and count the people ahead of you, and know where you stand. Not at some Home Affairs offices, though. Here, one person can represent five people, “holding places” for people who will arrive at their leisure and take their place at the front, having paid hundreds of rand for the “service”.

In a period of a depressed economy and limited employment opportunities, this is enterprising indeed, and while perhaps not illegal, it is certainly unfair on those prepared to wake up in the wee hours and those unable to pay the “spot holders”. It is unfair to stand in a queue all day and have to leave without being served.

Get to the front counter and you will often be told that you are in the wrong queue or that the computer system is off-line.

Service, if received, can be delivered by rude, curt staff with a complete lack of urgency.

Ablution facilities and seating is limited, meaning discomfort for those waiting.

Home Affairs is tasked with delivering critical services that affect people’s lives.

People need to be able to readily register marriages, births and deaths, and apply for and receive identity documents and passports, the lack of which prevent people from being able to open bank accounts, register for grants and to travel.