The Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, recently announced a further extension of visas for foreign nationals in South Africa. However, in the words of the Democratic Alliance (DA), he has “bizarrely refused” to make any provision for South Africans abroad whose passports will expire as a result of the extended lockdown.
The DA is again calling on Minister Motsoaledi to urgently facilitate passport extensions for South African nationals abroad without any further delay.
Section 21(4) of the Constitution grants every citizen the right to a passport… and for those South Africans living abroad the expiry of their passport could mean dire consequences for their immigration status, work, and ability to access healthcare. (SAPeople has been inundated with cries for help from desperate South Africans abroad.)
In a statement today, the DA’s Adrian Roos (Shadow Deputy Minister of Home Affairs) and Dr Rory Jubber (DA Abroad Leader) said that since writing to the Minister, proposing a passport validity extension stamp, the only step taken was the opening of passport renewals at South African missions abroad.
However, this has made little difference as the DA (along with SAPeople) has been inundated with calls for help from citizens facing closed signs, evasive treatment, “out of office” emails and unanswered calls.
The largest Home Affairs office outside of South Africa, in London, remains closed while the rest of London is coming back to full speed. Applicants are told to email requests and these emails either receive an out of office response falsely claiming that the High Commission is closed, or remain largely unanswered, says the DA. Phone calls are not answered yet applicants who go to the office to plead urgency find no queues and no clients being served.
There is currently a two-month waiting list just to get an appointment to submit a passport application at the UAE mission. Meanwhile, colleagues of these South Africans from India, Pakistan, Sudan, Kenya, Nepal have passports processed in between 3 days and 3 weeks through their embassies.
Further afield the last diplomatic bag to return to Hanoi only had one passport despite dozens of applications waiting since as far back as March 2019. A South African missionary in South America has been waiting for almost two years to have her passport renewed and has had to submit new passport photographs no less than six times!
The Minister needs to face the fact that Home Affairs is incapable of dealing with this growing backlog of passport applications through a system that has been ineffective even before lockdown. According to the DA, its proposal of extending passports through a stamp is a pragmatic approach which will allow Home Affairs to focus on passport applications of newborns and cope with the demand during the lockdown, says the DA.
The DA has reassured South Africans abroad that it “will not rest until this situation is rectified and South Africans abroad are able to enjoy their constitutional right to a passport”.
If you are having problems with your passport expiring, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll keep you updated.