All South Africans know that a trip to Home Affairs is one of the most stressful outings that you can undertake. One never knows what the queues will look like, whether the doors will close due to loadshedding, and what the service will be like. Here’s a blow by blow account by Stefanie Minnaar of her Home Affairs experience last week…
I tried to book an appointment online as I bank with Standard Bank, but the Department of Home Affairs website is a nightmare. I registered but could not get the payment through to book an appointment.
I needed to renew my passport urgently as I was invited to a fabulous boat trip by friends on short notice, which entailed a day and a half stop in Walvisbay, Namibia, in early April 2023.
I decided to drive to Home Affairs in Grabouw, which has an excellent track record, last week, to renew my passport and apply for a Smart ID.
Got in my car in Somerset West at 8h30, bought six chocolates (for the Home Affairs Officials, not a bribe, just to thank them) and played Fleetwood Mac loudly. The N2 on the way to St Lowry’s Pass is always hectically busy, with lots of pedestrians trying to get lifts to Grabouw and further.
I saw three people (one male, two females) standing together with huge bags and R20 each in their hands. What the heck? I have often given pedestrians lifts and no-one has ever harmed me. I normally pick up women who are together in a group. I stopped. Turns out they all purchase second-hand clothes in the Somerset West / Strand area and re-sell these at the Saturday market in Grabouw.
Packed my car to the hilt (told them I do not need their money, I am going to Grabouw in any case). Decided three of the chocolates will be dished out. Leonard lost his job last year and is hustling with clothes now to survive. Girly and Fukena also cannot find formal employment. They enjoyed the music and were very grateful for the lift. Dropped them off and took a cheerful photo (with their permission).
There were about 10 people in the queue outside. Our rainbow nation. A homeless person sitting against a wall. Gave him a chocolate as well (and a cigarette). Everyone patient and friendly. Cute little girl sitting on her mom’s lap. Gave her a chocolate and watched her little face lit up.
I played music on my cell phone. To my surprise, the guy sitting next to me started humming along when I played “My story” from Belinda Carlisle. He loves Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. His name is Jerome and he is a fork lift driver at an apple farm. Excellent music knowledge. Had a nice chat. Took a picture and sent this to him.
My turn to go inside was 30 minutes later.
Friendly lady at the Meeter Greeter counter. I inquired about an emergency passport. To my dismay, she told me that one cannot apply for an emergency passport any more and a passport takes 13 to 17 working days. Gulp.
Decided to stay and see what I could sort out. Professional official took my fingerprints and photos and gave me a printed ticket number. I watched how citizens were being assisted. All the Home Affairs Officials were fast, efficient, friendly and professional. A lady asked the one Official (Sakkie) for an envelope for her documents, which he gave to her without hesitation.
There was a White gentleman with a Coco Cola cap with a dignified, frail elderly Coloured man on his side being assisted by a female Official. The coloured man was never registered at birth. He was born on a farm in the area 71 years ago and knows his birth date. He went to a farm school that does not exist anymore.
I was listening to the determination of his employer to help him to get an ID number in order to be able to vote and to claim SASSA. Total nightmare and social workers will have to get involved to assist with this entire process. Kudus to this employer for going the extra mile to assist his employee.
It was my turn to be assisted by Sakkie 30 minutes later. I explained the urgency of my passport renewal and inquired whether there was any way to expediate the process. The next minute, a friendly lady appeared from the back office. She is the Office Manager (Chalencia van Zyl).
She told me that she would personally track my passport renewal and that I can contact her telephonically from Wednesday. She will ensure that I get my passport in time. Slaat my met ‘n nat vis. Where do you get service like this? You are my new hero. Thank you. Thank you.
This is Ubuntu. The presence of ubuntu is still widely referenced in South Africa, more than two decades after the end of apartheid. It’s a compact term from the Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa that carries a fairly broad English definition of “a quality that includes the essential human virtues of compassion and humanity” – “I am, because you are”.
I would highly recommend the Department of Home Affairs in Grabouw. This is the type of service that we deserve!