No hint of Proudly SA in passport renewal
I NOTE with interest the Idler’s column on January 13 relating to former Springbok Tommy Bedford’s application for renewal of his SA passport.
My daughter had a similar experience with the South African High Commission in London. After being sent back and forth a few times she was also instructed to have her “citizenship determined” prior to them accepting her passport application. She was told the determination could take up to six months, following which the passport could take another six months (although many clients at the High Commission that day said they had been waiting eight or nine months).
She asked about emergency travel documents as she needed to visit her 101-year-old grandfather whose health is deteriorating, and already had a ticket booked for December.
The “woman behind the glass” at the High Commission said that perhaps her grandad would live to 131 and no, without a death certificate she did not qualify to apply for emergency travel documents.
In efforts to bring her across I was in contact with the director of travel documents and citizenship at Home Affairs in Pretoria. He was very clear: The High Commission in London does not have the right to refuse to accept an application for a passport or emergency travel document. If a determination of citizenship is required, it must be submitted simultaneously.”
Armed with a mountain of emails from various officials at Home Affairs, my daughter arrived safely in South Africa on Boxing Day.
On December 27 we went to Home Affairs in Prospecton to apply for the passport, a seven-hour process. And what a disgusting place it is.
Insufficient seating, staff who refuse to provide information, and health hazard toilets that stink to high heaven. Paper, not toilet paper, is available in a box outside the bathroom door. Toilets and urinals don’t flush and the taps are broken.
Basic sustenance was available a couple of 100m down the road.
The only redeeming feature in this sad story is that the passport was ready for collection on January 7 – six working days after applying!
After receiving the SMS notification, we arrived to collect the passport at 10am on January 9, but left at 3pm as the “system was down” and nobody knew if it would come online again that day. The only information they offered was that they were open until 7pm or we could return the next day. They were adamant that there would be no “preferential” queuing the next day despite what had transpired.
The next day we joined the queue at 7am. There had been no change to the horrific facilities but fortunately we only had to wait three hours before the renewed passport was in her hands! The entire interaction with Home affairs – in London and locally – was a horrible experience. It made one ashamed and embarrassed to be a South African. There was not even a hint of “Proudly South African”. Winning the Rugby World Cup had become meaningless. | JULIAN MANN Durban