No hint of Proudly SA in pass­port re­newal

Pretoria News - - OPINION -

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

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