The department of home affairs aims to migrate to a new electronic system by the end of the year, but will it catch up on the backlog of undocumented migrants, births, and deaths on the system?
Lynnette Swart, a marriage officer, has been waiting nine years to update her twin’s birth certificate.
“I wasn’t married when I gave birth to my twins so the social worker only put my details on the birth certificate,” Swart said.
Many years later, she decided to add the father’s name to the birth certificates.
“In 2012, he even came up from Pietermaritzburg to sign and file the documents. Since then, we’ve heard nothing,” Swart said.
She said it has taken so long she was scared the father would die before he was added to the birth certificate as a biological parent.
Swart visits her local department weekly to apply for marriage certificates on her clients’ behalf. “Some days I sit up for to three hours and wait for the paperwork,” Swart said.
She said the online system might assist those applying for ID documents or passports, but not her.
“We are also struggling to get unabridged certificates. I have a lot of foreign clients who come to marry South Africans,” she said.
Swart said because people were not able to see each other during lockdown, it was as if when the borders opened everyone just wanted to get married.
“Now, they want to return to their home countries but need the certificates,” Swart said.
Angel Khanyile – Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson for home affairs – said the upgrade was certainly a step in the right direction in addressing the frustration people have with the department.
During the department of home affairs’ parliamentary portfolio committee meeting at the end of August, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that an appointment system would be introduced to their offices.
“The DA has been calling on the department to introduce such a system as we believe that it will address the long queues and protect people from losing a whole day of work to attend to admin.
It will also protect members of communities from potential corruption,” Khanyile said.
She said the DA will monitor the implementation of the appointment system closely. Economist Mike Schussler said
the world is moving in an electronic direction.
“It would make a big difference to relieve the long queues,” he added.
Schussler said the department would need some form of partnership with a bank or institution with a system that can be trusted.
“It might be good, especially if they do it through a system that’s already in place, which takes away a lot of potential for corruption,” he said.
He said once the system was implemented, the public could expect teething problems.
“In many places in the world your driver’s licence or airline ticket was loaded on a phone, so if they have an app that works, we could go electronic.
“But they have to make sure the corruption risk becomes less,” he said.
Schussler said certain processes were already in place to help with online applications such as being able to apply for a passport at certain banks.
“We are joining the rest of the world with digital migration, but we are not quite digital yet.
“SA needs to catch up,” Schussler said.