A temporary extension of operating hours at Home Affairs offices across the country has been approved by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, starting from Tuesday.
The extension means front office operating times will be extended by two and a half hours, from 8am to 5.30pm daily.
The main reason behind the temporary extension is to resolve congestion, which has currently surged over the last two weeks.
The extension, accompanied by the 100% return of staff to Home Affairs offices, will hopefully resolve the current high demand for documentation.
Motsoaledi said the offices which would extend their hours are those which are modernised, as they can process smart ID cards and passports. Out of the 412 Home Affairs offices across the country, 197 are modernised.
Motsoaledi conceded he and deputy minister Njabulo Nzuza had received many complaints from citizens saying certain offices were sending long queues of people home, often prematurely.
“We learnt that this wrong practice of sending people home can happen as early as 7am.
“We want to emphasise that there is no government policy that provides for that and members of the public should not be treated like that,” Motsoaledi said.
He said should people be sent home, members of the public must take down the name of the official who sent them home, and raise it with the office manager.
People are only supposed to be sent home from Home Affairs offices if they arrive after 5.30pm. He said anyone who arrives at any time before then should be served.
“Home Affairs exists to deliver enabling documents to people. We can’t turn away people who are looking for public services if they arrive within the stipulated hours of work,” Motsoaledi said.
Something that is beyond an office’s control, however, is if its system is offline, he added.
“We urge everyone who comes to our offices to observe social distancing, sanitise their hands regularly and to wear their masks properly, covering their noses and mouths.
“Nobody will be assisted if they are not wearing their masks properly,” Motsoaledi said.