The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, to open online applications with immediate effect following an announcement that his department has temporarily suspended certain critical services, including applications for smart identity documents (IDs), passports, marriage registration and solemnization of marriages.
The opening of online services will, at the very least, ensure that services are not completely halted, and will also prevent the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) from having an influx of applications when these services are reopened for frontline processing.
Though we acknowledge that preventative measures have to be put in place to protect citizens and DHA staffers from contracting Covid-19, and that Home Affairs officials are currently buckling under pressure due to the high number of death certificates which it has had to issue – we strongly believe the suspension of critical Home Affairs services at this time will leave many South Africans in limbo.
The DA believes the move to suspend some services will result in unintended consequences. Particularly for those who need to apply for social grants who will not be able to do so without a valid IDs, in addition, people will be unable to access their Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) money, and many financial institutions do not assist those without a valid IDs to open an account or take out loans.
It is argued that the Coronavirus will be with us for some time, therefore, the suspension of critical Home Affairs services by Minister Motsoaledi will cause a huge backlog that the department will find hard to recover from, especially in light of its “well-known” inability to render services at an optimum level even when it’s offices are fully open.
No department is exempt from the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, merely kicking the can down the road with no workable solutions is not feasible. We cannot simply suspend services when Covid-19 numbers go up or lockdown levels are extended. The Minister should instead prioritise stricter, enforceable measures to protect both the staff and the public, and implement creative solutions to prevent backlogs.
Minister Motsoaledi failed to put proper contingency plans in place to ensure the continued functioning of his department. This failure could be costly if online services are not opened.