Work continues to build an all-inclusive, caring and compassionate Department of Home Affairs, says Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Speaking during a debate on oversight visits to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, Motsoaledi said the unrest seen in July in the two provinces shook the foundations of a cherished democracy.
“This period of unrest, unfortunate as it was, helped the Department of Home Affairs to sharpen its focus on the identified priorities. Home Affairs employees ensured that services were delivered in an all-inclusive, caring and compassionate manner,” Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.
While the damage did not impact very heavily on the department compared to others, five Home Affairs offices were damaged, of which three are in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Gauteng.
The offices in Eshowe, Impendle and Vulamehlo near Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal were damaged while Gauteng’s Bara Mall and Mamelodi offices were affected.
The Bara Mall office suffered extensive damages and vandals stole everything, even sinks which were used for hand washing after taking people’s fingerprints. There was no major impact in the Mamelodi office in that only one window was broken and nothing else was tampered with.
The Minister on 15 July instructed the department to use alternative sites to ensure that they are able to assist grieving families and undertakers to register deaths as some offices were inaccessible due to the unrests.
“The Bara Mall, which was extensively damaged, was used before the unrest mostly to register deaths. We chose it because it has ample parking space and implementing social distancing was very easy. Before COVID-19, it was registering 120 deaths a day and this figure is between 200 and 300 during COVID-19. When it was vandalised, a lot of people were going to be in dire straits.
“We utilised the nearest office at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, which is just one kilometre away from Bara Mall.”
“The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital office is the biggest office that registers births because we started registering births in hospitals. We redirected the people of Soweto to the office in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital office to register deaths. So, their lives were not too badly disrupted.”
Meanwhile, the Eshowe office was vandalised on the night of 13 July and services were delivered at the Eshowe Hospital from 16 July 2021. Limited services returned to the office from 22 July using equipment borrowed from nearby Home Affairs offices.
The department currently has 412 offices nationwide of which 229 are leased from various landlords.
“This means that we have significant dependencies on landlords and when their offices get damaged, we become victims. We have adopted multiple strategies to reduce these dependencies and to this end, we have approached the Investment Infrastructure Office in the Presidency, which is led by Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, to put up 15 purpose built offices for us. The offices that we rent are not purpose built,” said the Minister.
He told Members of Parliament in the National Assembly that the department has a purpose-built office in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape in which in prides itself on. Meanwhile, construction of similar offices is at advanced stages in Mokopane and Thohoyandou in Limpopo and in Taung in the North West.
In the short term, the department has seen the need to increase its mobile units.
“We already have 100 of them. We have decided that during this financial year, we must buy 10 more which are equipped with V-SAT (satellite) so that they can be useable in the deep rural areas of the country where there is no network of any of the mobile network operators,” said the Minister.
Source: South African Government News Agency