Smart IDs pile up at home affairs offices

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 24 Oct 2023
The home affairs department says more than 500 000 ID documents remain uncollected. (Photograph by DHA)
The home affairs department says more than 500 000 ID documents remain uncollected. (Photograph by DHA)

System downtime and long queues at branches of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) are top among the reasons citizens aren’t collecting their new smart identification document cards.

More than 500 000 smart ID documents remain uncollected at the DHA.

This was revealed by home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who listed the main reasons people aren’t collecting their IDs.

In a Parliamentary reply to EFF MP Thapelo Mogale’s questions on the issue around delayed collection of ID documents, Motsoaledi said there are 566 429 uncollected IDs.

Out of 566 429 cases, there are 63 452 deceased cases, leaving a balance of 502 977 uncollected smart IDs, says the minister in the written reply.

Furthermore, some provincial DHA offices have as many as 4 000 smart IDs on hand pending collection.

The minister explained that because some citizens still have valid green ID books, this sometimes results in applicants not returning to collect their new smart ID cards.

“Long queues at offices discourage clients. Clients are unable to collect smart ID cards during system downtime.”

Other issues include financial constraints; for example, no money to travel to DHA offices, applicants’ contact details are not updated, time constraints, travel distance to DHA offices, relocation, and in some instances, applicants may have died.

As the custodian of identity, civil status and migration of citizens, the DHA is replacing more than 38 million green bar-coded ID booklets with smart ID cards that have better security features and are extremely difficult to forge.

To speed up the rollout of smart ID cards, the DHA partnered with the major banking outlets – FNB, Absa, Nedbank and Standard Bank. Using eHomeAffairs, citizens are able to apply for their smart IDs and passports online, and finalise the application process at certain bank branches.

A breakdown of the number of uncollected ID documents in each province.
A breakdown of the number of uncollected ID documents in each province.

The DHA last year said it plans to introduce an online appointment system, saying it aims to mitigate long queues at its branches, as well as the illegal practice of blocking slots to sell them.

Explaining the steps the department is taking to reduce the number of uncollected IDs, Motsoaledi said the Branch Appointment Booking System has been enhanced with a “collections” option, for clients to schedule an appointment to collect their IDs in all live capture offices.

“The modernisation system was also enhanced with a new capability for front offices to ‘redirect’ IDs and passports to alternative offices as required by the client.

“The department also communicates to the public when various offices will open on Saturdays. Clients are encouraged to take advantage of the extended hours on Saturdays to collect documents they have applied for, and not wait for the last minute.

“At local front office level, clients are also being called in to collect, while mobile units are taking IDs to rural areas, schools and high-volume communities for distribution of IDs for collection.”

According to Motsoaledi, there is also the reactivation of SMSes to remind clients to collect their IDs at home affairs offices.

“There are also community outreach programmes in partnerships with the IEC, Department of Basic Education, metros, districts and local municipalities. Uncollected ID volumes are shared with stakeholders to market and encourage clients to collect their documents through the various platforms provided.”