Members of the media, I welcome all of you to our first briefing in the New Year. I trust you had a refreshing rest. We have convened this media briefing because we are deeply concerned about false reports on the lifespan of the green-barcoded ID books.
These reports, which first appeared towards the end of 2017, masquerade as a notice from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and claim that 31 March 2018 is the termination date for using the old green-barcoded ID books. This had an effect of driving citizens, in great numbers, to Home Affairs offices to apply for smart ID cards in panic.
At the time, we had responded swiftly to say such reports are false, and do not come from us. We are again confronted with the same incorrect reports, from the beginning of January 2018, circulating largely on social media.
We therefore call upon members of the public to ignore these mischievous messages. Responding with panic affects our systems negatively, thus making it very difficult for us to deliver services as expected, professionally and in the most humane of ways. Among others, our offices in the KwaZulu-Natal Province can barely cope with the numbers. As you will indeed understand, these false messages are putting our offices under extreme pressure, unduly, as people rush there in their numbers to get smart ID cards.
Our offices cannot, and will not turn people away, and therefore they have to battle with long queues, with people standing in the heat, fuming. This is a situation to which we do not want to subject citizens and officials. It is in our interest that citizens should apply for and receive their secured smart ID cards; it is in their interest and in that of the country. But this has to be done systematically.
When we rolled out the smart ID cards, in July 2013, our data showed that 38 million people were in possession of the green-barcoded ID books. As informed by studies we had conducted, we had then set out a strategy for a smooth roll-out.
For instance we knew that one workstation can handle 28 card applications per day. It takes 17 minutes on average to finalise the capturing of an application. On average, an office with 3 computers is expected to take in 84 applications per day. We were therefore able to estimate how many cards we could produce at a given time with the number of automated offices we had, that were equipped with live capture.
As a result, when we started, we had invited first time applicants and senior citizens to be the first to apply for smart ID cards, free of charge. This was based on our capacity at the time. For example, Centurion has only 5 workstations for this task, therefore in line with our norm, it can only produce 140 cards per day. With more offices, with automated systems, and reinforced by 14 bank branches on eHomeAffairs, we proceeded to extend coverage to other sections of the population, which sections, unlike first time applicants, had some form of identification, in the form of the green-barcoded ID books.
Of our 411 offices, 184 are currently with live capture, which can process applications for smart ID cards and passports; 227 offices are still to be modernized. We intend to continue rolling out additional smart ID card offices in order to cover the majority of our population in all provinces.
Discussions with participating banks are continuing to increase capacity, through additional bank branches. Participating banks are Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard.
Again we encourage those with access to the internet to apply for their smart ID cards and passports online, using the eHomeAffairs portal, which is accessible on the official Department of Home Affairs website – www.dha.gov.za, however, they can only finalise their applications in 14 banks of which 13 are in Gauteng and only 1 in Cape Town as pilot sites.
With online applications, on eHomeAffairs, you do not have to queue. At DHA offices, we do not use a booking or appointment system, for reasons of access for all people. Our service delivery model is on ‘a first come first served basis’. We rely on historical facts to project the number of people who could potentially visit an office in a given day. Part of the challenge we face is that, at present, we are running two systems, namely:
- A manual system – for births, marriages and deaths registrations, and
- An automated system – for smart ID cards and passports.
We really cannot afford disruptions arising from false messages on termination dates.
We are working on getting our systems fully automated, and are also developing a mobile solution to support the rollout of smart ID cards. Between 2013 and 2017, we were able to reach the 7 million milestone on smart cards issued. With the 38 million people we had to cover, it should be clear these messages making the rounds, about March 2018, are devoid of truth, and should therefore be ignored.
On a related matter, we have also noticed a spike in the number of incidents wherein people use fake accounts to steal money from others. We urge people to be vigilant; they should not allow themselves to be conned, whether for tenders, IDs or other documents.
The department will continue to communicate its programmes, processes and timelines. In spite of setbacks that may arise from these false reports, we urge our people not to despair. They should continue to apply for their smart ID cards without the fear of the 31st of March, which date does not come from the Department of Home Affairs.
All the best in the New Year!