Since becoming a parent, I’ve become more of a regular than I’d like at the offices of the Department of Home Affairs.
When I had to apply at schools for Aidan in 2013 (for Grade R in 2014) I had to embark on a mission to get him an unabridged birth certificate. For those of you who don’t know – as I didn’t until that time – that’s the detailed certificate where both parents and their ID numbers are listed.
What dumbfounds me whenever I have to go on these missions, is the sheer waste of time involved in queuing
When Aidan was born in 2008, only abridged birth certificates were standard-issue at birth. When Zoe was born in 2013, to my delight, she was automatically issued with the unabridged version, so at least I won’t have to go through that process with her.
Anyway, I digress… What dumbfounds me whenever I have to go on these missions, is the sheer waste of time involved in queuing – both when you have to submit the application and then again when you have to collect your official document once it’s ready. And that it hasn’t somehow been improved or streamlined (in fact the queues seem to have got longer) over the past few years also boggles my mind. Not to mention the attitudes of most of the government employees at these establishments, which are generally appalling. I’ve actually decided that a lack of “people skills” must be a pre-requisite to work at a Home Affairs branch.
When I collected Aidan’s unabridged birth certificate in 2013, I was heavily pregnant with Zoe. Nobody gave a hoot about that. I didn’t receive any preferential treatment (nor do the elderly, it would seem) and sat on the pavement outside, queuing like everybody else for a long time before even entering the building, where the unfriendly faces and endless waiting continued. That was at the Randburg branch.
One of the highlights was definitely the photo booth – the guy manning the digital camera had the personality of a cardboard box and instructed us not to smile.
Little over a month ago, I winced when I had to embark on a triple passport mission. Mine and Aidan’s had both expired, and Zoe didn’t yet have one. Since we’re planning to visit family in Botswana next month, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer. My husband suggested we try the Edenvale branch, as that generally has a reputation for being one of the more efficient Home Affairs offices. When you apply for a minor’s passport, both parents have to be present, as well as the child. So, the four of us all had to gird our loins and brave Mission Passport together.
First, let me set the record straight – Edenvale was no better than Randburg. We spent three hours there, being sent from pillar to post to join queue after queue. That’s awful at the best of times, but try it with a six-year-old boy that battles to sit still for five minutes, and a toddler that is fast approaching the terrible twos and just wants to explore and stick her fingers in plugs and so on. Not to mention a husband who HATES queues with a passion and can’t sit still for much longer than his son.
One of the highlights was definitely the photo booth – the guy manning the digital camera had the personality of a cardboard box and instructed us not to smile. After managing to get pictures of the kids (no mean feat I tell you) it was my turn. To cut a long story short, I was highly unimpressed by this time and it shows in my picture. Remember Charlize Theron’s character in her hit movie Monster – Aileen Wuornos? Well I look like her in my brand spanking new passport photo (or should I say mug shot?) which I have to live with for the next ten years. My husband says it’s not that bad, but I’m not so sure.
And I was one of the lucky ones (in fact I was literally the last lucky one) that got inside the building before 16:30, when they shut the door behind me
Yesterday I had the pleasure of going through the queuing ordeal again to collect our passports. Mercifully, the children don’t have to be present for collections. This time it took two hours. Thanks Home Affairs, that’s a total of five hours of my life I’ll never get back.
And I was one of the lucky ones (in fact I was literally the last lucky one) that got inside the building before 16:30, when they shut the door behind me – in the face of the next woman in the queue. She, understandably, tried her luck pounding on the door shouting “Open up!” for about five minutes, before eventually giving up and leaving. So she – and everyone who was behind her in the queue – has to go through it all again, poor souls. When I thought about them I actually felt a bit guilty about the “happy dance” I had involuntarily done, when I realised I was the last one that made it in for the day. At least I elicited a few giggles from the people ahead of me in the endless line.
I am a frazzled working mom who loves her husband and her children. All six of them – two human, two canine and two feline. I spend most of my day managing the crazy chaos that is my awesome life, and what’s left, writing about it … Read more