Lack of protective equipment hampers Home Affairs service

An official tries to explain the situation to the residents.

Chaos broke out at the Nyanga office of the Department of Home Affairs on Thursday morning after a mob that had been there felt hard done by officials.

The angry residents said they were not helped because the officials told them they will not resume work until the government provides them with the proper personal protective equipment they need for their protection while helping the residents during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Department of Home Affairs provincial manager, Yusuf Simons, admitted there was a problem with masks and gloves.

He, however, said the protective equipment has since been distributed. “Yes it happened but on Friday we got masks, sanitisers and gloves. We have since distributed them to the department. As we speak we have enough stuff for the next three months,” Mr Simons told Vukani.

Waiting for hours at the department’s offices had many residents from Nyanga and Crossroads up in arms. Many of them said they were out to apply for their identity documents. Residents claim to be first in the queue in Nyanga, one has to be there from 4am.

According to residents they were made to wait hours and not attended to. They claimed they had to be rowdy and call the media before they were told they would not be attended to because there was no proper personal protective equipment at the office.

When Vukani arrived there, residents were angry at one official while others were sitting reading their newspapers.

While the official tried to stop Vukani from taking pictures, angry residents hurled insults at him for not attending to them but stopping the media from taking pictures.

An angry Xolani Masebe, who called Vukani, said he couldn’t understand why the facility had no proper protective equipment at such a crucial department.

He said not having protective equipment pose a threat and danger not only to residents but to the staff as well. “It is not understandable how they behave in that way. Home Affairs is an important department to many of us. I woke up at 4am because I know how this place is – only to sit here with no one explaining what is happening. They only came to explain after we had fought and told us there are no masks and sanitisers. This is nonsense,” he said.

Mr Masebe said he has been to the facility a couple of times without being helped. He said not having protective equipment was just a handy excuse. “Before the coronavirus this facility has been like this. You are now telling me it is because of gloves and masks? We need somebody who can monitor the officials here. People are not being prioritised here,” he said.

Another angry woman, who only identified herself as Nolubabalo, said she was angry having to wake up early and not being attended to.

She said she had a problem with the department in Nyanga because even before the Covid-19 outbreak, the service was slow or non-existent. “This coronavirus is used badly now. Everybody uses it to protect or defend their laziness. This department has always been like this. People do not care here,” she said angrily.

She urged the national Department of Home Affairs to intervene. “People from the high echelons of government need to pay an unannounced visit here. You also have security guards who think they know everything and yet they know nothing,” she said.

Mr Simons said the Department of Home Affairs offices will remain open, however, during the lockdown period offices will be open from 10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday, except those offices that are located in Thusong centres, to continue offering essential services to citizens. These limited services will be the issuing of temporary identity certificates; the issuing of death certificates and the re-issuing of birth certificates.