When perusing the many online groups for communities of South Africans abroad, it soon becomes clear that the one single biggest problem for SA Expats (SAFFAs), or just those visiting or travelling abroad, is getting Documentation or Identification from SA Embassies (DIRCO) or even Home Affairs back home! In many cases this documentation is vital in order to travel or remain legally abroad. Yes, we all know, and joke, that South Africa is now a barely functioning failed state, but to be told in an official communication by an SA Embassy, that you would have to wait up to THREE YEARS for a birth certificate, is, to put it bluntly, criminal! The Embassy even went so far as to recommend asking family back home to do it for you! Remind us again why we have a “government” and pay taxes?
It is hard enough, if not near impossible nowadays, to get out of SA, but most SAFFAs abroad have also come across their fair share of road blocks and frustrations, when dealing with administration via SA Embassies (DIRCO) or the Department of Home Affairs back home, however it has now become beyond what any reasonable excuse can tolerate. Sadly there is little to nothing that SAFFAs abroad or even normal citizens back home can do about it. Ironically, it is clear efficient processing of documents is not impossible – have you ever heard of an ANC or government minister or official not being able to travel due to lack of documentation? Of course not comrade…
Case Study: In an email to a SAFFA in Ireland, who inquired about getting a copy of his unabridged birth certificate, he was shocked to discover even a normal plain birth certificate would take 3 years if he was lucky!
“Processing time for birth certs can take 3 years plus due to significant backlogs in Home Affairs at the moment. If you have family in SA it might be worth checking with them if it is possible for them to apply for the birth cert on your behalf as if they can it may be a faster option for you.”
Kind regards, Consular Clerk, SA Embassy Dublin, 2nd Floor Alexandra House,
Looking into alternatives it became clear that due to the lack of any usable or coherent service from the SA Government, the need for the service had gone “private” and many small businesses have sprung up in South Africa, offering to “expedite” these services on behalf of SAFFAs abroad.
An option from one fairly well known and reputable company in SA reads as follows:
“We can have your applications submitted via an agency we use.
Cost per new application: +/- R1380.00 – excluding return courier cost as this depends on where you are.
Processing time : +/- 8 weeks ( * ) and possibly longer as Home Affairs have a huge backlog. Applications older than 1950 can easily take longer than 4 months to get finalised…”
It appears the New South Africa has introduced a new feature or service, to all its governmental agencies, known as “expediting”, also known as bribes. In fact it is not far fetched to say that normal services are deliberately delayed or frustrated in order to promote the need of “expedited” services. Zuma himself said “corruption is a European word“.
Some of the private agencies in SA have a “contact” in home affairs whereby a bribe to the right person will speed things up considerably. This should not come as any surprise to anyone, given that you can even buy a REAL South African passport, customised for you, whether you are South African or not, for about R45,000 direct from Home Affairs! In fact this is the very reason UK tightened its visa requirement for South Africans travelling to UK. Mostly from abuse by Nigerians & Zimbabweans.
Our disgruntled SAFFA in Ireland then decided that rather than pay the bribe to the agency, he would ask a family member back home to arrange the require birth certificate, and give them similar money for the help. The documents were submitted to Home Affairs, with the usual incredible hurdles that new South Africans have grown to love, like having to queue up from 5 AM, and if you are not lucky to make the quota cut, having to repeat the process the next day until you are fortunate enough to get in.
This done he sat back and waited… Six months later the family member contacted him to inform him that a birth certificate had been received, only it was not his! It was his father’s! Home affairs told them they would have to re-apply from scratch… six months later, still no word…
Now imagine, for example, you needed the birth certificate in order to travel with your children on a limited period visa… jail for overstaying a visa become a reality…
Another SAFFA, resident in Poland also came across his fair share of road blocks and frustrations, and as many had trouble when dealing with administration via DIRCO and DHA, he tried to help a few out.
He himself had an 8 month wait for his daughter to get a passport, just to be informed the document was placed in the wrong drawer and he need to wait another 9+ months, as the process will only restart now.
This article however is not a merely a rant, but an inquiry and request of interest in filing a group action initiative with support from groups in SA to address the inefficiency of the current agreements and ways of working between DIRCO and DHA and failing the inevitable lack of co-operation from the ANC regime, setting up a help and support group for SAFFAs.
We want to get a clearer idea of the scope of the problem and plan to get numbers of complaints, specific cases and what else may be required in order to drive change. SAFFA.com are reaching out to Saffas anywhere abroad and will push to as many countries as possible as we get momentum.
In order to solicit support, and confront DIRCO and Home Affairs, we will need the real facts even if anonymously. Our first objective is to gauge interest, since it will most likely require investment to start this initiative.
Please comment on the post, or contact via the contact SAFFA form here, if you have a specific case to provide us or a horror story you think the world should know about.
It is patently clear you cannot call yourself a reputable and useful travel or visa agency in South Africa these days if you do not “have someone on the inside“… who is already being paid a salary with our taxes…