12 January 2021
Let me thank Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
GCIS DG, Ms Phumla Williams
Members of the public listening through various platforms
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have closed all 20 land borders which were open during Level 1 of the lockdown. A list of these borders is available on our website and our social media accounts. The President mentioned six of the busiest ones. The other 14 will be on our website and social media accounts.
As it was said, the closure will exempt certain, very important, services which will include movement of cargo and commercial goods, emergency medical treatment, movement of diplomats, deportation, people who need to go back to their home countries and allowing South Africans to return and learners who attend school daily in South Africa.
Even during the hard lockdown, we did not stop people who wanted to go home from doing so.
If people do not fall into any of the categories mentioned, but believe their case is worth considering, they can apply to the Minister of Home Affairs seven working days before the date of intended travel for exemption, and must provide;
- a copy of passport;
- a copy of a temporary residence visa;
- demonstration of exceptional circumstances for the request to enter the Republic;
- number of days of intended stay; and
- proof of accommodation or place of residence.
People who are allowed into South Africa are still subject to the prescribed screening procedures and isolation or quarantine rules, as the case may be, which include—
- provision of a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel; and
- in the event of failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative COVID-19 test, such person will be required to do an antigen test at his or her own cost and if he or she tests positive to COVID-19, he or she will be required to quarantine at his or her own costs.
Let me go to changes in Home Affairs services.
At the beginning of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, certain Home Affairs services were suspended in order to reduce the number of people who visited our offices. This was to limit the risk of their infecting each other and the staff because social distancing is difficult when you have a large crowd.
Also, in terms of the public service rules, we were required to ensure that only one third of the staff are allowed in our offices.
As the lockdown levels were relaxed, we incrementally reinstated services until 01 October 2020 when we went into lockdown Alert Level 1. This is when almost all services were reinstated.
Unfortunately, the impact of what we did on 01 October had the effect of taking us back to pre-COVID-19 days where huge crowds gathered at our offices while not observing any of the protocols, especially social distancing.
At the beginning of December 2020, senior managers of the Department, including the Minister and the Deputy Minister, visited offices in all nine provinces to monitor adherence to COVID-19 protocols and try and normalise the situation. They specifically visited the large offices around the country. It became clear that inside our offices, some form of protocols was adhered to but outside the offices it was a nightmare. Despite the fact that there are markings outside most buildings to indicate where people should stand to observe social distancing, people were simply ignoring these markings. When office managers and Inspectorate officers enforce this, people follow these rules momentarily and go back to their old ways the minute officials turn their back on them.
We thought the situation will improve with time as people got used to health protocols. Unfortunately, the situation of not observing protocols, especially social distancing, got worse, and it did so at the time when the speed of the spread of the new variant of COVID-19 was accelerating much faster than it did in the first phase.
Our statistics in Home Affairs from 01 January 2021 to date are quite alarming.
- Out of our 412 offices, 266 had to close at some point since the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020 because of staff members testing positive for COVID-19. Some offices closed more than once. This led to a situation where out of the Civic Branch’s 5 734 employees, 4 502 staff were affected and could not come to work at some time or another.
- Between March and December 2020, a total of 532 staff tested COVID-19 positive, mostly from Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
- In the first eight days of January 2021, we have already had 116 staff testing positive for COVID-19, mostly from KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo.
- Each time a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the people they got into contact with, including clients, either go into self-isolation or are tested and the office is closed for decontamination.
- Another shift resumes service delivery after the office has been disinfected and wherever possible, a mobile unit, or a truck fitted with Home Affairs systems, is deployed to those offices to improve service delivery.
- In the first 10 days of this year, we have already lost seven (07) front office employees.
All this is happening when the issuing of death certificates has increased exponentially in the month of December 2020. All indications are that at the end of this month, January 2021, we will have even more death registrations than in December 2020.
- In December 2018, the Department registered 36 825 deaths
- In December 2019, the Department registered 38 620 deaths
- In December 2020, the Department registered 55 676 deaths
On 4 and 5 January 2021, the first two working days of the year, the Department registered 10 982 deaths.
These trends and numbers are going upwards, suggesting there’s going to be an even greater demand for death certificates.
Taking all these factors into consideration, the Department of Home Affairs has decided to temporarily suspend certain activities and services until further notice. This is unfortunate but we are forced by circumstances.
In choosing which services to suspend temporarily, we were guided by our statistics.
Of all the people who visit Home Affairs daily,
- 29% come to collect Smart ID Cards
- 16% come to apply for Smart ID Cards
- 11% come for the issuing of birth, marriage or death certificates
- 10% come to apply for Temporary Identity Certificates.
Guided by these statistics, we have decided that the following services will have to be suspended until further notice:
- Applications of Smart ID Cards, except for matriculants
- Applications for passports, except for people who fall in the categories permitted to travel in the amended Disaster Management Act Regulations
- Marriage services such as solemnisation and registration.
We are aware this will be difficult on people. Please bear with us. We are trying to save lives while providing enabling documents.
For collection of ID, please do not come to Home Affairs unless you are specifically invited via an SMS.
We have also decided to change some of the modalities in which Home Affairs services are provided.
We are proposing that all births and deaths be registered at the health facilities where they occur. These are the 156 health facilities with Home Affairs office presence. A list of these hospitals is available via this link >>> Hospitals Online, Twitter and Facebook accounts on the following handle, @HomeAffairsSA.
Mobile units will assist where offices are either closed or where there is a need for collection or death registration. All offices have identified designated counters for death registrations.
Home Affairs offices will continue opening Monday to Friday, from 08:00 to 15:30.
We are extending our operating hours to 19:00 to accommodate people who need to register deaths and births up to 15 February 2021. We are doing so to enable funeral parlours and families to bury their loved ones within the requisite period for COVID-19 deaths.
In order to defeat this pandemic and go back to normality, we still appeal to everyone visiting Home Affairs offices to observe COVID-19 protocols such as wearing masks properly, observing social distancing and sanitising hands regularly. Nobody will be allowed to enter any Home Affairs office without a mask.
I must add to what the President said. We have seen a massive improvement in the wearing of masks. Our biggest challenge is social distancing because people are doing it momentarily and the next moment they forget about it.
Thank you very much.
ISSUED BY DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS