By Francine Higham – DA Abroad Leader
On Tuesday the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Shadow Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Darren Bergman, together with the DA Abroad UK Committee Chairperson, Justin Adams and Committee Member, Rory Jubber, conducted an oversight visit to the South African Home Affairs offices in London following long-standing complaints over severe delays in the issuing of documents such as passports, ID books or birth certificates to South Africans living abroad.
These reports are by no means isolated and affect South Africans around the world, who must often wait between 6 – 12 months for such documents. These delays can greatly impact on an individual’s freedoms and we have heard of numerous, sometimes traumatic experiences, where people can’t travel home to be with dying loved ones or are unable to gain access to healthcare abroad, as a result of not being able to obtain the necessary documentation in a reasonable amount of time.
Furthermore, this delay in document procurement was one of the largest factors preventing South Africans abroad from being able to vote in the recent general election.
Not only are these delays incredibly frustrating, but once an application has been submitted, there is no way of tracking its progress, and the means to contact foreign missions and Home Affairs services for enquiries are simply inadequate – with phones and emails either not working or never answered.
As a result, DA Abroad, together with the DA’s Shadow Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Darren Bergman, and the DA’s Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Joe McGluwa will be engaging with their respective counterparts to submit written questions to the respective Ministers in their portfolios to resolve the situation.
The DA Abroad UK Committee have in fact already sent three letters to the South African High Commissioner in London, Her Excellency, Nomatemba Tambo, requesting a meeting to discuss the matter and identify a solution.
While the High Commissioner acknowledged the email we sent on the 13 February 2019, all subsequent correspondence has been ignored. After requesting a response by 17:30 BST on 09 July 2019, we issued this letter stating our intentions to escalate the matter through Parliament, in order to identify a solution.
Our request is simply that the same service afforded to those in South Africa, is also made available to those abroad, and more specifically that:
- Waiting times for civic documents such as passports, ID books and birth certificates be reduced from 6 months to 2 months;
- The overall efficiency of documentation procurement processes is improved, and that electronic services implemented in South Africa be implemented abroad as well;
- An online tracking service be made available for those abroad to receive updates and check on the status of their applications; and,
- Adequate resources to contact consular offices are provided to foreign missions, and that enquiries are responded to, i.e. phones that work and emails that are answered.
We look forward to engaging both the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Home Affairs on these matters so that a viable solution to the issues raised can be found as quickly as possible.