The system is down, IT downtime hurting Home Affairs more than load-shedding

System downtime contributes more lost operating hours at Home Affairs offices than load-shedding.

This is according to home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who was responding to parliamentary questions from Democratic Alliance MP Adrian Roos.

DHA’s offices could not operate for 15,289 hours during the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year April to June 2023.

Of this, 8,672 hours (57%) were lost to system downtime, while DHA offices could not operate for 6,242 hours (41%) due to load-shedding.

Over the same period, protest action contributed 46 lost hours (0.3%), and offices had to shut down for 329 hours (2%) due to water outages.

Motsoaledi also provided uptime figures for the DHA’s civic services system hosted by the State Information Technology Agency. These were as follows:

Civic services system uptime

Month Reachability (network) Availability (power)

April 2023 87.68% 85.34%

May 2023 85.62% 82.95%

June 2023 94.51% 91.89%

Uptime at the DHA’s offices improved dramatically in June.

However, Motsoaledi also revealed in June 2023 that they had achieved 95% system uptime in the fourth quarter of the 2022/23 financial year the period that runs from 1 January to 31 March 2023.

He said that all told, they had lost 13,416 hours across all branches during that quarter.

This was an impressive achievement, considering Home Affairs’ historical challenges with uptime.

Unfortunately, performance deteriorated dramatically in April and May. It appears to have rebounded in June.

State IT Agency (Sita) workers went on strike in October, and it remains to be seen what impact that had on Home Affairs’ uptime.

“The system is down” is a common phrase South Africans hear when visiting Department of Home Affairs (DHA) branches.

However, the department and Sita have been working to address the issues and make DHA services more accessible.

This included dismissing the DHA’s former Chief Director of Infrastructure Management for Information Systems for gross negligence and dereliction of his duties in August last year.

He was dismissed for:

• Certifying a Sita invoice that included services not rendered

• Authorising other expenditures against a credit note issued by Sita

• Approving the procurement of routers and switches that remained in storage and weren’t deployed

Shortly before his dismissal, Motsoaledi announced that Sita would inject R400 million to update the DHA’s network and systems.

He acknowledged that system downtime significantly contributed to the long queues experienced at DHA branches and offices.

“It is painful and generates a lot of anger to visit a Home Affairs office very early in the morning and just stand there and wait for hours on end because all systems are down,” said Motsoaledi.

“It is very frustrating, to say the least.”

The announcement came during the department’s 2022 budget vote speech, shortly after he had slammed Sita, blaming it for the network and system problems.

Motsoaledi also threatened to look to the private sector for a solution.

Sita hit back at the department and said the DHA was spending the bare minimum on its IT services.

It said the DHA paid for a bronze-tier product while wanting platinum-level service.

However, the DHA and Sita resolved their differences, and to address persistent downtime, Sita doubled the department’s Internet capacity and introduced three failovers in Tshwane, Cape Town, and eThekwini.

“This will ensure that if any of the network is down, there will be two to support our services,” Motsoaledi stated.

Emigrating? Key questions for your international moving company

According to a Statista survey last year, about 14% of South Africa’s working population of 15.6 million, or just more than two million people, indicated they were seriously considering emigrating.

The relocation costs alone are high, which means it is well worth taking the time to vet your choice of relocation specialists.

Ian Pettey, managing director Africa at Crown Relocations, says that to relocate the contents of a two-bedroom house you would need a 20-foot container. “The relocation costs to the UK would be about R120,000, and that goes up to R200,000 to go to Australia. A three-bedroom house would equate to a 40-foot container, with a relocation cost of R180,000 to the UK and R320,000 to Australia,” he says.

Pettey suggests asking the international removal company the following before you sign a contract:

Do you offer a full door-to-door service delivery to the final destination?

This means they will take care of everything, from packing your belongings in the home you are leaving to delivering them to your new home.

How many years have you been in business, and do you have references?

Experience is key when it comes to moving internationally, and it is preferable to use a moving company that has been in business for several years. Ask for references from previous clients to ensure that you’re choosing a reputable and reliable company.

Do you offer full-value protection insurance?

Make sure the company offers this. It means that if anything gets lost or damaged during the move, you’ll be fully compensated. And remember to read the small print!

What services do you offer other than shipping household effects?

Moving internationally involves much more than just shipping your household effects. Ask the company about other services they may offer, such as pet relocation, visa assistance, finding a rental property and language training. The more help you get, the easier the relocation will be.

Do you offer shipment tracking?

Knowing where your belongings are during the move can provide peace of mind. Ask if the company offers shipment tracking so that you can keep an eye on your belongings throughout the move.

Are there any unforeseen additional charges that could be incurred?

Make sure to ask about any additional charges that could be incurred, such as customs fees or storage fees. This will help you budget for the move more accurately.

Do you provide storage at the destination city?

If you are not able to move into your new home right away, you may need to store your belongings temporarily. Ask if the removal company provides safe storage options at the destination city and if there are additional costs to use them.

30 foreign nationals rescued in Edenvale in suspected human trafficking case

The JMPD rescued 30 foreign nationals from a house in Edenvale in a suspected human trafficking case. 

JOHANNESBURG - Police investigations are underway to determine how 30 Ethiopian men were trafficked into the country without detection.

On Sunday, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) rescued 27 human trafficking victims who were kept in a house in Edenvale.

The JMPD’s spokesperson, Xolani Fihla, said three of the men ran away when police raided the house.

Fihla said it was still unclear who smuggled the men into the country and for what purpose.

`No arrests have been made. Those guys were set free from that place and handed over to SAPS [South African Police Service] and Home Affairs Immigration for them to be processed and deported back to their countries.

KZN woman failed by Department of Home Affairs, awaits passport for over a year

A KwaZulu-Natal woman based in Krugersdorp, Elizabeth Boikanyo (54) has been battling to apply for a passport with the Department of Home Affairs for over a year now. 

Boikanyo who is a first-time applicant and married to a North West farmer based in Krugersdorp, has been left frustrated by the process as she has received no feedback regarding the status of her application.

“I have been trying to apply for a passport with the Krugersdorp Home Affairs branch for over a year now. Ever since my application (in 2021), I’ve been told I am being verified,” she said.

Boikanyo got married on 29 July, 2021 and said she never had any issues when she changed her maiden surname, Thikazi, to her marital one (Boikanyo). However, her passport application is a different story.

“I never had an issue when applying for a smart ID card, nor did I experience any trouble when changing to my marital surname - Boikanyo. I do not know what the matter is or why the delay,” said Boikanyo.

Boikanyo said she is trying to apply for a passport because she and her husband, who has family in Botswana, have been trying to visit family members in the country since their wedding in South Africa but she cannot go due to not having a passport.

“All we want is for me to be introduced to the extended family as my husband’s wife. It doesn’t make sense to us why I am not granted a passport. Even with ‘being verified’ I am given no feedback on this status application,” she said.

“Calling the Krugersdorp branch is a frustrating exercise. I am always told that I am number 99 on the list. I don’t even know what this means. I was told by an official that they no longer issue temporary passports.

The primary school teacher said this has caused tension with her husband’s family with them questioning her citizenship. The tussle to get a passport has also left her confused.

“I am now being questioned whether I am indeed a Zulu woman from KZN or not. They are beginning to doubt that I am a South African at all. My husband has defended me, trying to convince his family that I am a working South African citizen. I have never been arrested, I have never had run-ins with the law,” said Boikanyo.

The Sunday Independent has sent questions to the Department of Home Affairs. Spokesperson of the Department, Thabo Mokgola did not respond to questions asked by the publication.

Motsoaledi appeals high court ruling on ZEP ‘without any delay

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi will challenge a Pretoria high court ruling that saw him lose an application relating to the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs).

The high court ruled on Monday that the department’s application for leave to appeal had no reasonable prospects of success.

This after the department’s director-general Tommy Makhode deposed to an affidavit five weeks ago challenging a judgement that had favoured the Helen Suzman Foundation and Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA.

According to SowetanLIVE’s sister publication TimesLIVE, Motsoaledi was appealing against the judgment that required him to go back to the drawing board on the ZEPs.

In a media statement issued on Tuesday evening, Motsoaledi’s spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said the minister was appealing the matter at the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“The minister has also taken legal advice on the judgment. The minister has decided to exhaust the legal remedies available to him. To this end, he has already instructed his legal representatives to lodge an application for leave to appeal to the SCA without any delay,” said Mokgola.

“Motsoaledi believes that the matter is of such great public importance to deserve the attention of a higher court.”

He said the minister was encouraged by the increased number of waiver and visa applications lodged by the affected Zimbabwean nationals. The minister is considering and approving an average of 2,000 waiver applications every week.

Mokgola said Motsoaledi would like to assure the public that the department will continue to enforce the immigration laws without fear or favour. 

He said that is why Motsoaledi hosted a two-day immigration workshop on October 16 and 17 at Birchwood Hotel, in Gauteng, attended by representatives from the National House of Traditional Leaders, Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA and National Khoi and San Council, among other stakeholders.

According to TimesLIVE, Monday`s ruling found that crucial to determining whether there were prospects for a successful appeal was the quality of the evidence before the court  on what the minister had taken into account when he made the decision to terminate the ZEP regime, which allows about 178,000 permit holders to lawfully be in SA.

However, Motsolaedi had not submitted an affidavit to court during the hearing, and instead, it had been the director-general of home affairs who had deposed to affidavits.

“What renders the minister’s application destined for failure is the minister’s failure to depose to an answering affidavit in the review proceedings. Only the minister, as the decisionmaker, could give evidence as to what passed through his mind,” said the court. 

The court also rejected the argument by the minister’s legal team that his decision was not subject to review under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (Paja) since it was not administrative in nature but was an executive decision and therefore only reviewable by a court if it was irrational in law.