Home Affairs has a much bigger problem than load shedding

 ·22 Nov 2023

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) lost over 14,500 work hours in the second quarter of the year – and only about a third of that lost time was due to load shedding.

The bulk of the lost hours were due to system downtime, the department said – a major pain point that has plagued its offices for years.

Responding to a parliamentary Q&A this past week, the department revealed that it had lost a total of 9,095 hours across all of its offices to system downtime between July and September this year.

By comparison, office hours lost to load shedding amounted to 5,003 hours – while water outages contributed to another loss of 424 hours.

The department said ten Home Affairs offices closed down during this time.

The lost hours in the second quarter were an improvement on the first quarter – but this was thanks to lower stages of load shedding; system downtime got worse.

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.

System downtime8 67257%9 09563%
Load shedding6 24241%5 00334%
Water outage3292%4243%
Total15 28914 522

While the department racked up more downtime hours, it claims its service availability was improved.

MonthNetwork ReachabilityPower Availability
April 202387.68%85.34%
May 202385.62%82.95%
June 202394.51%91.89%
July 202399.47%90.30%
August 202399.34%93.54%
September 202399.13%90.42%

State IT Agency (Sita) workers went on strike in October, and it remains to be seen what impact that had on Home Affairs’ uptime. This will become clear when third-quarter data is presented.

“The system is down” is a common phrase South Africans hear when visiting DHA branches. However, the department and Sita have been working to address the issues and make DHA services more accessible.

System downtime is one of the biggest reasons South Africa’s banks have been hesitant to conclude a private-partnership agreement with the DHA to offer more of the department’s services at satellite offices in bank branches (citing reputational damage) – but this is apparently no longer the case.

Earlier in November, the DHA announced that the banks were ready to sign the service agreements and expand the branch network.

“The Banking Association of South Africa has confirmed to the department after many years of deliberations that the banks are now ready to sign the partnership agreements,” the department said.

“The signing of the partnership agreement will, therefore, increase the footprint of bank branches that will be activated, as the agreement comes with infrastructure and human resources from the banks.”

Read: New bank branches for Smart ID and Passports in South Africa coming very soon

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