How often Home Affairs has ‘downtime’ in South Africa – and the worst branches to visit

Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has provided new data on how often Home Affairs offices experience system downtime.

System downtime is a constant source of frustration for South Africans who are required to use Home Affairs offices for documentation purposes, with it not unusual to spend two hours or more to complete simple tasks such as applying for a passport.

Responding in recent a written parliamentary Q&A session, Motsoaledi said the downtime percentage for the 2020 – 21 financial year was 1.26%, with the downtime primarily related to cable theft.

Data provided by the minister shows the Kensington branch in KwaZulu-Natal, the Grove Mall in Gauteng and Galeshewe in the Northern Cape were some of the biggest downtime offenders over the last year.

By comparison, the downtime percentage between April 2021 and February 2022 period was closer to 5% (4.39%), primarily as a result of load shedding at some offices without generators.

Motsoaledi said that over this period the branches which were the biggest offenders included Mount Frere and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, and Ganyesa in the North West.

The minister added that the department never closes its offices due to system downtimes and continued to render services that are not system-dependent such as births, marriages and deaths certificates.

In November, Motsoaledi said his department was making progress in addressing system downtime issues at offices, but that the upgrade project could take longer than expected due to fiscal constraints.

The minister said several challenges had been identified by his department and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), which are now being addressed.

Some of the key issues include:

  • Power supply issues have led to systems being offline – Generators have now been installed in 197 modernised Department of Home Affairs offices. Discussions are also taking place with telecommunications providers to provide backup solutions for their facilities.
  • Cable theft and vandalism have led to downtime – SITA has begun a process has to install multiple connectivity links to offices.
  • Ageing equipment and an unstable network have led to infrastructure issues – Since 2019, 180 new routers and 130 network switches have been deployed. Work is now underway to roll out the 1,050 routers and 1,000 network switches required, Motsoaledi said. He added that SITA is currently doubling internet speeds connecting some Home Affairs offices, which should help increase processing times for applications.

Motsoaledi said that this upgrade project is still ongoing, and due to fiscal constraints, the project’s completion date might be stretched to the end of the 2024/25 financial year.


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How often Home Affairs has ‘downtime’ in South Africa – and the worst branches to visit