Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that the Branch Appointment Booking System being piloted at select branches is yielding positive results.
Responding to a parliamentary Q&A, Motsoaledi said that the system has allowed South Africans to bypass long queues.
“Clients are serviced within the timeslot booked and confirmed, and the offices are able to plan for those who have booked the day prior to the scheduled appointments,” he said.
The system is currently being trialled in select high-volume offices and has been integrated with the national population register to allow clients to use their ID numbers to book a slot. This prevents agents illegally operating in home affairs offices from blocking slots to sell them on.
This includes options to book an appointment at a specific home affairs office in each province and an expected start and end time.
Motsoaledi previously said the Branch Appointment Booking System would be piloted at some live capture offices for Smart ID Card and Passports applications and the collections of both documents during the 2021/22 financial year.
He added that the system would be rolled out to other identified high-volume offices, however, he did not provide a timeframe.
Downtime is still an issue
Despite the progress made in the booking system trial, excessive downtime continues to plague home affairs offices across the country.
The department’s annual performance report in April 2022 flagged system downtime and connectivity issues as a significant hurdle that still needs to be addressed.
An August 2021 presentation to parliament by Motsoaledi promised to upgrade home affairs branches and reduce system downtime – yet in March 2022 almost the entire branch network was hit with a significant outage.
According to Motsoaledi, various upgrades have been done at front offices, bank branches, ports of entry, and refugee reception centres across the country to mitigate system issues and downtime.
The downtime in March was due to a damaged network cable, he said.
“Live capture access to the National Population Registration was severed due to a damaged network cable that connected the DHA Network to the SITA hosted Mainframe Systems, with the National Population Register being one of these systems,” he said.
The department wants to intsall a redundant cable that will need to be routed via a different path in the data centre to provide higher availability, as well as getting end-to-end monitoring services from SITA to prevent similar outages in the future.