“We call upon members of the public to ignore these mischievous messages. Responding with panic affects our systems negatively, thus making it very difficult for us to deliver services as expected, professionally and in the most humane of ways,” said Apleni.
According to the DG, members of the public have flooded Home Affairs offices following the hoax in a bid to comply.
“Among others, our offices in the KwaZulu-Natal province can barely cope with the numbers. As you will indeed understand, these false messages are putting our offices under extreme pressure, unduly, as people rush there in their numbers to get smart ID cards,” said Apleni.
The government news service, SAnews.gov.za, says these reports, which first appeared towards the end of 2017, masquerade as a notice from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and claim that 31 March 2018 is the termination date for using the old green-barcoded ID books.
The department said the incorrect reports have resurfaced since the beginning of January 2018, circulating largely on social media.
“Our offices cannot and will not turn people away, and therefore they have to battle with long queues, with people standing in the heat, fuming. This is a situation to which we do not want to subject citizens and officials.
“It is in our interest that citizens should apply for and receive their secured smart ID cards. It is in their interest and in that of the country but this has to be done systematically,” said the department.
Rolling out smart ID cards
“When we rolled out the smart ID cards in July 2013, our data showed that 38 million people were in possession of the green-barcoded ID books. As informed by studies we had conducted, we had then set out a strategy for a smooth roll-out,” said Apleni.
As it stands, one workstation can handle 28 card applications per day. It takes 17 minutes on average to finalise the capturing of an application. On average, an office with three computers is expected to take in 84 applications per day.
“With these factors taken into account, we were therefore able to estimate how many cards we could produce at a given time with the number of automated offices we had that were equipped with live capture,” said Apleni.
In the introduction phase, the department called on senior citizens to be the first to apply for smart ID cards, free of charge. This was based on capacity at the time.
For example, Centurion in Gauteng has only five workstations for this task and can therefore only produce 140 cards per day. With more offices with automated systems, and reinforced by 14 bank branches on eHomeAffairs, the department proceeded to extend coverage to other sections of the population, which unlike first time applicants, had some form of identification, in the form of the green-barcoded ID books.
Of the 411 Home Affairs offices, 184 currently have live capture, which can process applications for smart ID cards and passports. The remaining 227 offices are still to be modernised.
“We intend to continue rolling out additional smart ID card offices in order to cover the majority of our population in all provinces,” said Apleni.
Apply online, finalise at the bank
The department has encouraged those with access to the internet to apply for their smart ID cards and passports online, using the eHomeAffairs portal, which is accessible on the official Department of Home Affairs website www.dha.gov.za.
Applicants have been reminded, however, that they can only finalise their applications at 14 banks — 13 of which are in Gauteng and only one in Cape Town as pilot sites.
“The department will continue to communicate its programmes, processes and timelines. In spite of setbacks that may arise from these false reports, we urge our people not to despair. They should continue to apply for their smart ID cards without the fear of the 31st of March, a date that does not come from the Department of Home Affairs,” said Apleni.