Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi suspended a number of services, including the solemnisation and registration of marriages until further notice. This comes as South Africa continues its second round of lockdown Level 3, as well as a second wave of COVID-19 infections worse than the first.
In a statement on Tuesday [January 12], the Minister explained that Home Affairs will now only offer priority services, as the crowds that gather daily outside the offices are a massive concern.
“At the beginning of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, certain Home Affairs services were suspended in order to reduce the number of people who visited our offices. This was to limit the risk of their infecting each other and the staff because social distancing is difficult when you have a large crowd,” he said.
“As the lockdown levels were relaxed, we incrementally reinstated services until 01 October 2020 when we went into lockdown Alert Level 1. This is when almost all services were reinstated. Unfortunately, the impact of what we did on 01 October had the effect of taking us back to pre-COVID-19 days where huge crowds gathered at our offices while not observing any of the protocols, especially social distancing.”
Out of their 412 offices, 266 had to close at some point since the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020 because of staff members testing positive for COVID-19. Hundreds of employees have tested positive for the virus and in the first 10 days of this year alone, they have already lost seven front office employees.
“These trends and numbers are going upwards, suggesting there’s going to be an even greater demand for death certificates. Taking all these factors into consideration, the Department of Home Affairs has decided to temporarily suspend certain activities and services until further notice. This is unfortunate but we are forced by circumstances,” added the Minister.
The following services have been suspended until further notice:
– Applications of Smart ID Cards, except for matriculants
– Applications for passports, except for people who fall in the categories permitted to travel in the amended Disaster Management Act Regulations
– Marriage services such as solemnisation and registration.