Home affairs to return to normal hours, but still with limited services

An estimated 81,650 babies born during lockdown need to be registered when the department of home affairs resumes its normal operating hours from Monday.
An estimated 81,650 babies born during lockdown need to be registered when the department of home affairs resumes its normal operating hours from Monday.
Image: Shutterstock via The Conversation

The department of home affairs will resume normal operating hours from Monday and will expand its services to include the registration of newborn babies and collection of identity documents.

Since the lockdown on March 27, home affairs has been offering only three services: the issuing of death certificates, replacement birth certificates and replacement ID documents for people who may have lost or misplaced theirs.

One of the services that were halted was the issuing of birth certificates to newborn babies — to ensure fewer people visited home affairs offices to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

This has created a backlog in child registrations and the government will now go on an aggressive campaign to make sure that all unregistered babies are now registered, parliament had on Tuesday.

Home affairs offices have been operating from 10am to 2pm from Mondays to Fridays with only skeleton staff on duty. As of next Monday, they will be running a full eight-hour shift with an increased staff complement of staff to deal with the backlog and the registration of all newborns at its offices and at health facilities offering the service.

Home affairs deputy minister Njabulo Nzuza told parliament's oversight committee on home affairs that based on the average number of monthly birth registrations, they estimate the backlog to be about 81,650.

The Births and Deaths Registration Act requires that births be registered within 30 days from the date of birth. Ordinarily, children registered after 30 days are considered late registrations and as such have to follow a more stringent and cumbersome process.

This will be waived for all the registration of babies born during the lockdown, including those who were born a month before the lockdown — but within the 30 days stipulated by law.

“We had planned that after the lockdown we would go back and run a very aggressive strategy on how to register birth. Since the lockdown has been extended, that is why we are coming with these processes,” said Nzuza.

“In addition, we are going to be dealing with children who were born during lockdown to make sure that we offset the backlog of all those children who were born during that period.

“Children born from February 26, and who were still within the 30-day period, will ... not have to follow the late registration of births process, which is stringent and cumbersome.”

The department is anticipating a high demand of birth certificates to take advantage of social relief efforts announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Nzuza said on average 31,879 births are registered at home affairs every month, which translates to 1,594 per working day. Furthermore, an average of 39,311 births are registered at health facilities per month. The backlog is estimated to be about 81,650.

People who had already applied for smart ID cards will be allowed to collect them. The department said 412,686 ID cards are waiting for collection.

“This is also to deal with the issue of social relief that has been announced by the president, so that those who need their ID documents are able to get it,” added Nzuza.

The department added that any document that has expired during the lockdown, including visas and asylum seeker permits, will not be considered expired and will remain valid until July 1.

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