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Nationwide Home Affairs System Failure Leaves Thousands Stranded

Nationwide Home Affairs System Failure Leaves Thousands Stranded

In a disruptive start to the new year, the Department of Home Affairs’ online system experienced a nationwide failure, leaving thousands of South Africans unable to apply for or receive necessary documents in the first two working days of 2024. The issue, attributed to a “technical problem” at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), affected the National Population Register.

Around 100 people in Kariega faced frustration as they were unable to receive assistance at the local Home Affairs office. Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the system downtime was not confined to their province, citing messages in the work WhatsApp group indicating widespread issues.

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Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza confirmed the technical glitch, stating that the SITA mainframe problem had impacted access to the National Population Register. Qoza reassured the public that SITA technicians were actively addressing the matter. By midday on Thursday, Home Affairs offices were reported to be gradually coming back online.

Despite the assurance of a resolution, individuals seeking essential documents faced wasted time and expenses in traveling to Home Affairs offices. In Kariega, scores of people from neighboring townships and towns arrived at the city center, only to discover that the system was offline. An official disclosed that the Kariega branch had been experiencing intermittent issues since December 18, 2023.

The frustration of those affected was palpable. Pensioner Blom Mtsitsi, who had been waiting since 7 am, expressed his disappointment. Having made a one-hour journey from Despatch, he lamented the loss of money and time. Mtsitsi, applying for a new ID after losing his previous one in July, emphasized the essential nature of an ID, stating, “I can’t do anything without an ID; it’s a must-have.”

The situation prompted questions about the resilience and contingency measures in place for such critical government systems. As people’s livelihoods and daily activities are significantly impacted by these failures, concerns about the reliability of essential services come to the forefront.

The Department of Home Affairs faces a challenge not only in resolving the immediate technical issues but also in restoring public trust in the reliability of their services. As the system gradually returns to normalcy, questions linger about the root cause of the problem and the steps taken to prevent such widespread disruptions in the future.

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