The ban is clear: Home Affairs officials who are on the frontline are not allowed to use their cellphones. And citizens can call out any officials who provide bad service.
The committee was informed that there were two circulars in place, from 2003 to 2012, which ban cellphone use. The circulars were agreed to by all parties, including labour unions.
Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke had last month urged the department to consider a ban on cellphones during working hours following an “excessive amount of complaints”.
“It is unacceptable that the public spends excessive amounts of time at home affairs offices while officials spend a disproportionate amount of time busy with their cellphones,” he said at the time.
This was after video footage emerged in January of two officials using their cellphones while on duty at the Tongaat office in KwaZulu-Natal. In the video members of the public can be seen waiting to be helped.
On Tuesday, Chauke said: “It is now clear that the usage of cellphones is banned and clients must not be faced with this challenge when they seek services at the Department of Home Affairs.”
The department assured the committee it was reviewing policy on this issue to “strengthen it”. Chauke welcomed this as a constructive step.
The committee was satisfied by remedial action taken by the department, which included written warnings to the Tongaat officials.
Chocolate for dedicated official
It was, however, concerned that staff were not adhering to policy, stating that it pointed to “lax management”.
It called for management to be strengthened at offices where citizens received services.
The committee has encouraged citizens to continue monitoring and reporting bad service from home affairs officials.
On a positive note, the committee welcomed the quality service that home affairs official Nosipho Mkhupheka delivered at the Scottburgh branch in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mkhupheka, who works as a supervisor, helped 40 people after her working hours had ended at the department’s offices on Friday and soon trended on social media.
Her efforts were so remarkable that they even attracted the attention of Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele, who paid her a visit, taking her some chocolates and a bouquet.
The 53-year-old mother of four who has been working for the department for 30 years told News24 that she took her job seriously and didn’t like to see people ill-treated at the offices she works at.
“This is the quality of service we want to experience on a daily basis across the country,” Chauke noted.