Covid-19 forces closure of three home affairs offices in BCM

The East London, King William’s Town and Zwelitsha home affairs offices had to be closed after workers tested positive for Covid-19.
The East London, King William’s Town and Zwelitsha home affairs offices had to be closed after workers tested positive for Covid-19.
Image: File

Plans to obtain a temporary ID so he could apply for the R350 unemployment grant hit a snag for Sakhele Dyakopu as the East London home affairs office has been closed for a week.

The East London, King William’s Town and Zwelitsha home affairs offices had to be closed after workers tested positive for Covid-19, leaving hundreds of people in the lurch as they could not get ID and birth certificates.

Before the coronavirus outbreak Dyakopu, 38, relied on temporary jobs in and around the city.

Like many others in the metro, he does not know where he will get his next meal because of the national lockdown.

“We do not know where and how to apply for the grants. I heard from a friend that there is R350 for unemployed people but I do not have an ID because I lost it late last year.

“We have no jobs and life is getting harder for some of us,” he said.

Throngs of people who had arrived as early as 4am in a desperate attempt to beat the normally long queues at home affairs had to go back home without being served this week.

Lungisile Sajini, 31, was one of the many who visited home affairs this week.

I rely on piece jobs. I went to home affairs before and they wanted me to bring proof of residence. When I went there again this week, it was closed.

“I can’t even make a CV without an ID. I applied for food parcels but I was told my name does not appear on any list and I doubt we will get the R350 grant for unemployed people.”

Bianca Mentor, 30, could not apply for her newborn’s birth certificate.

“I was there at 4am on Tuesday because I wanted to be first in line. But a security guard told me that the office had been closed due to technical reasons — she said the system was down.”

Home affairs national spokesperson Siya Qoza confirmed on Friday the three offices had to be closed after workers tested positive for the virus.

“The provincial department of health has advised staff to self-isolate while waiting to be tested. Contact tracing is also being done for staff and for people who visited the office.”

That office is scheduled to be decontaminated over the weekend, Qoza said.

“We have a mobile solution or trucks which can be deployed to deliver services at affected offices, but with all offices still awaiting test results, no-one would be able to operate them.

“The provincial manager, Gcinile Mabulu, working with other role players, including the department of health and staff, will determine when it is safe to reopen the offices.”

He said a safety assessment was being done daily.

“People affected by the closed offices can receive services from the home affairs offices in Mdantsane, Alice and Keiskammahoek.”

Meanwhile, the department of employment & labour announced on Friday that R782m had been paid to 146,189 workers in the Eastern Cape — the fourth highest number of people who had benefited from the UIF after Gauteng (R14bn to 1,186,833 workers), Western Cape (R2.3bn to 429,793 workers), while R2.1bn has been paid to 409,775 workers in KwaZulu-Natal.


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