My experience in getting a new Smart ID from Home Affairs has gone downhill quickly, thanks to widespread system outages.
At the beginning of March 2020, I started the process to sign up for a new Smart ID and was impressed by the efficiency of the online application and associated bank branch visit.
There were a few hiccups, including the eHomeAffairs website suffering downtime when I first tried to sign up, but I eventually booked an appointment and spent only 15 minutes having my biometrics recorded.
I had expected to wait two weeks for my Smart ID to be ready for collection, but I received an email on 10 March stating that I could already go back to the same bank branch and pick it up.
The earliest opportunity I had to pick up my new Smart ID was 12 March, and I was excited to continue the efficient process.
When I arrived at the Home Affairs office in the Standard Bank Centurion branch on 12 March, I was given a ticket and made it to the collection desk in record time.
After checking my ID number and finding my Smart ID, the official picked out an envelope with my Smart ID in it and scanned it on his PC.
However, there was a problem – their system was down.
After waiting for around 35 minutes hoping the issue would resolve itself, I gave up and decided to leave.
An official supplied me with the telephone number for the Home Affairs office at the branch and asked me to call for an update on the system before returning.
The next day was Friday. I called to find out if I could pick up my Smart ID, but I was told the system was still offline.
I then called the branch when I got back in the office on Monday, and I was once again told the system was offline.
The next day, I got the same response, with the officials at the branch unable to state when the problem would be resolved.
Searching for more information on the Department of Home Affairs website reveals that this problem is the result of a nationwide outage.
In a statement, the department said it had identified a “glitch” in its Smart ID and passport system.
“This glitch has led to our offices experiencing service interruptions over the past two weeks,” the department said.
“There are 194 of the 412 offices nationwide using this technology to take and issue applications for Smart ID cards and passports. The interruptions are such that offices operate intermittently.”
It said this glitch has caused the daily processing of Smarts ID and passport applications to drop from 20,000 to 5,000.
“A team of IT specialists comprising [Home Affairs] and its service providers are hard at work trying to restore the capability of the system,” the department said.
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has authorised front offices to issue passports manually, but passport applications cannot be taken and Smart ID cards cannot be issued without the system being online.