Home Affairs completely offline

The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that its systems are offline nationwide, blaming the downtime on the State IT Agency (SITA).

Its confirmation came two hours after a Democratic Alliance media statement about the outage.

“The Department of Home Affairs wishes to regrettably alert citizens that its services are not available at the moment due to a technical problem on the State Information Technology Agency mainframe, which affects access to the National Population Register,” it stated.

“We have contacted SITA and have been assured that its technicians and engineers are attending to the matter. We hope that this will not take long to be resolved.”

Home Affairs apologised to citizens and clients for the inconvenience.

“This continues to happen, where the Department is unable to deliver services due to its system being offline,” said the DA spokesperson on Home Affairs, Angel Khanyile.

“We are being inundated with calls from applicants who wish to travel abroad but are unable to as they have not received their passports.”

The official opposition called on home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to resolve the issue speedily.

“We also call on the Department to hold SITA accountable for its inability to fix its system, which continues to persist without resolution,” Khanyile said.

Past plans to ditch SITA

In June 2021, Motsoaledi told the National Council of Provinces that Home Affairs wanted permission from National Treasury to ditch SITA and use a private IT provider.

Motsoaledi said that the IT services provided by SITA were the “original sin” of Home Affairs.

By comparing SITA’s services to the Christian doctrine of original sin, Motsoaledi implied that all of the department’s problems can be traced back to SITA.

Motsoaledi said that although other government departments may be somewhat affected by problems at SITA, it has a crippling impact on Home Affairs.

“We have done away with manual systems and introduced a live capture system about eight [now ten] years ago,” the Minister stated.

He explained that Home Affairs depends on its IT system provider because the department’s staff is not made up of IT experts.

Motsoaledi’s statements in Parliament drew sharp criticism from then-SITA executive caretaker Luvuyo Keyise.

Luvuyo Keyise
Luvuyo Keyise, former SITA executive caretaker and administrative authority

Keyise said Home Affairs’ problems are not SITA’s fault, but due to the department’s own ineptitude and unwillingness to pay for the quality of service it actually needs.

The main problem, Keyise said, was that Home Affairs decided to buy the cheapest possible IT services that come with the lowest service level agreements.

“They buy a bronze service, which offers a 16 business hours turnaround time on issues,” explained Keyise.

SITA asked Home Affairs to consider upgrading to a platinum-tier service, giving them all the necessary redundancy and a much more stringent service level agreement.

Following Keyise’s rebuttal to Motsoaledi, plans for Home Affairs to move away from SITA as its IT service provider seemed to halt.

However, Keyise is no longer the head of SITA. While his contract as caretaker was extended by six months, he was ultimately replaced by Dr Bongani Andy Mabaso in 2022, who took over as SITA’s permanent CEO in 2022.

Now read: Major problem with Home Affairs 10,000 IT graduate hiring project

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Home Affairs completely offline