The System is Down — Home Affairs logs 140,859 hours of Smart ID downtime in four years

Due to system downtime and load-shedding, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) lost nearly 141,000 hours of Smart ID application and production time between the 2019/20 and 2022/23 financial years.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi revealed this figure in a recent response to questions raised in Parliament by Democratic Alliance MP Adrian Roos.

Motsoaledi provided a breakdown of smart ID production and application hours lost to technical difficulties and load-shedding per province for each financial year from 2019/2020.

These disruptions hit home Affairs offices in the Eastern Cape the hardest, with over 34,000 hours to rotational power cuts and system downtime.

Mpumalanga offices lost the next-highest number of hours at 17,615.

Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo, and Northern Cape offices lost between 12,366 hours and 14,680 hours over the four-year period.

Looking at each year, Home Affairs lost more hours across all provinces during the 2022/23 financial year, when power cuts and downtime cost it nearly 50,000 hours of smart ID production time.

Aaron Motsoaledi, minister of home affairs

Hours lost in the 2019/20 financial year were also high at 36,077. However, things improved slightly in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years.

Motsoaledi also provided a breakdown of Smart ID application hours lost at bank branches through which Home Affairs offers the service.

Banks in Gauteng suffered the most, with these branches losing 2,725 hours in four years. This figure makes up nearly half of the total hours lost at Home Affairs-supported bank branches.

Western Cape bank branches had the second highest number of hours lost, with branches losing 734 hours to downtime and load-shedding over the period.

Banks in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape lost 326, 285, 231, and 188 hours, respectively.

The Northern Cape was the only province with a DHA bank branch that did not lose any hours to load-shedding or system downtime.

While the number was also zero for North West and the Free State, neither have any bank-adjacent branches.

The table below breaks down the Home Affairs office and bank branch hours lost per province from 2019/20 to 2022/23.

Smart ID production hours lost to downtime and load-shedding
Province 2019/20 2020/21 2021/22 2022/23 Total
Eastern Cape 7,992 7,661 6,402 12,002 34,057
Free State 2,997 819 1,545 4,217 9,578
Gauteng 4,621 2,755 1,436 5,868 14,680
KwaZulu-Natal 3,283 1,964 2,622 2,542 10,411
Limpopo 2,568 2,331 2,816 4,979 12,694
Mpumalanga 5,990 2,057 3,175 6,393 17,615
North West 2,089 1,266 2,512 5,248 11,115
Northern Cape 2,122 4,291 2,573 3,380 12,366
Western Cape 4,415 844 4,153 4,442 13,854
Total 36,077 23,988 27,234 49,071 136,370
DHA bank branch hours lost
Eastern Cape Banks 0 0 0 188 188
Free State Banks 0 0 0 0 0
Gauteng Banks 1,582 122 115 906 2,725
KwaZulu-Natal Banks 0 0 269 57 326
Limpopo Banks 16 17 69 129 231
Mpumalanga Banks 46 0 97 142 285
North West Banks 0 0 0 0 0
Northern Cape Banks 0 0 0 0 0
Western Cape Banks 146 0 69 519 734
Total 1,790 139 619 1,941 4,489
Overall downtime 140,859

One of the DHA’s worst outages unrelated to load-shedding occurred on Thursday, 4 January 2024. It blamed the blackout on the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

The department confirmed the outage after the Democratic Alliance had notified the public via a media statement.

“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 said.

“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.”

It apologised to citizens and clients for the inconvenience.

The DHA’s systems were restored later that same day, with the DHA confirming the restoration via a media statement.

“The system was back online from around midday today [Thursday] and services were available to citizens and other clients,” it said.

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The System is Down — Home Affairs logs 140,859 hours of Smart ID downtime in four years