Imagine this scenario: you, a foreigner, have decided to live in South Africa. You have applied for your permit, and are eagerly awaiting that important piece of paper from the Department of Home Affairs to embark on your new adventure. How do you ensure that your permit application is receiving the necessary attention?
There are several ways to check on your permit status. If you have time on your hands, you can visit the Department of Home Affairs offices in person. There are long queues, but you have the opportunity to meet other foreigners. There is nothing like waiting in a long queue to stimulate conversation. You will also eventually speak to a real person face to face. If you are a tech-savvy foreigner, you can visit the Department of Home Affairs website where you can check up on your permit progress by typing in your reference number. Finally, there is the Department of Home Affairs call centre (0800 60 1190). There are also long queues, but while you are waiting in line you can be productive, instead of wasting time.
I have been in love with South Africa since 2001. I first arrived in August, and even spending the winter months in a damp flat on Sea Point couldn’t put me off. Somehow, with Table Mountain covered in a thick layer of clouds and it raining non–stop, I was convinced that this city was going to be my new home. Originally in Cape Town for an internship, I soon realised that packing my boxes and leaving my tiny flat in Munich would be the only right thing to do. I did my MBA, while setting up a small web design agency offering marketing services to South African and German clients.
This is the point at which my relationship with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) started. Since arriving in South Africa I have tried most visa options: the visitor visa, internship visa, study visa, work visa, and a life partnership permit. I have cried and I have laughed. I have also gained a good understanding of African red tape.
Now, 10 years later, I am about to become a permanent resident of South Africa…if I can obtain the permission of the DHA, that is.
Fascinated by the Department of Home Affairs and its renowned waiting periods for permit applications (permanent residence applications can take up to 3 years!), I wanted to find ways to make them aware of my case. As my permit application had been pending for over 14 months, I decided to contact the Department of Home Affairs, and thereby take my permit’s progress into my own hands.
Using the call centre as a means of contact with the Department of Home Affairs, I decided to test if getting on their nerves by phoning every day would speed up the process.
Two months ago on the 4th of October I phoned in for the first time. Since then I have spoken to Jason, Nomcebo, Zimkhita, Mampho, Mdongeni, Mahlangu, Anfley, Rudani and many more. I have been given a reference number, which helps call centre agents find out how many times a client has phoned in, and how frustrated the client was when phoning in.
I have phoned in more than 60 times now, listened to automated messages a la “for English press one” and made the call centre agent add new tickets to my profile on a daily basis. Now, after two months of nagging, I have been given a new reference number, and my application has been assigned to an official at the head office. Should I get excited?
I was told to phone in three weeks’ time but have decided to continue my daily routine, just so that the official knows that I will not give up. I am waiting for Pumi to tell me: “Ma’am, your permanent residency permit is ready for collection. Is there anything else I can help you with. No? Ok. Thank you for phoning the Department of Home Affairs. Enjoy your day!”
To be continued . . .
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