Friday, February 29, 2008

Home Affairs in Prince Albert

- Christine Thomas -

Did you know that the Department of Home Affairs visits Prince Albert once a month? Those Prince Alberters who have stood in long queues in the larger towns will be relieved to know that, with a little advanced planning, inconvenience can be avoided.

Needing to renew my passport, I was horrified to discover that the Wynberg office in Cape Town was being renovated and now has to operate out of a caravan in a littered car park. Several phone calls to Oudtshoorn and Beaufort West revealed the fact that on the 31st January, Home Affairs would be operating from the library hall, Prince Albert, from 10 o'clock till conclusion of business. What a relief!

I arrived promptly at 10 to find the hall lined with chairs and a long table set up, ready for business. People were already settled comfortably in groups chatting. There seemed to be no order of queuing, so I sat down next to a couple who introduced themselves as newcomers to Prince Albert. The minutes ticked by and we swapped stories. By the time the two Home Affairs officials finally arrived we were on friendly terms.

Documents for collection were dealt with first and then problems related to I.D.s followed. My friends were soon seated at the long table chatting to the friendly Home Affairs official who made numerous phone calls to sort out their problem.

When a chair became available at the table my new friends waved me into the vacant space where I had a ring side seat to observe all that was going on. Photographs and finger prints were being taken on my right while on my left a mini-drama was unfolding. A feisty lady wearing a scarf, topped with a cowboy hat, required an I.D. With no birth certificate to prove her identity, other avenues were being explored by the official. The lady's off-the-cuff replies raised ripples of laughter around the hall. Eventually it was agreed that the Primary School in Calvinia would be approached. Her birth date was announced and we all counted on our fingers to work out in which years she attended school.

"En dan het ek ook gedruip."

More counting, more laughter.

"Ag wat ek sal seker moet dood gaan sonder 'n I.D.," said she philosophically with a shrug of the shoulders, now sure of an appreciative audience. The reality of running your life sans I.D. is not funny, however, and the Home Affairs official promised to do her best to help.

Dates for Home Affairs visits for March were not available at the time of going to print, but to confirm all future dates, telephone 023-4148360.

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