Thursday, 6 December 2007

In Democratic South Africa, Glasnost sees through YOU...

This post is not to complain about the inefficiency of Home Affairs with regards to losing my ID book en route to me. It is not to complain about the screaming kids, long lines, and slowness of the bureaucrats. If I started complaining, nothing would get done.

This is about a little event during all these proceedings, in which I took part yesterday at the Wynberg Home Affairs office.

At long last, I reach the supervisor's counter. (I apparently rated an upgrade in service, since I have been waiting for my ID for 10 months.) The supervisor takes my ID number, enters it on the system, and starts looking through the log of what has been done. Being naturally possessed of a curious spirit, I lean over and look on his screen.

"Oh look," I exclaim, "it says that on such-and-such a date, my ID book 'arrived at Dispatch'."

"Please don't do that," he said curtly. "You are not allowed to see that."


The entire office is bedecked with posters proclaiming the wonders of the new "Track & Trace" system, whereby a simple SMS to a certain number (charged at ZAR1) will theoretically let you know exactly what the status and location of your ID book is.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is still some privileged information. Transparency, accountability, and freedom of information... these are ideals towards which the (local and national) government is supposedly striving. So why am I strongly discouraged from access to the very information which might just make me feel better about the fact that my ID has been lost in the system, after applying for it 10 months ago?

Has anybody else had experiences like these?