South Africa seems to have abounded the global standards of carrying a passport. And internationally it is not regarded as safe. Whereas other countries constantly improve the security features of its passports, SA seems to have given up completely.
The entire drama started in July 2009, when suddenly the United Kingdom required South Africans to apply for visas, mostly as a result of terrorism fears. Most importantly, that terrorists could obtain passports which allow them to travel into Europe.
And there are 2 elements to it, the passport itself as well as the control over its production system. Apparently many blank passports simply disappeared at the government printers.
Things have since improved, but not yet to the extend that South Africans can travel without having to apply for a visa in order to enter the UK and Europe. Effectively a visa is another (upfront) passport verification process.
There are however two other, rather embarrassing issues devaluating a South African passport. Home Affairs decided that child trafficking is the biggest concern. Fully agreed to by everyone in principle, it was the way Home Affairs went about it, which upset the world.
Anybody entering or leaving South Africa has for the last 3 years to present an unabridged birth certificate, which shows the names of the parents. The silly thing about this is that this is the very same document which is required in order to apply for a passport.
In fact, both parents need to appear in front of Home Affairs in person when applying for a passport. Certainly the national population database should enable a boarder official to verify on the spot, if a child is indeed travelling with its rightful parent.
So why does a passport holder require a further document to proof that the contents of the passport is indeed correct?
And we are experiencing the same with Permanent Residents (PR) in South Africa. Let’s remember, obtaining PR is currently a very comprehensive, two year process of verifying a foreigners application to stay in South Africa. It results with a PR certificate and an ID book. Both are carrying reference numbers and are contained in the national population data-base. Until early 2014, Home Affairs used to issue a PR sticker into the passport, which worked perfectly fine.
Needless to say, in order to apply for PR, an ID book and a SA driving license, the applicant’s fingerprints are captured. Each time!
But for no apparent reason, Home Affairs has abolished those stickers (we suspect that there was a lot of fraud) and now demands that PR holders present their original PR certificate and their ID books when entering or leaving SA! So one has been waiting for 2 years for a PR certificate, if this document get’s lost or damaged, Home Affairs is unwilling to replace it but yet one needs to carry it on trips overseas or into Africa? Nobody understands this, clearly a passport is the correct document to identify a traveller and the passport by international standards also contains the relevant visa or residence permit, which allows entry and stay in any country.
Let’s hope the Department of Home Affairs will soon focus on the quality, safety and value of its passports again and improve the experience to come to South Africa.