Friday, 20 January 2017

My Picnic Basket Is Empty and My Tongue Is Bitten Right Through

I am running on empty and passing begin never refueled me. My picnic basket is completely empty and my tongue wouldn't even work as a sieve. I have bitten so hard on it that the holes have become one big gaping wound. A wound festering with obscenities and anger and negativity and so much more.

Maybe I am impatient, maybe I have high expectations or maybe I am just totally whacked to believe that I should have my Unabridged Birth Certificate within 2 months. Whatever it is that I may be, I certainly am not realistic. I went off to Home Affairs with high hopes on the 22 November 2016 and it took walking into the door to deflate my high hopes right down to size and start facing reality. The process had begun and I was told it would take three months.

On the 5 December at around 3 pm, I received a text to say my birth certificate was ready for collection. Wow, that is amazing - don't believe the negativity dripping off everyone around you, I chastised myself. We left home bright and early the next morning and we left our proverbial picnic basket at home because this was going to be a breeze. We knew the drill - it was only a collection.

Despite leaving bright and early we were shocked at the long queues but we settled in and joined the queue like good sheep citizens should do. After some time, there was a rumble in the distance coming from the main gate, I looked at the time on my phone and it was 8 am. The security guard had sent his clipboard around but the friendly helpful man from the time before was nowhere to be seen. The rumbling became louder and louder and the clock ticked past 8 am. I told Chad that I was going to the front of the queue to find out what was going on. I heard stories of people queuing from 5 am, the system was down the day before and at 3 pm the staff picked up their bags and went home, helping no one and not saying a word. Toilets were blocked and overflowing, people were angry and bitter but came back fighting the following day to join the queues and the system was down again.

Eventually, they let the first three people come in as guinea pigs, then they said collections can go in and it was a mad stampede and that early morning polite queue disappeared as soon as they gave the command to move forward. If it was a race to win millions you would not have seen a bigger stampede. Black Friday sales had nothing on this stampede. The rush and stampede came to an abrupt stop as the uninterested staff looked blankly at everyone and then said the systems were down and could only do Identity book collections. I forgot to bite my tongue and had an altercation with the queries man. A very bitter frustrated man in a wheelchair who is part of the furniture and then he referred me to another man who thought he was important and had also been employed there since way back when. Two of the dead wood they couldn't get rid of back in the day. He told me the systems were down blah blah bah. Then I thought to hell with your attitude and asked if they would tell us when the systems came up or would we just wander around like confused sheep. So he explained the rules and regulations to me that if the systems are down no one is allowed inside the building. So I politely told him that we were told to come in and he said the security made a mistake and I told him I won't be leaving. I spoke sarcasm, a language he wasn't bright enough to understand. He had also denied that the systems were down the day before when I asked why send an sms out to people to collect when they knew their systems were down. I could write a book about our conversation but it would be very boring, unbelievable, but boring and confusing as he splattered Afrikaans words every ten seconds that I didn't quite understand. The system was up in minutes, No official announcement just the rumbling of the public.

We joined a queue and eventually received my certificate. You play musical chairs get to the front, tell them what you are collecting, they look at their computers, tell you to take a seat and eventually AFTER the certificate is printed you then get called to another queue sign and leave. Only to discover everything is wrong on the said official document. Same old same old nothing changes,

We get to the car and I get told by the unofficial car guard that he washed my car. At first, I didn't understand what he was saying and thought he was asking if all was OK with the car, but no he washed it and wanted money. I told him he had no right to wash my car as I don't have money and laid it on thick that it is not my car, I don't have a job and I did not ask for a car-wash. I gave him R10.00 for watching my car and off I went. No way was I paying someone R50.00 or more to wash the outside of my car when the inside looked like a hoe's handbag. We went to Durban that weekend and it was really a mess and if I wanted it clean I would have taken it to the car wash we use at work and had a good clean for R50.00. To just assume that I wanted my car washed by him or worse during water restrictions!!! Never mind where he gets the water from. Presumptions are the arse of all assumptions.

We then discovered that the birth certificate was wrong and had to go back early the next morning. Well, I knew it was wrong and thought, we pay first world taxes so perhaps we have a first world system and I can phone and sort it out. Sorry, that doesn't work.

Off we went the next morning, no shirking the system and as we pulled up to park, a different car guard comes waving and running up to the car. We get out the car and he goes on and on about how he and his brother washed my car and I must pay him. It was the most frightening experience standing in an early morning queue with some lunatic shouting threats across the informal parking area. After me telling him (and lying for our safety) that we were not there the previous day. I had to tell Chad to just shut up and ignore him and everyone around us started to look around to see who these threats were meant for. We eventually went in, joined the queue, whilst worrying that something would happen to us and or the car. Finally, our turn to be helped, met with a blank stare and I don't give a shit about you or my job, I was rudely asked if I had proof that they made a mistake, which I didn't have. I wasn't up to staying there a minute longer or arguing and left. Fortunately, the aggressor was not around when we left and we jumped in the car and left as quickly as we could. I won't ever go back to Roodepoort Home Affairs. I don't care who is in power in local Government, it makes NO DIFFERENCE to my life or the average persons. I have just joined the negativity and despondency that this country is shrouded in. I don't have any fight left I don't have any argument left about seeing the bigger picture, blah blah crap.

I was going to just be done with it, but Chad kept on at me encouraging me to get up and start over and try and sort it out. My parents then faxed me all their Id's, Birth Certificates and Marriage Certificate and off we went to Randburg Home Affairs - again early in the morning. What is so wonderful at these departments is the camaraderie among the public. We all help each other to the correct queues and get directed if you in the wrong queue because no one who works there bothers. No matter who you are, everyone just chats to each other offering help, advice or just general chit chat.

The gate eventually opened, we followed to where Joe Soap and his folk told us to go and joined a queue. There was an official there helping people in the queue, directing everyone to the right place. Chad and I both commented on how much pride he took in his job. He asked us to stand aside (outside) eventually took us in, made a photocopy of my birth certificate and explained that they can't change the Id number and date of birth that says 21 Years because back then there were no 13 digit Id numbers. Faith restored in working officials. Funny thing is that I did not need proof that my mother's maiden name was wrong like I was told at Roodepoort!!!

The helpful official then took the copy of my Unabridged Birth Certificate and called to another lady and said it was a correction and put it on her desk. A month has gone by but with all the holidays we thought we would just go follow up on Tuesday because it is probably still on said desk.

We went there after nine on Tuesday morning because you queue anyway and JD was there last week at around lunch time and the place was empty - as in deserted. We were not so lucky and instead we were met with confusion and muddled queues. As always Joe Soap and public assist us and we join the queue hanging out the door of the tiny room. The queue doesn't move and after about an hour the rumbling starts and everyone came to the conclusion that NO ONE was helping our queue. There is only one person working and a young guy decides to question the only person working who then takes offense that he is asked why the person at our counter disappeared an hour ago. He does, however, message his colleague and his colleague comes out. There is a war of words and five people are assisted within 10 minutes.

My UBC remains unaltered on the system and the official asks if I mind if he does it again. I said in my sweetest friendliest voice, the same voice I greeted him with and explained my situation to him, although I did sprinkle it with a good dash of honey and syrup and said please if you don't mind, can you do it again. We filled in the corrections on a copy I had made and brought with and wished him a lovely day and off we went and my copy went into a box on a desk. As I was leaving he wrote down a Pretoria telephone number for me to call weekly to follow up but did say it will take 3 to 4 weeks and I should come back in a month to check it has been corrected. I didn't have to bite down on my tongue at all or speak sarcasm because he was friendly, helpful, pleasant and polite even though the system is flawed.

You would think in a country with such a shortage of staff in places like Home Affairs and in a country with such a high unemployment rate more people could be employed to lighten the burden of the staff currently employed and no doubt abused by the public because of a flawed system. I also cannot understand why there is not a separate room or building for all the mothers with newborn babies who bring their babies with for whatever reason. No place to change a baby, feed a baby and let's not go down the germ road whilst they sit there for hours on end. Not all mothers have the privilege of nanny's and baby sitters and have to bring their babies with in this hot, stuffy overcrowded room. You would think that a completely separate room and area would be made available to new born registrations.

Despite the fact that my child's death was a direct result of the system and attitude of this country, I still argued the merits of this country and the system. Yes, it was after a few years of complete numbness and being dead inside, but as the numbness lifted a bit, I still gave the benefit of the doubt.

Now my basket is depleted...

This memory is planted firmly here, in case I ever need a reminder of my journey through life and what a battle it was to get a simple document...

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