Waterfall, Johannesburg, licensing department shows how government facilities should work

By Ross Sinclair

Recently I had to face a day that all of us dread —the renewal of my driver’s licence. Horrible reminders of long queues, filthy buildings, and miserable, rude bureaucrats came to mind. I shuddered at the thought of the excursion and put it off as long as I could. 

But people advised me to give the licensing department at Waterfall Office Park a try. I looked at Google reviews and lo and behold, it was rated quite favourably. I had to see this FOR myself. 

I booked an appointment online with minimal hassle and on the day of my appointment, drove through a pleasant office park, and when I reached a point of uncertainty about where to go, a very polite security guard pointed out where I should park and where the building was.

When I arrived at the building it came to my attention that the online booking wasn’t even necessary as walk-ins and those who’d booked were put in the same line; not that this made the process any less efficient.

As I entered the building I was greeted by a pleasant receptionist, not behind a desk but rather walking around and giving people clear and friendly instructions about what they needed to fill out and where they should go. The building was also incredibly clean, something usually unfamiliar in government buildings.

Many, myself included, have stories of waiting for hours in line at Home Affairs only to be turned away after forgetting a trivial photocopy which could easily be made in the back in less than a few seconds.

This simple problem has been solved in this particular department. Despite signs plastered everywhere requiring that you bring your own photocopy, to my surprise, the woman at the front walked around and asked all people in the queue whether they needed a photocopy of any of their documents. Some did, which she graciously arranged for them with no hassle.

A few pensioners came through and were given priority treatment. They were kindly shown where to sit and given attention for any queries they had regarding their forms, with first priority when it came to eye tests.

Even the police officer who examined my eyes and issued my licence was friendly and joked around, while still getting everything done efficiently. I peeked at the feedback form lying on his desk and saw nothing but positive feedback. “Breath of fresh air”, and “excellent service” were some of the positive comments which covered the pages of the form.

Despite the unrelenting terrible news we hear about state-owned entities such as Eskom, which has left South Africa in the dark with stage 6 load-shedding and the appalling ordeal involved in getting identity documents from Home Affairs, it was uplifting to experience what South Africa could be like if all departments ran as well as this facility. Hopefully, this department and its staff will become the shining example for the rest of the country.

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