The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has apologised to a Cape Town Muslim woman who was told to remove her headscarf in order to take her ID (identification document) photograph. Saadiqah Saffodien had visited a Home Affairs branch last week to apply for the smart ID card when she was told by the female DHA official that she needed to take off her scarf. Following a post on Facebook by community activist Moeshfikah Botha, Home Affairs was contacted to respond to the matter.
“I was in a state of shock. Sitting there, I felt naked,” she said.
The department’s Western Cape district coordinator, Sam Plaatjies, described the incident as “unfortunate” and said it was not supposed to happen.
“In terms of passport/ ID photograph specifications which deals with the do’s and don’ts, if your religious preference requires you to wear something on your head, that is allowed. The official acted in an incorrect manner and we will rectify the matter,” said Plaatjies.
Plaatjies stressed that it was an isolated incident and the matter has been handed to the office manager and the official will be dealt with accordingly.
He explained that he had called the woman to apologise and she has accepted their apology due to the quick response regarding the incident. The photograph that was taken will not be used and the new photograph of her wearing her headscarf will be used for her ID smart card.
Plaatjies said official policy regarding ID photos states that “head coverings are not permitted except for religious reasons, but your facial features from bottom to chin, top of forehead and edges of face needs to be visible.”
The matter will be investigated as the official acted independently. There are meetings done in the morning to brief officials on the policies and rules of Home Affairs. Photograph specifications are displayed on boards at Home Affairs before taking photographs.
“There are international standards when taking a photograph, no smiling etc. The official should communicate how the photograph should be taken; in case a first-time applicant does not know the rules of the policies,” said Plaatjies.
Plaatjies said that the news about green ID books being stopped while applying for new ID smart card is fake news. He said that the department has not stopped it as there are several people who do not have an ID smart cards; therefore, it cannot be said it is not valid. He does recommend that people apply for the ID smart card as it is a more secure identification document (ID).
The cost of a new ID smart card is R140, although if you turned 16 and are a first-time applicant your ID smart card is free. It is also free for persons 60 years and older who has a ‘’Green book’’.
There has been extended hours for this month at Home Affairs from 16h00 – 19h00, although in most cases, they close the doors at 18h30 to deal with clients that are inside.
Also, if applicants do not want to apply for ID smart cards at the Home Affairs branches, one can apply online in the comfort of your own home. The application is very easy and payment can be made online as well. To communicate any queries or information, you can speak to the DHA office manager. If you’re not happy with the response, then speak to the district manager who should be able to assist you.