Civil Service Blues
Home South Africa|September 2021
They’re like the gods of Olympus, civil servants, just way more fickle and distant and powerful, Karin Brynard muses.
Karin Brynard muses

It’s 6:30 on a Monday morning and I’m in a long queue outside the Department of Home Affairs.

I need a temporary passport, like yesterday. The dog ate my existing one just as I was offered a chance-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in a place outside our borders.

It’s winter, still dark. And very cold. A damp, icy wind is cheekily lifting our coat hems, pushing its chilly snout under our clothes. The stoep is bare – no chairs or benches to take a load off – and the frozen cement is steadily gnawing through the soles of our shoes.

Every now and then, a couple of new souls arrive, a mixture of hope, dread and anguish on their faces. They come swaddled in woolly scarves, clutching their papers as if their lives depend on it. Soon, there are more than 60 of us. I’m number 20 from the front – I know because I keep count, afraid some latecomer will jump the queue. The guy at the front must have been standing here since… five o’clock? Poor dear. And the doors only open at nine.

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