October 22, 2011

The Gods of Bureaucracy

I think the gods of bureaucracy must have sensed that Joburg Expat's material of "what-a-hassle-stories" is starting to dry up, what with Eskom so unceremoniously leaving the stage (once again, I can highly recommend calling in your own meter readings around the 12th of the month as it makes everything so much easier).

So I almost - can you believe this? - welcomed the opportunity to pay a visit to the Douglasdale police station with Noisette this morning, in order to start our visa renewal process. This has sort of snuck up on us and I still find it hard to comprehend that we will have been here for two years in just a few short months.

We were told by whatever consulting firm was hired by Noisette's company that our visa renewals would start with us obtaining a South African police clearance certificate. I am praying hard - I hope those same gods are listening - that we won't have to go get all those certificates from our other three countries again. It might have made for a good story the first time around but it's a giant pain in the butt.

However, the Douglasdale police station I can handle, which is why we obediently went there this morning, passports in hand. I've previously commented on how post offices look the same all over the world, and I would say the same about police stations, though this one reminded me a bit of an American elementary school, as it had mobile trailers with additional offices scattered around it willy-nilly. We waited briefly at a window to pay the fees (R59 per person seemed reasonable) and were sent to take the receipt to "the last trailer in the back" for fingerprints. Of course there were plenty of trailers in the back and the one we eventually picked turned out to be wrong. When we finally found the right one, it was locked. Back at the first window to ask renewed guidance, we were told that the guy in that trailer was missing, with the keys, and no one knew where he was.

At this point I was already expecting to settle down and wait, at best, or to have to come back another time. But when you actually expect these things (and, to be honest, might even look forward to taking an undisturbed peek at the New York Times on your Kindle), they don't happen. We were politely sent off to yet another office and given forms to fill in, then escorted to be fingerprinted. To get there, we had to pass through this courtyard of holding cells, accessed with a giant key:

Then we were fingerprinted, just like in the olden days, using a giant inkpad. I didn't take pictures of that part, not wanting to offend the sensitivities of the South African police, but from this next picture of Noisette washing his hands afterwards you can get an idea what a messy affair this was.

We were told to take the forms with our fingerprints, our receipt, and our passport copies to 271 Schoeman Street in Pretoria, where everything apparently will be processed into a police certificate within four weeks. It all sounded too straightforward to be true, so we will be checking some other sources (always a good idea in South Africa) just to make sure. This website looks like a good place for more information on police clearance certificates.

I'm now positively disappointed that this wasn't a more interesting story. Am I losing my grip?


martina-in-jozi.com said...

I'm always a little freaked out when things go smoothly too, and instead of enjoying that things are going well I spend the whole time dreading something will go wrong.

Maybe we just need to thank whoever is smiling down on us that day! Fingers crossed that this process goes well for you!

Anonymous said...

I can't quote chapter and verse now, but there is a regulation in existence which prohibits the taking of photographs of or within police stations and certain other public buildings, but nowadays this is probably quite difficult to enforce given the proliferation of photography enabled cell phones. But then your underhand shot of the cell door suggests that you already suspected this.
Look forward to your next instalment.

Stephanie said...

Police clearance isn't too difficult -- if they don't use lose your paperwork which is what happened to me. I've had to do the black fingerprint thing 5 times now so I feel your pain and wet wipes work a lot better than whatever soap they have there. But I did finally get the certificate within the thirty days promised. But now that I've processed and given in all my paperwork, I've been told it will be about a year before I'm granted permanent residency. And unlike the USA where you get a stamp in your passport to be able to work or do anything like a driver's license, here you get nothing so I'm still so in limbo, frustrated and unable to have any sort of status!

Sine said...

Yes, I definitely suspected taking pictures wouldn't be greeted very warmly by them, so I did it more or less secretly. We'll see how it goes with the rest of it, I hope it doesn't take a year! Apparently, it is easier to renew your visa abroad through the embassy, but we're not planning to go anywhere over Christmas, so we need to do it the "in-country" route which apparently takes longer. But I'd rather be stuck here than be stuck abroad like I've heard from friends.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

I was wondering when you would get around to a police station post. Wasn't sure the situation would ever come up that you would have cause to visit one. Amazing that it went fairly smooth. I was surprised by the trailer thing. I would think that there would not have been much need for additional space beyond what was originally built.