On 14 February I wrote to Oscar Grand asking if he could arrange an HR letter for me supporting my need for a second SA passport as I am travelling a lot this year and need to have a passport while another passport is in for a visa at an embassy. I wrote out the full draft text of the letter as I thought this might be an unusual request. Oscar was away, so I wrote to Keith Robain, who very efficiently passed my query on. Ricardo Steyn responded with a visa letter form. I pointed out that I was not applying for a visa but for second passport, but filled in the letter anyway. I explained that I was not going to waste the time of my chair to sign the visa letter as I did not want a visa. I received a one-line email which read:
Dear Prof Swartz
The visa application form needs to be signed.
I then got my chair to sign the vis application form, even though as I had said repeatedly that I was not asking for a visa letter. On 19 Feb, Mr Steyn sent me a visa letter, something which I had not asked for. I immediately responded as follows:
Thank you. As I mentioned, I do not need a visa letter at this stage – I need a letter for Home Affairs to support my getting a second passport. Please can you help me with that letter?
I really appreciate your help.
I did not receive and answer to this email. In desperation, I again approached my chair (who is very busy) and she signed the HR letter I had prepared and sent to HR on 4 February, and I went to Home Affairs, who do insist on a letter for a second passport, and luckily they accepted it. To give Ricardo feedback, I wrote an email to him yesterday (26 Feb) which reads:
Thank you for your help with this. I would like to give you some feedback.
In my original email to you I made it clear that I was not in need of a visa letter at this stage but in need of a letter from the university supporting my need for a second passport. I made it clear on the visa form that it was not the right form, and why I was not having it signed, but you asked for it to be filled in and signed. I did not need a visa letter but a second passport letter. In my original email I drafted for you what needed to be in this letter.
On 19 February you sent me a visa letter but did not send me a letter for a second passport, which was what I needed. I wrote to you on that same day once again asking for a letter for a second passport.
I have not heard from you since then.
Eventually, I asked my departmental chair to sign the visa letter, which she did. Today I went to Home Affairs, and they told me that without a letter of the type I had drafted and eventually had signed by my chair, they would not have set in motion the process for me to get the second passport.
I do appreciate your help, but I think it may be helpful for you to know about this in case other people ask HR for a letter for a second passport. If you believe that HR should not be giving out such letters, then please tell me, but it does make it difficult for me when my requests do not seem to be read properly.
Thank you for all your help over the years. I hope this feedback is helpful to you.
I received the following email in response:
Dear Prof Swart
We do not draft that type of letters.
It seems to me that there are three issues here. The first is that a lot of time has been wasted with this - if Ricardo had read my first email and you do not draft those sorts of letters, he could have told me this without wasting everyone's time (I feel especially bad for wasting the time of my departmental chair, who has better things to do than sign forms which do not need to be signed). The second is that I see no evidence that Ricardo will inform anyone that HR may well be asked to write letters other than visa letters - I don't see why you cannot draft letters of that kind. The third issue is that despite the fact that throughout this process I have really tried to be polite, Ricardo has in my view been rude to me. It is not polite simply not to reply to an email you don't like. It is not polite not to acknowledge a mistake, which clearly has been made here, and in my reading, when I get a one-line letter of instruction from Ricardo which ignores my communication with him, and then a one-liner in which I (with my name misspelled, but this is a minor issue) am at last informed that the service which I have asked for is not offered, and no acknowledgement of what has gone before, this was also rude.
I understand that your division, like my own, has challenges, and generally (including from Ricardo) I get excellent service. I think, though, that this is an example of poor, rude, and time-wasting service.
I suggest that your staff:
Read requests sent to them properly.
Respond to what is actually asked and not to something else.
Respond to emails and not just ignore ones they don't like
Say at the start of an interaction if a service is not offered
Explore whether this service should be offered.
Please can you let me know what action, if any, is taken on the basis of my feedback.
Thanks very much.