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Zimbabwe to resume issuing passports



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By Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE'S Registrar General's Office is to resume issuing passports after securing funding from the country's central bank, reports said Wednesday.

But the crisis-hit department still needs over US$1 million to process identity documents ahead of next year's presidential elections, and possibly parliamentary polls which could be brought forward by two years.

Although presidential elections have always been formally scheduled for next year, until 10 days ago it looked as if they would be postponed until 2010.

President Robert Mugabe, 83, had thrown his weight behind a plan by some in the ruling party to postpone the polls for two years so that they would coincide with parliamentary elections.

But the plan sparked huge resistance from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and most tellingly from some powerful figures in Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party.

In a surprise announcement to a Namibian newspaper earlier this month, Mugabe said elections could go ahead in 2008.

He said he wanted both parliamentary and presidential elections to be held then, and he also said he would stand as the ruling party's candidate if his party wanted.

The Registrar General's Office has been issuing Emergency Travel Documents after failing to import the required paper used on passports due to a foreign currency crisis gripping the country.

Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede told the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs Tuesday that his office had received $7 million from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which would enable his office to clear a backlog of more than 300 000 passport applications.

He did not say when his department would start issuing passports.

The money will also enable the RG’s Office to issue polythene national identity cards, he said.

The additional US$1 million dollars is needed for the importation of photographic materials such as films, bromide paper and chemicals from South Africa so that temporary identity documents can be issued to would-be voters.

"We will have to work flat out because time is running out," Mudede said.

"We will have to work day and night to make sure we do not fail to meet the deadline of the 2008 elections," he added.

Mudede's comments were an about-turn on remarks he made at the end of February when he gave a categorical 'no' when asked by an MDC legislator if identity documents could be made available for those who needed them during election times.

Mudede said his department was toying with the idea of issuing temporary identity documents in remote areas of the country and possibly using generators for the processing of the polythene national identity cards.

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