Government promises to clear passport back-log in weeks

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By Idah Mhetu

GOVERNMENT will in the next three weeks churn out 3 000 passports a day as soon as it takes delivery of equipment to produce the much sought after and scarce travel document, Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema has said.

Mathema told a post-cabinet media briefing in Harare on Tuesday that the machinery that government is bringing in has capacity for 8 000 units a day.

“I can also assure you that within the next three to four weeks, we will have the consumables and the machinery that we need to produce at least 3 000 passports a day.

“We have a long backlog but we are going to be able to produce that number of passports. In fact, the machinery that we already have enables us to produce 8 000 passports a day,” said Mathema.

Speaking at the same press conference, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government was hoping the situation at the passport office, where citizens planning to leave the country have been forced into offering bribes to officials, should normalise soon.

“On the basis of this, therefore we wish to advise the nation that work towards the return to normalcy in the production of the Zimbabwean passport is now at an advanced stage.

“All the necessary capital equipment is now in place while payment has already been made for the associated consumables,” Mutsvangwa said.

The Passport office has been for months failing to produce passports for the citizens because it had run out of the consumables that are needed to produce the much needed document.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are scrambling to leave the strife torn country for greener pastures within and beyond the region with some now forced to use unorthodox means to skip the country’s borders.

Early this year, the Registrar-General Clemence Masango admitted to Parliament that the demand for emergency passports had increased, thereby putting pressure on the dwindling passport paper. He also cited foreign currency challenges as the reason for the crisis.

The situation at the passport office was worsened by a fall-out between government and an Israeli company Nikuv Projects after it reportedly demanded payment in foreign currency. The shadowy company was in 2013 was linked to election rigging in the country.