BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe has 370,000 passport applications – but the country is only able to print 750 per day, an official said.
A crippling shortage of foreign currency to pay for imported paper and ink has restricted the Registrar General capacity to bring the ever-growing backlog down.
“The department is currently hamstrung by a shortage of essential passport production materials which are imported and require foreign currency. It’s public knowledge that foreign currency is scarce in the country and is affecting not only the department but many other sectors,” Registrar-General Clemence Masango said, according to the Sunday News.
He said a large percentage of the 750 passports being produced were 24-hour emergency passports, for which applicants pay significantly more than ordinary passport applicants.
Masango said their target was to issue ordinary passports within four weeks – but applicants may have to wait for more than a year if the situation does not improve.
“We have not been able to do this because of unavailability of resources,” he said.
The department recently commissioned a new US$600,000 printing machine for passports, but it is operating below its capacity owing to a shortage of materials.
Zimbabwe is currently going through its worst economic deep in over a decade. Low industrial production has hit foreign currency receipts, at the same time as a drought is forcing the country to allocate more funds for electricity and wheat imports.-zimlive