BULAWAYO – Over 166,500 Zimbabweans are waiting for the issuance of their passports which are now overdue, the Registrar General revealed on Wednesday.

The newly-appointed Registrar General Clement Masango says they are struggling to secure foreign currency to import the special paper for printing passports.

The lead time in the Registry’s Client Service Charter says ordinary passports must be issued within four weeks – but Masango revealed that it was now taking up to six months as his department was unable to run the printing press at full capacity owing to material shortages.

“An average 2,100 passport applications are made daily, adding a backlog onto the backlog. For the passports and ID cards most of our consumables are sourced from outside the country, that’s where our suppliers are and we have to pay in foreign currency. This is the main reason why we are not able to make passports available within the four weeks we promised in terms of our client service charter,” Masango told journalists in Bulawayo during a tour of their district and provincial offices.

“We’re running on very low levels of consumables – that’s your passport paper, the ink, the films, ribbons and threads. We’re queuing for foreign currency like everyone else through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. I know they’re doing their best but of course we’re not able to serve clients to the best that we should be doing, so arrangements are underway to have those resources.”

Masango said they were trying to device a programme to clear the backlog and stop it from further piling up.

“We have, as a department, an implementation programme to clear the backlog of 166,500 passport applications dating back to May 2018. We have produced and cleared up to April 2018.”

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He said they were printing 3,000 passports daily at present, including 500 24-hour emergency passports which cost nearly four times as the normal passport.