Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
THE Registrar General’s Office has temporarily suspended issuing emergency passports to clear a backlog of over 2 000 passports.
Members of the public who are seeking the emergency travelling documents are forced to apply for the “normal” passport which costs $53 and is now being released after about two months as a result of the backlog.
Normally the passport is released within three weeks of application.
An emergency passport which takes 24 hours to be released costs $318 while the one released in three days costs $253.
In an interview, yesterday Registrar General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede said his office was trying to clear the passport backlog hence the need to temporarily reject new applications for emergency passports.
“We have a backlog of nearly 2 000 passports and that’s a lot. We have not suspended issuing passports, there is a backlog that we are trying to clear. This thing is temporary. We don’t force situations,” said Mr Mudede.
“If you want to use the word we have ‘slowed down’ in accepting applications, that’s the right language to use. We will start accepting applications for emergency passports once we clear the backlog,” said Mr Mudede.
He said it will not make sense for his office to continue accepting new applicants for emergency passports when his officers are battling to clear the backlog.
Mr Mudede said his office does not want to find itself being persecuted publicly for failing to deliver hence the need to slow down in taking people’s money.
“We must deal with the backlog and finish before we open again for new applications. To accept new applications and just park them is not the right thing to do. You wouldn’t like that, you will say no no why have you accepted my money when you cannot deliver,” he said.
Mr Mudede said when people submit their applications they expect to receive their passports within the prescribed period so to avoid inconveniencing the people, his office has temporarily suspended receiving new applications especially for emergency passports that should be availed within hours or few days.
Many people who applied for normal passports, some as far back as May this year, are yet to receive them and this has been blamed on the reduced numbers being processed by the RG’s office.
The applicants said they are in the dark as to what has caused the delays given that in the past it was just a three-week wait for a normal passport.
“The RG’s office has since been computerised and the processing of passports was supposed to be faster compared to the past when the whole process was manual,” said one of the applicants who said she submitted her application in May.
The applicants called on the RG’s office to urgently address the issue of the backlog, saying passports are very important travel documents.