Passports Suspension: Move Leaves SA Work Permits in Limbo

Harare – Barely a week after the South African government extended an olive branch to thousands of Zimbabweans to extended their residence and work permits, the Registrar General has reportedly ran out of foreign currency to import passport material.

According to information gathered by the media, sources in the RG’s office confirmed the suspension of emergency passports, citing foreign currency shortages for the importation of the special paper.

The RG’s office had stopped issuing passports a fortnight ago, even plastic identity documents had been affected by the shortage of foreign currency, which was hampering the import of raw material.

However, the office was still issuing application forms and receiving applications for passports.

“At the moment, we have suspended issuance of passports because we don’t have the paper. We are not sure when we will get the special paper because of shortages of foreign currency. This means it’s difficult for us to import the paper,” an official revealed to the weekly Financial Gazette.
Harare Passport Office 

Though not official statement has been issued, another informer confirmed the development.

“Yes, we have suspended issuing emergency passports because we have run out of the special paper which is imported. We were told there is no foreign currency to import the paper but we are processing the normal passports, which take about three or more months,” added the source.

Zimbabweans in South Africa should apply for exemption permits between September 15 and November 30, 2017. Latest permits will be valid until December 31, 2021.

The shortage of passports could affect a large number of the 200 000 Zimbabweans holding the special permit, first issued in 2009. Without these relevant documents, many could face deportation.

“I was supposed to travel to Harare to renew my passport in order to renew my permit, so that I can continue to work freely,” revealed Simba Mahaso, a Zimbabwean based in Johannesburg.

According to the central bank – RBZ – the backlog of international payments had widened from $185 million in May to $570 million currently. Forex shortage has not spared key sectors, such as mines and manufacturers.

Renewed passport problem is only a portion of wider crisis in the country.

The Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, and his deputy, Ben Mpala did not respond to the media. – Financial Gazette/Online Sources

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