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40 000 passports stuck in SA

A batch of about 40 000 Basotho passports is held up in South Africa as the Home Affairs Ministry battles with import logistics. This happens at a time when hundreds of Basotho who have applied for passports are unable to cross to South Africa or anywhere else for work, study or leisure. The ministry is said to have a backlog of 42 000 passports which dates back to around mid-last year. Public anger has been building up, with frustrated Basotho accusing the government of sleeping on the job and making empty promises.

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The ministry told thepost yesterday that the passports are still stuck at the clearing agency at OR Tambo International Airport.

“There is a problem with the clearing agency,” said ’Marelebohile Mothibeli, the ministry’s public relations officer.

“It appears that there was no proper handover when another official went on leave.”

Mothibeli said she is not sure when the problem will be resolved and refused to disclose the name of the agency.

“Please let us not talk about the number of passports that are expected to come,” Mothibeli said.

She also denied allegations that the delays could be due to a debt the government owes the clearing agency.
Mothibeli could only say the agency in South Africa will liaise with the local one once the passports are ready to be airlifted to Lesotho.
Last Thursday, Home Affairs Minister Lebona Lephema announced on state television and radio that Basotho should collect their passports this week starting from Monday.

Many Basotho lined up at the ministry but they were told their passports were not yet ready. Already frustrated by the months of delay many Basotho took to radio and social media to vent their anger on the minister for misleading them.
Out of desperation and due to lack of clear information, scores of Basotho have been lining up at the ministry since Monday hoping to get their passports.

For many who have braved the blazing heat in the long queues at the ministry, a passport could be the difference between them keeping or losing their jobs in South Africa. It could also be the difference between studying in South Africa or anywhere in the world and staying at home.
Mothibeli said they have been having problems with their middleman who is based in Germany while the supplier is in the United Kingdom over the delay of issuance of passports.

“The middleman was not paying the supplier,” she said.

Faced with this problem, they dumped the middleman and went straight to the supplier.
Last week a rights organisation, Section 2, asked parliament to ask Lephema about the delays in passports.

Majara Molupe

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