Thursday, July 4, 2019

Zimbabwe runs out of travelling passports, as dollar shortage hits hard

At the passport office in Harare on Wednesday, hundreds of people huddled in the morning winter cold after arriving as early as 5.00 a.m. to queue for passports.

They were told to check their documents in 2022.

That is because a special paper and ink used to make passports has to be imported but there is no foreign currency.

Bothwell Mhashu, one of those queuing, said he wanted to escape the economic troubles at home and join his elder brother in Namibia.

He applied for a passport in June 2018 and was supposed to get his document after three months.

“They just told me that my passport is not ready; I have to check again in August.

“This is not fair,’’ a despondent Mhashu said as he left the passport office.

Registrar General, Clemence Masango, declined to comment when contacted.

A hoped-for economic turnaround under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from Robert Mugabe after a 2017 coup, is yet to materialise.

Instead, Zimbabweans are enduring shortages of U.S. dollars, fuel, bread and 15-hour power cuts.

Last week, the government renamed its interim currency, the RTGS dollar, the Zimbabwe dollar and made it the country’s sole legal tender.

That ended a decade of dollarisation and took another step towards re-launching a fully-fledged currency.

In 2008, Zimbabweans slept at the passport office to be first in line to apply as an economic crisis and hyperinflation wrecked the country’s currency under Mugabe.

An ordinary passport costs 53 Zimbabwe dollars ($6.32) while ZW$318 is required for an emergency 24-hour document.

No emergency passports are being issued except for a few senior officials.