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Applicants stage protest at passport office

‘Mantoetse Maama

 MASERU — A group of irate passport applicants picketed   at the passport office in Maseru on Thursday to protest against poor service delivery.

The applicants complained that the department had failed to produce passports  which they applied for two years ago.

Most of the applicants alleged that they had applied for their passports in 2008 but each time they get to the passport offices they are told that their passports were still being processed.

The applicants, who were mostly holders of temporary travel documents, said they learned recently when they came for the Christmas holiday from South Africa that temporary travel documents were no longer being issued.

Temporary travel documents’ were phased out in May last year ahead of the football World Cup in South Africa.

One of the irate applicants, Litšeo Mojapela, said she had been coming to the department over the past three weeks but every time she has been told that her passport was not ready.

 “I have been coming to the passport offices for the past three weeks but they are saying my passport has not been issued,” Mojapela said.

She claimed she submitted her application in 2008.

Mojapela also says she is likely to lose her job in South Africa because she cannot use a temporary travel document to travel.

“I am married and also work in South Africa,” she said. 

“They asked me to bring my marriage certificate and a letter from my employer. I brought those particulars but still they have not yet helped me with a passport,” she said.

Yet it’s not only travellers who have been affected by the chaos at the department.

‘Mathato Ramule, another applicant who works at a local textile factory, said she was dismissed from work after her employers said they could no longer hire people who use temporary travel documents as proof of identity.

Principal secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Safety, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, acknowledged the delays but said the department was working hard to clear the backlog.

On why people who applied for passports in 2010 were getting their passports earlier than those who submitted their applications in 2008, Khetsi said “it was just a matter of emergency”.

“It’s possible that those who applied since 2007 and 2008 did not get their passports whereas those who applied recently and urgently got them,” Khetsi said.

He said their target is that by next week all people who have applied for emergency passports should receive them.

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