Zimbabwe runs out of passports

Zimbabwe has run out of passports and vehicle registration number plates, forcing citizens to wait for long periods to get them.

A special paper and ink used to make passports has to be imported and currently, the passport office doesn’t have the foreign currency needed to pay for them.

In late June, Zimbabwe began phasing out the use of U.S. dollars and other foreign currency. The government also 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 relaunching a fully-fledged currency.

Hundreds of people assembled at the passport office in Harare, some as early as 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) to queue to apply for passports. They were told to check their documents in 2022.

Bothwell Mhashu, one of those queueing, 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.

Officials at the registrar general’s office said there were plans to print passports locally at central bank-owned Fidelity Printers and Refiners to clear a backlog of more than 50,000 applications.

That is, if they can import the equipment needed.

At the vehicle registry in central Harare, officials told motorists that they were not sure when number plates would be available because the department is still waiting for foreign currency from the central bank to pay a German supplier.

“We don’t know when we will have number plates, maybe in September,” said a registry official who declined to be named.

Transport Minister Joel Matiza said he could not immediately comment.