The Ministry of Home Affairs has run out of blank passports.
Despite senior officials denying that there was a shortage of passports, an internal memo by acting Permanent Secretary Joseph Kashea on October 12 indicated that the stock level was so low that only a few of the applicants, especially those travelling abroad for medical or other critical trips, are considered."
This week Salome Kambala, the ministry's public relations officer, denied that there was a shortage of passports. "Both the passports and birth certificates are available. Everything is in order," Kambala said.
She promised that passports would be issued within two weeks after applying.
In Kashea's memo to all staff, he confirmed that they had "a shortage of virgin ordinary passports due to circumstances beyond our control".
He said the problem was expected to last for weeks and, in the meantime, documents known as 'brown passports' would be issued to people travelling within the Southern Africa Development Community, especially South Africa and Angola which no longer accept emergency travel documents.
The 'brown passports' are valid for 12 months.
People who want to travel urgently and have already paid N$160 for ordinary passports will have to pay an additional N$80 for the 'brown passports'.
Once the ordinary passports are available again, those who are issued with the 'brown passport' can exchange them for ordinary ones. They will get no refund.
The ministry is encouraging applicants travelling within the SADC region, and not going through South Africa or Angola, to apply for emergency travel certificates instead.
According to Kashea the emergency travel certificates remain an interim solution to relieve the pressure put on the ministry by people who demand ordinary passports.
It is not the first time that the ministry has run out of blank passports.
In the past the ministry has blamed a sudden increase in demand for the problem, as well as a delay in the delivery of printing material ordered from abroad.
In 2010 Home Affairs Minister Rosalia Nghidinwa told the National Assembly that "brown passports are for stateless people".