AFTER months of denial by Home Affairs officials that there is a shortage of blank passports, Home Affairs Minister Rosalia Nghidinwa has finally acknowledged the frustration of many Namibians waiting for passports.
"I would like to inform the Namibian nation through the media that this ministry is experiencing a temporary shortage of ordinary passports," she said on Friday.
Nghidinwa said that due to the shortage the ministry decided to issue alternative documents, known as brown passports, to those applicants intending to travel within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including South Africa and Angola, the two countries where Namibia's handwritten Emergency Travel Certificate is no longer accepted.
The remaining stock of ordinary passports is reserved for critical travel, such as when a person needs medical treatment outside SADC. In such a case a doctor's referral must be attached to the application.
Nghidinwa said that new stock had been ordered as usual, but unexpected problems cropped up.
She did not want to say what these problems were, but said that the main stumbling block was sorted out and that they were waiting for the supplier to start with the production.
Some sources said the passport order was submitted late.
Nghidinwa said applicants are free to apply for ordinary passports at all offices, as such applications will be kept on a waiting list until the ministry has received new blank passports.
She called on people to apply for passports only when it is absolutely necessary and to collect them on time, as thousands of uncollected passports are piling up at the ministry's offices. Some passports reportedly expired while they were waiting for collection.
Another problem that the Ministry of Home Affairs is experiencing is a slowdown in the processing of identity documents due to mechanical and software problems affecting the equipment, said Nghidinwa.
“These problems have temporarily affected production of our IDs, thereby increasing the waiting period from the normal 24 working days," she said.
Technicians are working around the clock to ensure that the problems are addressed, she said.