Zimbabwe: Minister Grilled Over Passport Crisis, Denies Document Printed By Nikuv

Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema.

Norton legislator Temba Mliswa and fellow opposition legislators Wednesday took Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema to task on why government was making citizens' lives unbearable through failure to produce passports.

During parliament's question and answer session, MPs took turns to demand answers on why government failures have sunk to levels where it was nolonger capable of providing its own citizens with the much sought after identification document.

Mliswa, an independent MP, asked Mathema why the government had chosen a foreign company, Nikuv to print passports and not give the job to a local company.

"We know the contract emanated from a contract that was given to this controversial company and he (Mathema) was not in office then.

"Minister of Home Affairs, you are aware of the shortages in passports and problems it has created and I know the problem emanated from a foreign contract before you were in office.

"Why did government choose to give a contract to a foreign company before the people of Zimbabwe?" Mliswa asked.

Mathema, in his response, denied claims that government had passed on the job to outsiders.

"Passports in Zimbabwe are actually manufactured or produced by the Registrar General," Mathema said.

"They are not printed by Fidelity Printers either. A few months ago, I was at a workshop where the passports are printed. If time permitted, the members would have gone where this is done."

But Mliswa was not convinced. He went on, "This is a very important issue. Why is there a shortage of passports if they are printed in this country? It is so because the company which you contracted wants foreign currency.

"Why are there such long queues where people are waking up midnight to queue up? Is this government policy, allowing people to queue up early in the morning but without getting any passports?"

Minister Mathema accepted that shortages existed but consumables such as ribbons are being imported as the country does not manufacture them.

MDC MP, Matema questioned why government could not recycle passports with unused pages rather than having them thrown away.

The Minister rejected the idea.

"The passport is a security document. So after its expiry, one has to apply for a new one. Passports will be printed in the next three weeks," Mathema said.

Godfrey Sithole, another MDC MP attributed all shortages being faced by Zimbabweans to the "politics of the day".

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