MASERU- Home Affairs Minister, Lebona Lephema earlier this week announced that his ministry will start issuing passports from Monday next week as they recover from challenges faced with the supplier. He said the passports will be issued based on the available register and people who applied first will be the first to receive their pasports. The ministry and Pangea, an Israel company contracted to issue passports mutually agreed that Lesotho can source the passports elsewhere as the company picks itself up, he said.
Ii is said that the company was unable to meet order demands as it recovers from the impacts of COVID-19 on business. In a televised speech Lephema explained that after experiencing several delays in the ordered passports, they had a meeting with Panjia and the parties mutually agreed that Lesotho can source passports directly from the manufacture, HID Global based in the United Kingdom.
“We were then able to then communicate with HID and successfully secured passports from them,”Lephema said. He explained that the passport problem has now been solved and that Basootho will start receiving their passports on time again reiterating that those who have already applied will receive their first before new applicants can be served.
“I have already communicated with my staff that people must be served according to the dates they visited our offices and I am calling on all Basotho who have applied to keep visiting our offices to check their passports because as we speak now, there are over 5000 unclaimed passports that are still awaiting owners to come and collect.”
The arrangement to get passports directly from the manufacturer, Lephema said, will ensure no further problems are experienced in the issuance of passports.
A passport costs approximately M130 while an emergency passport is priced at M600.
The delay in the issuance of passports had been happening for some time now prompting Section 2, a Human Rights Organization to petition Minister Lephema. The association bemoaned the discriminatory practices favoring those who can afford emergency passports as only people applying for emergency passports were being served.
This week the Association wrote to the National Assembly urging it to summon Lephema before it in order to explain why his ministry is not issuing passports. In their letter, Section 2 asked Clerk of the of Parliament, Advoacte Fine Maema to arrange that a relevant portfolio committee interrogate Lephema over the passport issue. Section 2 Secretary General (SG), Tjatjap Sekobi said their December 15 letter to the minister was ignored and no action has been taken to address the passport problems hence their petition to the National Assembly.
He says failure to issue passports not only violates citizen’s constitutional rights but also pose serious risks to their well-being particularly in cases where urgent medical attention abroad is required. Even students who are studying abroad are badly inconvenienced according to Sekobi
“It is crucial to note that these issues not only inconvenience immigration workers but also cause undue stress to students studying abroad,” Sekobi wrote. Section 2 says it is concerning that deserving Basotho who do not have money to secure emergency passports are suffering while those who can afford them and just want to cross for pleasure are able to secure them just because they have money.
It is on this basis that the association wants Law and Public Safety Cluster to summon Lephema so as to shed light on why his ministry is failing issue passports timeously.
They also want the minister to be asked if he is adhering to section 17 (1) of the Lesotho passports and Travel Documents Act of 2018 which requires him to report to parliament regarding any issue involving passports every six months after the beginning of the financial year.