DC promises to solve passport problem

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MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili says the corruption that has dogged the Passport Services Department will be a thing of the past if his Democratic Congress (DC) party wins the May 26 election.

Mosisili was speaking at a DC rally in Mohale’s Hoek on Saturday.

The government in March awarded a multi-million dollar tender to Nikuv International Projects Limited in a deal that was said to have been worth more than M100 million.

The Israeli company is expected to make identity card documents as well as electronic passports.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times in March, Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said the government chose Nikuv because “it was found to be multi-skilled and would save money”.

“This company will provide us with e-passports as well as IDs,” Lehohla said.

He said the company will register other important things like deaths, births and others.

Mosisili told his DC supporters that only Basotho will access Lesotho passports as people will have to produce IDs to be eligible for passports.

“No foreigner will access the new passport illegally. This corruption that is going on at our Passport Services Department will come to an end. No Pakistanis, or Chinese or Nigerians will have our new passport,” Mosisili said.

The country’s passport service department has been struggling to clear a huge backlog with some Basotho having applied for the travel document as far back as 2007.

The department has also been rocked by corruption as officers solicited for bribes from applicants.

In some instances it was discovered that immigration officers would refuse to release produced passports to their owners until they bribed them.

But at the Mohale’s Hoek rally Mosisili said when the new international firm begins its operations it will take only a week to produce a passport.

He said a more advanced system would be used to capture the applicants’ data, including their finger prints.

With the advanced system, he added, it would not be possible for people to make multiple applications, a practice that was said to have contributed immensely to the backlog.

“People will not be able to file more than one application. They will not be able to do so even if they change their names like many do when they have overstayed in South Africa, to avoid paying penalties.

“The finger prints will tell if and when one has applied and been issued their passports. If the application is not legitimate they will face the music,” Mosisili said.

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