Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Law and Public Safety has ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs to reduce passport charges “within a month”.
The fees were increased last month from M100 to M150 and M150 to M300 for a new 32-page and 64-page passport. The ministry also hiked charges for replacing a lost 32-page and 64-page passport from M100 and M200 to M300 and M600, respectively.
However, the Portfolio Committee wants the ministry to revert to the old charges as the new fees are unaffordable to the general populace.
Although the ministry had tabled the new fees before parliament on 2 November and referred them to the Committee for consideration, applicants had already started paying the increased charges.
The Committee’s chairperson, Lineo Molise-Mabusela of the Democratic Congress (DC) on Monday said the ministry had already been informed of the decision to reduce the fees next month.
Ms Molise-Mabusela also said the ministry should slash charges for replacement 32-page and 64-page diplomatic passports from M800 and M1500 to the original M100 and M200, respectively.
“The increases are too high and cannot be afforded by everybody,” Ms Molise-Mabusela told parliament.
The former Home Affairs deputy minister also said the Committee realised the Passport Fees Regulation of 2015 tabled before parliament on 2 November sought to repeal Legal Notice No 71 of 2013. Ms Molise-Mabusela however, noted the notice was only partially tabled by former Home Affairs minister Joang Molapo and as a result, did not exist.
“The Committee recommended that this provision concerning a non-existent legal notice be disallowed as it seeks to repeal a non-existent subordinate law,” said Ms Molise-Mabusela.
Makhaleng Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Mootsi Lehata told the House he was in complete agreement with the Committee as the passports had become too expensive.
“It is hard for an ordinary citizen to acquire an identification card and birth certificate, and indeed the passport, due to the travel costs involved,” the DC legislator said.
“A villager from Makhaleng spends up to M500 in travel costs to get these documents.
“We are saying Basotho are already paying a lot due to the tight requirements to acquire these documents as they find themselves going back and forth before they finally get them. That’s why the passport charges should go back to the previous M100 and M200.”
In response, Minister Rakuoane said the hike had been necessitated by the cost of producing the much-needed travel document.
“As a ministry, we understand the Committee’s recommendations and are satisfied with our working relationship. However, we were thinking that those who can pay should pay, but we understand these views are different to those held by members of the Committee,” Advocate Rakuoane said.