Zimbabwe's Office of the Registrar General could resume issuing passports next week if repairs go as planned following a New Year’s Eve fire at its document facility in an army base in Harare, Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone said Wednesday.
After touring the production facility, Makone said electricians are working nonstop to fix the system. She told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the fire appears to have been accidental - but added that she is awaiting the results of an investigation.
The fire came at an inopportune time, as many thousands of Zimbabweans now living in South Africa are seeking new passports required to apply for four-year residency permits in the neighboring country, sparking suspicions in some quarters of sabotage.
Observers say the issuance of residency permits to large numbers of Zimbabweans would allow them to travel home more easily to vote in elections.
One Zimbabwean in South Africa who asked to be identified only as James said he has been waiting for his passport since late November, adding that he’s glad most employers in South Africa are letting workers stay on the job until they get their permits.
Expatriate Khumbulani Sibindi is among those who have received their residency permits. He told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that he applied when the documentation program began and received a text message last week to pick up the document.