THE Registrar General’s (RG) department has suspended issuing emergency passports, as ongoing foreign currency shortages continue to affect key public and commercial operations.

Zimbabwe is grappling with a worsening foreign currency crisis attributed to a wide current account gap. The central bank told this newspaper last week that the backlog of international payments had widened from $185 million in May to $570 million currently. The shortage of forex has affected key sectors of the economy, including mines and manufacturers, who are struggling to pay for raw materials and equipment imports.

The RG’s department requires special imported paper to produce travel documents, coveted by a significant number of Zimbabweans, who are among the most itinerant on the continent. The department generates an average $27 million annually from user fees, including passports. Zimbabwe has an estimated three million citizens living in South Africa, mostly forced out of the country by a political and economic crisis blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s policies.

Thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa are seeking to renew their travel documents, and many are opting for emergency passports to meet a deadline imposed by that country’s immigration officials to apply for the extension of residence and work permits, according to officials from the Passport Office. fin gaz