MASERU — Two photographers’ associations are embroiled in a fight over who should be operating from the new passport offices in Maseru.
Members of the Maseru Passport Photos Association (MPPA) and another association named Television and Identity Document (TVID) photographers have been at loggerheads since the passport offices were relocated from Pitso Ground to the old Disaster Management Authority (DMA) offices in May.
The clash started when TVID photographers secured a room in the passport offices where they could take pictures of people who are applying for passports.
This happened despite the fact that the Maseru City Council (MCC) had barred some of the photographers and street vendors from the passport offices.
It also happened despite the passport services director Sello Mokoena’s announcement in May that no one would be allowed to enter the passport offices except for those who have gone to apply for their passports.
Also the passport services information officer, Hape Marumo, in June said no photographers were contracted to work in the premises of the passport office.
“The department has not contracted anybody to take photos for the passport applicants,” she said.
“The passport department director says that the group will be removed from the premises,” she said.
Yet the TVID photographers have remained stationed at the passport offices.
This has angered the MPPA members who are now demanding that they also be allowed to work in the premises.
The fight, MPPA members claim, started when the TVID photographers demanded that they pay M3 000 if they wanted to operate from their room at the passport offices.
They also alleged that the passport services director Sello Mokoena refused to speak to a delegation they had sent to ask him to intervene in the feud.
“We want those photographers to come out of the passport office building and work from the street like the rest of us.
“It is ridiculous as it is that people are left to run their private businesses within government offices.
“Now they are beginning to scare customers away from us. They tell people that our photographs are not of good quality,” said a member of the MPPA who asked to remain anonymous.
They alleged that even though the government said it was relocating the offices in an effort to curb corruption there was still lots of bribery between the officers and the inside photographers.
“We know that they are still receiving bribes from the people who have come to apply for the passports.
“They share the money with the officers like they used to when the passport office was down at the Pitso Ground office.”
“We know for sure that they are still sharing the bribes. Even though we have differences some of the photographers have confessed to us that they were receiving money from people who wanted to get their passports quickly processed.”