By Staff Reporter
MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing says the process of establishing the National Identity Register should not be “a thorn on Basotho’s backsides”.
“As we try to improve the security features of our passport, the process towards achieving that goal should not bring disappointment to our people,” Metsing said.
“Indeed we are trying to restore the integrity of our passport which was easily accessible even to foreigners whom I don’t care to mention here.”
Metsing was on Sunday addressing his Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party rally at Lepereng in Maseru, to enthusiastic cadres who seemed relieved to hear of the development, as the establishment of the national identity register has been dogged with problems since its launch in July.
The LCD is partner in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s tripartite coalition government, comprising the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) as well as sports minister Thesele ‘Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP).
The Ministry of Home Affairs, responsible for the establishment of the national ID register, is manned by Joang Molapo under the BNP banner and has come under a barrage of attacks for delays which the masses have charged “border on the incompetence”.
Since the national ID register was launched, people have complained of the laborious procedure of obtaining birth certificates, IDs and passports.
Some have been turned away because they could not produce their baptismal certificates, birth certificates, clinic cards from infancy while others complained of the nature of application forms which they said were not comprehensive enough thus “leading to people struggling to fill them accurately”.
In the past, Lesotho’s passport, which was used for travel purposes and for identification, became the laughing stock of other nations because it was easily accessible and prone to being abused by foreign nationals in committing crimes such as fraud and entering other countries illegally.
Foreign nationals who were discovered to be in possession of Lesotho passports in their numbers included the Chinese and Nigerians.
Metsing said although the national ID register was vital as it facilitated for Lesotho to improve the security features of the country’s passport “the process shouldn’t step on people’s toes”.
“The intended improvement should not in any way trample on people’s toes,” Metsing said.
The LCD leader also told the masses attending the rally, which was a follow-up to the previous night’s special conference to elect a new treasurer-general, as well as making some constitutional amendments, that government had since established a cabinet sub-committee to establish the root of the problems haunting the process.
“The committee, chaired by the responsible minister, will investigate the root cause of the problems haunting the process, people’s grievances as well as where improvement is needed,” Metsing said.
“The responsible minister will from time to time be expected to report to cabinet on steps being taken to remedy the situation and progress made.”
The Lesotho Times could not solicit a comment from Molapo owing to his tight schedule.
However, the ministry’s PS Ranthomeng Matete told this paper that the committee Metsing was referring to had already made headway in that it had identified among others the “nature of the application forms as a stumbling block.”
“There are also legal issues attached, such as why passports are not being used as means of identification as they are easily accessible, to minimise some of the existing bottlenecks,” Matete said.
“We have also established that the nature of the application forms that people are required to fill is a stumbling block as they are not comprehensive enough.”
Matete added: “But this was only a starting point. We await a response from cabinet on what we have achieved so far.”
Matete also highlighted the fact that the committee was not necessarily an investigative body and advised that this paper contact Molapo for further details, as he would provide more information as the concerned minister.