A report covers the desperate passport situation in Zimbabwe where a backlog of 280,000 passports needs to be cleared. On some days only about 12 people are served. Desperate Zimbabweans are sleeping in the queue waiting their turn to be served.
At the passport office, the desperation to escape is all too clear.
“Guys, it’s either we jump the queue or we will have to jump the border,” one teenager told a group of friends plotting to sneak to the front of the line.
Another teen, 19-year-old Brian Ndlovu, said coming to the office makes him “feel like there is really no way out of this country. We are trapped.”
The teens’ plot to jump the queue failed, in large part because those at the front had camped there for days and knew each other by name.
Emma Chirwa said she only reached the front of the line because she had been sleeping outside the office since June 5.
“I was No. 34 on Friday. They served no one. On Thursday, they served 12 people,” she said, huddled in a blanket on Sunday night.
In the biting cold of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, dozens of people, including women with toddlers, slept on cardboard boxes or in the dust, holding their places. Around midnight, one man parked his motorbike and joined his wife in blankets on the line. People laughed.
Some huddled around a fire of scrap wood taken from the grounds of an adjacent school. A small enterprise has emerged, with some young men holding places in the line for a fee. Others sell pens, food items and foreign currency while a generator powered a photocopy machine.