BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Desperate Zimbabweans are parting with huge sums of money to pay bribes in order to obtain passports amid reports that applicants are being told to wait until 2022.
The Registrar General’s office is battling an acute shortage of special paper and ink used to make passports, resulting in a huge backlog for travel documents.
Investigations at the RG’s office in Harare showed that emergency passport seekers were being told to wait for a minimum of 18 months to submit applications.
Those seeking ordinary passports were told to return in 2022 to submit their applications.
Last Thursday morning hundreds of people were already queuing at the passport office by 5am, but only a handful were served.
An official asked people seeking emergency passports to register their names on a list and return in October 2020 to submit their applications.
A number of people with links to staff at the RG’s office are now taking advantage of the crisis to milk passport seekers by facilitating the payment of
bribes, it emerged.
“I can help you, my brother, just your money and you will get your passport after a week that is if you are serious,” one of the men operating from the
passport office told this reporter.
Upon further investigations, it was revealed that desperate passport seekers were paying US$4 000 bribes to get emergency passports and US$100 for ordinary
An ordinary passport costs ZWL$53, emergency passport (ZW$250) and 24-hour passport (ZW$330).
Privilege Moyo, who was among people that were following up on their passport applications, said she had been trying to get a travel document since November last year to no avail.
“I have been here more than six times since November and it seems nothing is moving,” she said.
“They don’t know when the passport would be out. I have to check again in August.”
Moyo, who is unemployed, said she needed the passport so she could travel to Zambia to seek employment.
In Matabeleland North, the opposition Mthwakazi Republic Party said it had unearthed corruption at the Lupane registry where people from cities such as
Bulawayo and Masvingo were being allowed to submit passport applications after paying bribes.
“These acts of corruption make the lives of our people more difficult and the locals had thought that the introduction of the passport office [at their
doorstep] was meant to lessen the burden of travelling to Bulawayo,” the party said in a statement.
Registrar General Clemence Masango on Friday refused to comment on the matter and referred questions to Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema.
Mathema claimed the media was exaggerating the extent of the passport crisis.
“Am I the one who told you that we have a crisis? “Go back to your sources and ask them when that crisis you are talking about will end,” he said.
“As far as I know, we are working on measures to ensure we improve the situation.”
The government last week blamed the shortage of passports on lack of foreign currency.
“The ministry of Home Affairs is facing an increasing backlog of passport applications owing to the unavailability of foreign currency and obsolete machinery.
The ministry is currently addressing the matter in conjunction with Treasury,” the Information, Publicity and Broadcasting ministry said on Twitter.
“To this end, Treasury has already paid US$591 000 to procure three state-of-the-art high capacity additional printers.
“This will raise production from the current 3 000 passports a day to 8 000. Decentralisation of registries is underway,” the ministry added.
According to reports, the RG’s office has a backlog of 50 000 passports.
Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa revealed that an Israeli company, Nikuv, which has a contract to print passports on behalf of the RG’s office, had
stopped production to force the government to settle a debt.
He said Fidelity Printers, a government-owned entity, would take over the printing of passports.
Zimbabwe faced a similar shortage of passports in 2008 at the height of economic problems that saw many people migrating to neighbouring countries in search of
The country is also facing shortages of vehicle registration number plates and national identity documents as the government is struggling to secure foreign
currency to import materials needed to print the items.