Passports crisis deepens

Garikai Mafirakureva

MASVINGO -The passport crisis that has hit Zimbabwe has deepened with those who pay US$318 to get their travel documents within 24 hours now getting them seven days later.
Getting a passport is a right as it enables citizens freedom of movement.
Sources said Masvingo has a backlog of 175 emergency passports.
Masvingo provincial registrar, Sithembeni Chitsa said she does not entertain questions about passports from anyone including the media when called for a comment.
“You can ask anyone you want, they will tell you that nobody asks us questions. We don’t entertain such questions from the media,” said Chitsa.
The Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, promised to call after talking to his Personal Assistant (PA) but never called.
The Mirror conducted a survey at the Harare and Masvingo Passport Offices and realised that those who wanted emergency passports were being told to come the next day each time they visited the office.
Enerst Dhlovu who applied for his emergency passport said he feels shortchanged after paying his money because he was supposed to attend a security summit in France. Another applicant Chachukeni Chauke said he wanted to travel to Ethiopia on an emergency basis for a kidney transplant, but it has taken him more than two weeks to get what is referred to as a 24-hour emergency passport.
However, insiders at the passport offices expressed surprise at the continued crisis as the Ministry is now taking raking in US$2 million from passports alone in a month after hiking the fees.
The insiders suspected that the money from passports is either being channelled elsewhere or someone is pocketing the proceeds.
Meanwhile, corruption is rampant at the passports officers with workers pocketing up to US$200 to expedite the processing of passports. This has become a norm at every passport office in the country including in Masvingo.
The government gazetted new passport fees in forex in July this year with an ordinary passport going for US$60, a three-day passport US$200, and a 24-hour emergency passport US$318.
Insiders said the crisis is caused by a shortage of consumables for passports but by charging huge sums in foreign currency, there is now enough money to make the procurements.
“We are instructed to attend to 200 emergency passport clients a day, and provinces are supposed to issue 25 emergency passports per day. You can imagine how much the government is racking in per week. We are failing to understand why there is such a shortage when over US$1 million is realised in just two weeks.
The passport backlog now stands at 225 747, according to a recent statement to Parliament by Kazembe.
“We suspect that the millions realised from passports is being channeled elsewhere or finding its way into the pockets of individuals instead of buying consumables. Currently, we have a backlog of 1 400 emergency passports in Harare, 1 575 from nine other provinces. Masvingo alone has a seven-day backlog of 175 emergency passports,” said a source.

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