Zimbabwe battles to clear huge passport backlog

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Zimbabwe's immigration department is receiving about 2,000 passport applications daily but is only able to produce about 400. PHOTO | AFP
Zimbabwe’s immigration department is receiving about 2,000 passport applications daily but is only able to produce about 400. PHOTO | AFP

Zimbabwe is battling to clear a backlog of more than 400,000 passports dating as far back as 2018 due to shortage of foreign currency to import required consumables, Registrar-General Clemence Masango said Thursday.

He told members of the Defense, Home Affairs and Security Services Parliamentary Committee on a tour of the passport offices in Harare that the department was receiving about 2,000 applications for passports daily countrywide, but was only able to produce about 400 per day.

This had created the huge backlog, resulting in government recently allowing citizens in the Diaspora to pay for passports in US dollars, while local citizens pay in local currency at fees which have since become too low due to inflation.

The government recently gazetted higher passport fees in a move that is expected to boost the coffers of the department, but these are yet to be approved by the relevant authorities.

“We are still under resourced especially in the area of passports because the material is imported. Foreign currency is not adequately made available and that is why we are limiting the number of passports that we can do per day,” Masango said.

However, he said they had a number of passports that had expired before being collected which they were planning to destroy. The passports expire after 10 years.

The non-collection was due to a number of reasons, including deaths and lack of knowledge by owners that their documents had been processed, Masango said.

Chairperson of the parliamentary committee Levi Mayihlome said his committee was concerned about the huge passport backlog, as well as congestion and alleged corruption in the issuance of the travel documents.

He expressed hope that a much bigger building that has been under construction since 1995 to house both the Registrar-General and Immigration Departments would be completed soon to provide a conducive, one-stop facility for issuance of identity and travel documents to the public.

“As a parliamentary committee we are concerned about this issue of congestion and the huge backlog. We disused with the Registrar-general and his staff about solutions that can be put in place to address some of the challenges,” said Mayihlome.

He said corruption in the issuance of the passports could be minimized by putting up facilities that are not conducive for people to engage in corrupt activities, like putting up surveillance cameras.

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