Harare,(New Ziana) – At least 100 000 people will take delivery of their passports by end of this year, reducing a massive backlog that had piled after production of the travelling documents stalled mid-last year, a cabinet minister said on Monday.
As at the end of August this year, the country had a backlog of 340 000 passports accumulated since July last year when the Registrar General’s Department failed to import consumables due to foreign currency shortages.
At the time, government also owed US$7 million to suppliers, and has since reduced the debt to less than US$4 million.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister, Cain Mathema said the RGs Department had since taken delivery of three new passport printers, a development that is expected to expedite the process of addressing the backlog.
“While the impact of measures taken so far is considerable in that about 100 000 people who applied for passports will take delivery of such documents by the end of December 2019, with the arrival of the additional material on order at the end of November or early December, we expect to double the number of people getting passports within two months of taking the delivery,” Mathema said.
Government, Mathema said, expected to retire the debt owed to suppliers by the end of the second quarter next year.
With high demand for the travel documents, officials at central registry have been accused of making a killing, demanding bribes of up to US$200 to urgently process passports for those in need.
Ordinarily it costs ZWL$53 to get an ordinary passport, which all things being equal takes at least three months, ZWL$253 for one that comes out after three days and ZWL$380 for the express one which comes out in 24 hours.
The RGs Department is currently printing up to 800 passports a day, a figure that had fallen to about 60 at the height of challenges faced by central registry.
Meanwhile, Mathema said the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will soon embark on a diaspora outreach programme targeting issuance of identity documents to millions of Zimbabweans living outside the country.
“The purpose of the outreach will be to issue birth certificates and national identity documents as well as receive applications for passports for processing back in Harare,” he said.
He said plans were also afoot to ensure constant movement of the diplomatic bag to allow those in the diaspora to apply for passports and other identity documents at embassies without having to come back to Zimbabwe.
“The passport office will then expeditiously process the applications within a period of 10 working days and send them back to the diaspora through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,” Mathema said.