THE MINISTER of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe says the cost of getting a passport for local citizens remains unchanged. This comes amid rumours that the government had approved the payment of prices in US Dollars for local emergency passports.
Addressing questions from members of the media after a familiarisation tour of the National Passport Production Centre in Harare this Wednesday, Minister Kazembe Kazembe said it was illegal for officials at the Registry offices to accept payment for local emergency passports in US Dollars.
“As it stands, it is illegal (for locals to be paying US$318 and if this is happening we need the information, please give us the information. It is not legal for locals to be charged in foreign currency and if someone is doing that they are being mischievous and they are committing a crime,” said Kazembe Kazembe.
“Those who are only allowed to pay US Dollars, for now, are the diasporans, those who are working in the diaspora and earning in foreign currency and it is only for the emergency passport, that is the government’s position. We have however received pleas to allow those in Zimbabwe and with free funds to also be able to pay the same amount like the diasporans for the emergency passport because they might have business commitments and the money for that but currently it’s not legal for us to accept that money. We are currently working around that and hopefully, in the shortest possible time, we should be able to allow those with free funds to get their passports but this is not happening now.
“We have not increased passport costs at the moment and yes there are discussions around that, I am sure you will appreciate that what you are paying for the passports at the moment is too little and honestly this process is too costly for someone to pay ZW$53, it is not sustainable but however we must also strike a balance because, at the end of the day, access to those documents is a constitutional right.”
The minister however clarified that the current production of a maximum of 2 500 passports is not likely to change anytime soon.
“The production is not going to change by just visiting, but obviously what we have seen today will help us make the decision as to how we can improve the production, all the challenges that have been talked about, we have seen them and this visit has enlightened us and we should be able to go back with my team to see which areas we can improve on productivity but our aim is to ensure that the production improves and we clear the backlog.”
Minister Kazembe also mentioned that some passports paid for on the emergency basis for diasporans might take longer than the stipulated 24 hours.
“I was just speaking with the Registrar General and I asked him what was happening when someone pays their US$318 for their passport and it is not delivered within 24hours, we have discussed it because I have also received those complaints, but after having toured this facility I have become alive to the challenges, if there is one mishap along the chain, it is possible that someone can fail to get their passport within 24 hours or even 48 hours but however, the team is looking into those allegations.”
The Registry Office is currently clearing passport backlogs from September 2018 with 8 000 passport booklets being produced and around 2 500 complete passports being produced daily.