The Zimbabwean government’s reduction of the fee for a passport to US$50 from US$143 previously has unleashed a flood of applicants at the Registrar General's office, overwhelming the office’s capacity and frustrating consumers.
Faced with such heavy demand, the Passport Office has assigned priority to those willing to pay US$253 dollars to obtain an emergency passport in three days, or even US$318 for one-day service, reports Irwin Chifera.
For a look at the causes and consequences of the passport crunch affecting so many Zimbabweans - not only at home but in South Africa where many thousands are desperately seeking new passports to apply for South African residency permits, reporter Patience Rusere turned to Combined Harare Residents Association Chairman Simbarashe Moyo and Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe Director Sidney Chisi for their analysis.
Moyo said corruption - staff demanding bribes for service - is the main reason for the Passport Office traffic jam, while Chisi said the decision to slash the prices for passports reflected the desire by the former ruling ZANU-PF party to encourage the emigration of young Zimbabweans likely to support the Movement for Democratic Change. About 4 million Zimbabweans live abroad in the so-called diaspora, having fled oppression or sought a better life.
Co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone, who visited the Passport Office on Thursday trailed by reporters, said on the VOA Studio 7 LiveTalk call-in program that she intends to crack down hard on such corruption.