Zimbabwe's passport offices have over the years been raided by money-seeking touts, who could do anything for passport seekers desperate to get the documents for various purposes.
Now, this seems to be a thing of the past as citizens can walk into the passport office, process the necessary papers and wait a few hours or days to get their documents.
Makombe Building has become a pleasant sight as the passport touts are no longer hounding people demanding large sums of money for processing passports. They used to demand large sums of money from people visiting the passport office as they were capable of setting up someone with passport officers at a fee.
It is now easy to interact with passports officers and process one’s documents without paying passport merchants. Like at any public place, one can find a queue at Makombe Building but without the pushing and shoving that had become the order of the day.
Apart from that, one does not need to sleep anymore for days outside Makombe Building or any passport office in Zimbabwe when looking for a passport. And Zimbabweans like Chengeto Fusirai, who was found helping her son to apply for a passport at Makombe Building, said this is a great achievement by the Registrar General’s Office.
“We are no longer sleeping here and the lines are very short. The services are now very good and the improvement in technology has really helped.”
The situation at most passport offices eased before the recent commissioning of a passport processing plant at KGVI Army Barracks by President Robert Mugabe, which is capable of processing 16,000 booklets a day. Harare serves between 700 and 1,000 clients per day. The state-of-the-art machine is designed to quicken the process of acquiring a passport in Zimbabwe.
For an ordinary passport, one has to fork out $53 and it takes up to six weeks to process the passport. For a passport that will be processed within three days, one needs to pay $253 while an emergency passport that is issued within 24 hours costs $318.
Harare resident, Ruth Phillip, said though the Registrar General’s Office appears to be doing the right thing, though at times the processing of passports can be delayed.
“First time I was 10 years old now I’m 24. I found it a little difficult at first, there were a lot of procedures we had to go through and we were here a good four hours. But, it’s not too bad, they have a good system here, you just have to follow each rule. We came first of March and they had said four to six weeks. The passport has definitely taken longer than we expected but they phoned to say it's ready and now waiting to collect it at this window.”
Another Zimbabwean, Veronica Maingehama of Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, said she was surprised to see so much order at Makombe Building when she went there seeking an emergency passport.
“What I can say is the service has improved; the last time I was here was three years back. I don’t really follow news and stuff to know about the machine but I know you had to come here really early, get a number get inside. This time I came here yesterday to get an emergency passport, I got here around 9 am within two hours everything was processed. I was out. I was amazed because when I got inside the set-up has changed.
“They have so many cameras, people serving and the technology making the process faster. It wasn’t as strenuous as before. Before you would know when you are coming to the passport office, it’s a whole good day here.”
Efforts to get a comment from the Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, were fruitless as he was said to be attending various meeting in Harare.