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This is unfair to diasporans!

24 Dec 2019 at 14:52hrs | Views
THE increase in passport fees for those in the diaspora to US$318 is quite shocking to say the least.

Having a passport is a fundamental right for every citizen, including those in the diaspora, hence any caring government is supposed to provide this basic document to those who require it with the least hassle and at an affordable price.

Government cannot simply wake up to announce such a steep increase due to its failure to provide such a basic service because of its failings and then pass the burden to those in the diaspora.

The reason given for the increase is also absurd - to clear the backlog.

Not only has our government failed all of us; it has also disappointed its neighbours. For instance, the South African government at some point offered to donate to the Registrar General (RG)'s Office a printer with capacity to print 2 000 passports per day, which offer was turned down by our government.

At that point, the RG was printing a mere 100 to 150 passports per day.

Locally, Fidelity Printers and Refiners once offered to print passports on behalf the RG's Office but this offer has not been taken up despite the suffering that people are going through. We hear that Fidelity did not require United States dollars from the RG's Office hence there couldn't be any plausible reason why the offer was declined.

Because Fidelity Printers is a high security area with relatively modern equipment, the nation surely expects an explanation unless if there are technical issues involved.

In the meantime, the time it has taken for the RG's Office to find a solution to this issue is a cause for concern. It's unfortunate that the Minister of Home Affairs does not seem to have considered other options to help the citizens except going into this default mode of increasing prices. Why punish our citizens whom we are appealing for remittances at the same time? These are the things that alienate our brothers and sisters in the diaspora from their home countries.
Besides, it's not everyone in the diaspora who can afford the new passport fees. So some could be forced to travel back home to apply for new passports with no guarantee that they will get it on time. What will happen to those of our citizens? It means they will not be prioritised.

Further, this goes against the spirit of promoting government policy regarding the use of the Zimbabwe dollar. When our government departments start to charge in foreign currency, are we not inadvertently admitting that we no longer have any confidence in our currency? Are we also not demonstrating a lack of foresight and our penchant for textbook economics noting that the central bank has been pushing for instruments and policies that support the Zimbabwe dollar as part of a basket of currencies?

Therefore, the RG's Office's position has implications that go beyond just getting passports. It also impacts on government's ability to get citizens in the diaspora to invest back home as well as denting confidence in the use of the Zimbabwe dollar.

His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa might have ushered in a new dispensation but with old brooms that seem not keen on changing the way the country treats its citizens, are we surprised that things have turned this bad? For status, it still remains a nightmare to get national IDs and birth certificates.  
Leadership is required in critical and all institutions of government, and the RG's Office should be no exception.  We need to improve service delivery at the RG's Office through the use of modern technologies as well as giving our people the option to apply online.

If these critical offices cannot get these basics right, sure the President should consider renewal of the whole directorship in government to bring in new ideas and rejuvenate operations.  

The current situation builds up frustrations and has potential to ignite social unrest.

Nathan Chikara is an economist with a South African-based insurance firm. He writes here in his personal capacity. For feedback, e-mail to nathan.chikara@yahoo.com

Source - Nathan Chikara
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