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New passport measures will go a long way

23 Feb 2020 at 08:18hrs | Views
On Tuesday, Cabinet reviewed fees for ordinary and emergency passport applications.

Under the new fee structure, ordinary passports, which were previously $53, are now $150, while emergency passports, which were previously $253, are now $600.

Background

In December last year, the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, announced that all urgent passport applications by Zimbabweans in the Diaspora would cost US$318.

However, this move was for urgent applications, which meant that members in the Diaspora could still make payments in local currency and have their applications in line like the generality of other citizens.

Cabinet's decision is, therefore, significant, especially considering Minister Kazembe's earlier pronouncements regarding urgent passports.

Cabinet's decision was informed by the need to clear the current backlog.

During countrywide tours conducted by Minister Kazembe to appreciate how departments under his purview operate, he was inundated by questions on when the new application fees would be announced.

The toured offices of the Civil Registry; Zimbabwe Republic Police; Immigration Control; National Archives of Zimbabwe; and the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe in Harare, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Midlands.

He interfaced with members of the public, who shared their experiences.

It became inevitable that the fee structure, which had become unsustainable, would be reviewed.

The question, however, was by what margin?

Cabinet also made other significant decisions.

It agreed that the current US$1 million payments by Treasury to settle debts for consumables be maintained.

Treasury was also directed to avail US$796 500, €580 200 and $11 781 900.

Most notably, prior to the announcement, Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Mr Aaron Nhepera had met Fidelity Printers and Refiners general manager Mr Fradreck Kunaka and signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the acquisition of 600 000 units of securitised inner passport papers, which would be enough to clear the passport backlog of 400 000 and cater for new applications until the end of the year.

Government, therefore, spiritedly moved in to announce an affordable new fee structure for the document, whose access is considered a constitutional right.

Passports naturally identify Zimbabweans outside the country's borders.

Whilst there is an obligation to ensure that the document is accessed by all citizens regardless of their social standing, there is also need to ensure that its production is sustainable.

Justification

The fee adjustments were long overdue, especially considering old passport fees were pegged at US$53 and US$253 for normal and urgent applications, respectively.

Notwithstanding the liberalisation of the exchange rate and introduction of the new currency, the fees were not reviewed.

Over time, this became unsustainable.

Given the ongoing efforts to clear the backlog, there is renewed hope and expectation that passports will now be readily available.

Passports are a handy document for students who aspire to attend universities of their choice outside the country's borders. Truck drivers traversing the region also require valid documentation to be able to attend to their daily duties.

Even our enterprising youths and women, who frequently travel outside the country's borders as they buy goods for resale back home, need the document. There are even Zimbabweans who intend to travel for leisure.

So a passport essentially guarantees the ease of travel and movement.

Its provision will, therefore, go a long way in making sure that people travel legally and use designated points of entry and exit.

There is no doubt that the availability of passports will actively foster the ease of doing business for Zimbabweans. Before we consider a raft of measures to attract foreign entities, there is a fundamental need to cater for Zimbabweans.

This explains the raft of other initiatives that the Civil Registry has put in place to enable better service delivery.

Just last week, the Registrar-General, Mr Clemence Masango, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services that the department was establishing a satellite office in Chitungwiza as part of efforts to de-congest Makombe Complex.

This project has been co-opted into the Ministry's fifth cycle of projects under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI).

This project is key because Chitungwiza is the third most populous metrople after Harare and Bulawayo.

There are efforts underway to make sure that the processing of Diaspora passport applications becomes much easier through the facilitation of Zimbabwe's embassies and consulates worldwide.

Mr Masango also indicated that the ideal plan would be to facilitate online processes.

This would enable uploading forms and payments for the convenience of citizens both home and abroad.

Under this system, appointments are then made to conduct a biometric registration without unnecessarily congesting the Makombe passport office, or any other office across the country.

The new measures will, therefore, address the backlog and ensure that the application process is easier and swifter.

The writer is the communications officer for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage.

Source - sundaymail
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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