Staff at the Bulawayo passport office revealed that the office, which stopped the processing of new ordinary passports last year, has now extended that measure to even urgent passports, due to a shortage of funds for buying materials.
We used to process urgent passports only, but we have since been told that even applications for those should not be accepted until after the elections. We also no longer accept top-up fees from those people that are on the passport waiting list, said an official on Wednesday.
The staff said that, for around four weeks, they have been allowed to accept only applications for Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs), which are printed on bond paper and signed at provincial passport offices. But, only those who have applied for passports can easily apply for the ETDs, as they need to satisfy the authorities about why an ETD is needed.
An ETD, which can be obtained in 48 hours, is valid for a maximum period of six months and can only be used when travelling to selected countries in the Southern African region.
Meanwhile, the Registrar-General’s office has failed to catch up with a serious backlog of people awaiting new passports, despite the Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, promising speedy processing of the documents last year.
When announcing the temporary suspension of new applications, Mudede said his office would first deal with outstanding applications. At the Bulawayo office, however, only passports applied for in January 2006 are now ready for collection.
Normally, a Zimbabwean passport should take six months from the receipt of the application.
Some workers at the passport collection counter have used this as an opportunity to make money by charging foreign currency for delivering documents to those waiting for them.
I was charged R200 for my document to come through, by a member of staff who claimed to be bringing it from Harare, but it later turned out that the document was already here and the member just wanted my money, as they are reluctant to release the passports for free, said Thulani Moyo.
Demand for passports and ETDs has been growing as more Zimbabweans leave their country to seek better conditions elsewhere.
Some have even abandoned the length and bureaucratic process and cross the border into South Africa and Botswana illegally. Others simply overstay their permitted time rather than apply for documents.
ÂPost published in: News