Passport chaos

BULAWAYO - Some corrupt workers at the Bulawayo passport office have resorted to employing agents to tout for customers for them.

An ordinary Zimbabwean passport, which in the past used to take only six months for one to get it from the date of application, now takes more than two years, due to inadequate funds needed to purchase the necessary raw materials.

Last year, the RG’s office stopped issuing forms to prospective passport holders, with the RG, Tobaiwa Mudede, announcing that the department would concentrate on clearing the backlog of old applicants before taking on new applicants.

However, more than a year later, things seem to have gone from bad to worse, with only those passports that were applied for in March 2006 being available for collection.

Even the processing of urgent passports, which could still be done during that sabbatical, was eventually stopped towards the end of last year, as more people began to apply for them.

Currently, only Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) which are printed on cheap bond paper, are being processed, but prospective holders need to produce written proof of that urgent need in order to be allowed to apply for one.

“I look for clients who are in urgent need of a travel document and when I find one, I take their documents and half the amount to my connection. After that, I withhold the document until the person pays me for its release. I used to make a lot of money through this but now there are too many of us and it has become a bit difficult for me,” said one agent.

Police sources in the city also confirmed that they knew about the deals, but said that it was very difficult to stop the rot, which seems to be fully entrenched within the offices of top officials in the passport offices.

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