Nightmare continues for passport, ID seekers

Tariro Choto has just turned 16 and is excited at the prospect of having a national identification document. She woke up before dawn in the hope of becoming first in the queue at the Registrar General's office at the National Employment Centre in Harare.

Zimbabweans queing for passports
Zimbabweans queing for passports

She soon found out that it was not as easy as she thought – and spent the whole day trying to acquire the elusive document.

Rachel Gumbo secured her paper Identification Document when she was at her rural home in Zvimba. When she wanted to acquire a passport she was told to get a plastic ID. When she went to Makombe Building she was told to go back to Mashonaland West to apply.

“The whole process was unfair. A man in front of me successfully changed his ID – but he got his paper ID in Masvingo. Underhand dealings should be exposed,” she fumed.

These two cases are just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening at the Registrar General’s offices. Citizens are struggling to get the necessary papers and corruption is rampant. A visit to the National Employment Centre revealed that touts and RG officials have formed an unholy alliance.

The touts openly demand $10 for “quick service” from document seekers. One tout who identified himself as Jere said he had “links” inside.

“I know somebody inside. A person just gives me his documents and pays me money which we share with the ‘boss’ inside. We make good money from desperate document seekers,” Jere boasted.

Thieves have also been on the prowl at these institutions, where they dupe and con unsuspecting members of the public. A security guard said he had witnessed many people losing their belongings to thieves and street children. He added that sometimes the thieves ‘visit’ those who have slept at the offices at night pretending to be document seekers before stealing.

Members of the public have complained at the way they are treated by the officials. Rowani Zaru, who was queuing for a passport at Makombe Building, said the officials were insensitive and sometimes went on ‘undeclared’ go slows.

One official defended this action saying they get peanuts so they make the public pay. “The government has failed to pay us handsomely so we work according to our salaries.

There is an adage which says sometimes one needs not to seek greener pastures but to make the pastures were one is at greener. That is what we are doing,” he said.

Harare based life coach and motivational speaker, Kudzai Maungwe, said the behaviour exhibited by most government workers was a result of a demoralised workforce.

“In most countries government workers are a symbol of good relations with the members of the public but in Zimbabwe they are the worst,” he said.

Maungwe added that corruption was rampant because the salary for civil servants was paltry. “Sometimes these workers smiles according to their salary and if their wages remain low, lack of motivation and laziness began to creep in. Underhand dealings quickly manifest into corruption and everyone knows that corruption has become the order of the day in most of these institutions.”

Last year Home Affairs co -minister Theresa Makone made a surprise visit to the passport offices at Makombe Building after members of the public blew the whistle on corrupt officials there.

The visit unearthed a syndicate of office-bearing swindlers, including the police, who extort money for emergency passports and other services.

Makone said she was shocked by the racket and wondered where the RG’s office got some of the fees they charged. “We did not say anything about the issue of emergency passports,” said Makone.

“We wanted to ease the trouble people were going through to access passports hence the reduction of fees for ordinary passports. Passports are supposed to be a birthright not a privilege. People should not have hassles in accessing passports,” said the minister.

Makone lamented that corruption was no longer a secret and promised to institute investigations and bring culprits to book Since her visit in October last year, nothing has improved. Until the issue is solved, many ID and passport seekers will continue to pay the extra money to get the documents they need.

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