Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT has said e-passports will be accessible from all passport offices countrywide by mid-year as it decentralises access to travel documents, with those in Bulawayo accessing it in the city starting this monthend.
President Mnangagwa launched the e-passport in December last year which has enhanced security features but at the moment it is obtained in Harare only.
The e-passport was launched after Government entered into a partnership with a Lithuanian company, Garsu Pasaulis, on a build, own, operate and transfer basis to produce the new passports that meet modern international standards.
The adoption of the e-passport will see the country also dealing with the passport backlog that had ballooned in the past few years.
Under the new partnership, the Lithunian partner will refurbish provincial and district registry offices and provide material to produce IDs.
The upgrade at civil registry department offices will also enable citizens to apply for documentation online.
In an interview, Acting Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri said modalities are on course to ensure that e-passports are obtained from the country’s 10 provinces by the end of June.
He said in Bulawayo, the offices are being refurbished and people will start applying for e-passports from there before the end of the month.
He said there is no need for citizens to travel to the capital city to obtain the travel documents.
“In terms of Bulawayo, the technicians are working flat out and before the end of this month Bulawayo will now be issuing e-passports.
There is no need for people to go to Harare to get passports.
Yes, the programme was launched in Harare by His Excellency, the President on 14 December last year and we started issuing those passports on 18 January in Harare but we are going to cover all the traditional passport issuing offices,” said Mr Machiri.
“And the second after Harare is Bulawayo, which will start issuing e-passports this month.
From Bulawayo we will be rolling out to other areas like Lupane in Matabeleland North and other provinces as well.
We are going to be covering all those provinces by June 30.”
Government in January gazetted new passport fees with the ordinary one costing US$100 while the emergency one costs US$200.
Mr Machiri said the registry is working towards clearing the long queues that have characterised its offices, blaming the outbreak of Covid-19 for the high demand of national documents.
“We are working on that. Let us not forget that during the last two years because of Covid-19, whenever there was a lockdown, all the other services were suspended except for burial orders and death certificates.
Birth certificates, IDs, and passports were suspended meaning out there in the community there is a backlog of people wanting these documents which they could not get because of the lockdown.
But now that the situation is improving the Covid-19 restriction measures have been relaxed and people are now coming out to get those services meaning we are getting more people coming to get our services,” said Mr Machiri.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the registry offices were partially opened as it was opening with reduced staff complement as part of the office decongestion measures.
He said touts operating outside their premises were worsening the documentation challenges for members of the public.
The high demand for national documents has seen some people sleeping in queues particularly in Bulawayo.
“We are working flat out to make sure we cater for our citizens and as time goes on, we know that these queues are going to be a thing of the past.
We are also monitoring and correcting what can be corrected and when there is such a high demand there are certain unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of the situation like touts.
We are working hand in hand with the police so that they put that situation under control,” he said.
Mr Machiri said the public should take advantage of the national documentation mobile blitz exercise which will be rolled out next month.
“As a ministry we are going into the field from April for mobile registration in all districts and villages to make sure that we capture these people.
We don’t have to wait for them to come to our offices.
This is what causes the congestion but we are going to go to the people.
We have got various programmes, we will be publishing and sensitising the communities on when we are going to be visiting their areas to register birth certificates, death certificates and IDs,” said Mr Machiri.
Article Source: The Chronicle