The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE backlog in the issuing of passports in the country has ballooned to 370 000 from around 340 000 last month as the Registrar-General’s Office is only able to process just 750 per day, an official has revealed.
Registrar-General Mr Clemence Masango told Sunday News on the sidelines of Civil Registration and Vital Statistic (CRVS) Day held in Bulawayo yesterday that lack of foreign currency remained the major challenge.
“The Department is currently hamstrung by the shortage of essential passport production materials which is imported and requires foreign currency and it is also public knowledge that foreign currency is scarce in the country and is affecting not only the department but many other sectors in the country. At the moment we are doing 750 passports a day and these are mainly on urgent basis and also on first come first serve and we have a backlog of over 370 000 passport applications,” he said.
Mr Masango acknowledged that the department needed to clear the backlog as soon as funding is availed.
“We are also aware that there is a backlog that we have to attend to and arrangements are underway that we get funds to get the materials to work on clearing the backlog so that we return our services back to normal. We need to go back to what our charter says of providing urgent passports, 24 hour passports as the fastest, three days and one for four weeks. We have not been able to do this because of unavailability of resources,” he said.
Asked on reports on pending increases in passport fees, Mr Masango said the department has not yet received the green light from the Government to do so. He said the problem of antiquated machinery has been eased following the acquisition of a US$600 000 machine to produce the passports.
Mr Masango said his office has also received numerous complaints from the public about the treatment they are getting from officials in the department.
“It is unfortunate that there are members of the public who have not been well attended to as seen by the complaints that we get. It is Government policy that everybody must be served professionally, courteously and with respect. However, we do get individuals not living up to that expectation. We currently have an ongoing public care and public customer handling internal refresher course to ensure that we maintain the standards expected by the public and Government to serve our public,” he assured.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Ambassador Cain Mathema has stressed the need for all parents and guardians to register births for their children within the stipulated time in order to secure basic human rights to name, identity and nationality.
Speaking during the CVRS Day belated commemorations which were held for the first time in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Mathema said it was disturbing to note that many undocumented children were coming from South Africa. The celebrations were held under the theme “Birth Certificate for All: a Fundamental for Protecting Human Rights and Promoting Inclusion”.
“It is sad to note that there are children born in South Africa and brought here with no birth certificates via illegal transporters and dumped without any particulars to elderly grandparents who will fend for them. Those grandparents may not be able to secure those documents which is a problem when they want to start school,” he said.
The celebrations were marked with a march from the Bulawayo Passport Office to Milton Junior Primary School, which was the venue for the commemorations. The commemorations were meant to raise awareness on the importance of birth certificates and other identity particulars which people should acquire in order for them to enjoy full benefits of being citizens and residents of Zimbabwe.