Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: The passport fiasco is another of many crises due to lack of reforms… expect more difficulties ahead

By Hopewell Chin’ono

Last week I took my daughter to the passport office in Harare to apply for a new passport, she had flown in from London with an ETD.

Passports go through the numbering and perforation stage at the National Passport Production Centre in Harare
Passports go through the numbering and perforation stage at the National Passport Production Centre in Harare

There was total chaos at the passport office in Harare, what Idi Amin would have called “…total chaos completely.”

My daughter flew back to London on Tuesday using an ETD because there are no emergency passports being issued currently, the normal ones have been out of circulation since July 20 of 2018.

I have seen many social media messages with purported new prices for passports, I am not sure about the authenticity of those messages.

However I know that there will be a two tier pricing system where you can pay for your passport in US Dollars or in RTGS dollars and presumably the former would expedite your application.

What I also know to be true is that the last batch of normal applicant passports to be released was the one applied for before July 20, 2018.

There is a shortage of what they call ribbons to scan the passport pictures and related material, simply put there is a shortage of material to make passports.

That is the correct position but of course government officials and their surrogates will spin it anyhow, but the truth is that the passport department has no money to procure these materials! Period!

The material is procured from Israel so it requires foreign exchange otherwise known as the US Dollar!

Now I return to my favorite topic and territory of REFORMS!

The failure by our government to implement political and subsequent economic reforms is affecting everything in this country.

Zimbabwe has a huge World Bank debt and it also owes money to many other multi lateral lenders, money that runs into billions of American dollars.

Our government misused that borrowed money over the years and ended up failing to service its debts before we even had sanctions imposed on us.

It also misused money from natural resources such as Chiadzwa through theft, corruption and incompetence and to this day it continues to mismanage the economy.

Now we need to restructure that debt in order to be able to borrow again to kick-start the economy.

That won’t happen when our government still has repressive laws on its books, and related retrogressive habits driven and defined by corruption and the total disregard for the rule of law as seen at Gaika Mine in Kwekwe.

Debt restructuring won’t happen when our government still has corrupt entities called Parastatals that continue to be used as feeding troughs for the political elites and their equally corrupt surrogates in business.

In other words these lenders won’t give us money to continue doing the same old terrible things that we were doing for the past 25 years, pouring money down the drain only to end up in individual pockets.

Therefore we need to reform and restructure our institutions, why would someone give you money to pour into Air Zimbabwe or National Railways of Zimbabwe in their current state?

It will be irresponsible lending, we are being asked to remove these hurdles by professionalizing these entities and yet our government is reluctant to do so because reforms require transparency and accountability.

Wicknell wouldn’t have been able to swindle ZESA millions of US Dollars the way he did if we had reformed our institutions, the corrupt refuse to reform because they want to continue looting!

We are being asked to reform our media landscape and issue new television and radio licenses not just for media plurality but also for employment creation.

Our government is reluctant to do that and has been from day one only because it wants to control the News narrative, something that is futile in today’s social media age.

I always give the following example of Nigeria and Zimbabwe because it aptly captures our decadent position and backwardness thinking posture.

Only Nigeria and Zimbabwe had television in Sub Saharan Africa in 1960.

Today Nigeria has 113 television stations and Zimbabwe is the only country in Sub Saharan Africa with one television station, a pathetic one for that matter.

Now Nigeria’s second biggest employer after Agriculture is Nollywood which stems from the result of how Nigeria reformed its media landscape by allowing the broadcast and film industries to thrive.

Nollywood brings in more than 10 billion American dollars annually.

Our folks in government don’t see the relatedness of that success to reforms because the top leadership is being terribly advised by thoroughly incompetent bureaucrats who take advantage of their proximity to the military and state security organs.

All of Zimbabwe’s radio stations have a state element involved in them, either directly through the government itself, the army or the CIO. (A story for another day.)

So when I talk about reforms, I am talking about how you will be able to live a quality life as a citizen as opposed to partisan issues.

That is why I have even suggested that we can shelve elections if they are an issue for the reform agenda to succeed so that we can implement these reforms in order for our country to once again have an economy to talk of.

Lack of political and economic reforms affect every citizen regardless of the political party that you choose to support as long as you live in Country X, a euphemism for Zimbabwe created by President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana when he was mocking our backwardness.

Those that sweat daily repeatedly defending the current rot will also not get a passport, Reforms are not about being a ZANUPF or MDC supporter, they are about being a Zimbabwean.

The corrupt and incompetent hide behind sanctions and unfortunately those that lack critical thinking skills don’t ask what it is that is needed to get them removed!

Of course we all know that sanctions are a convenient story to avoid responsibility for the current rot, even Emmerson Mnangagwa, Constantino Chiwenga, Perrence Shiri and Chris Mutsvangwa have said so in the last twenty-four months.

Now if you don’t see the relatedness of not being able to get your passport and the need for Zimbabwe to implement reforms, there is nothing much one can do for you!

Unlike many in our midst, I instructed my daughter to apply for a British passport otherwise she won’t be able to travel, that is where we are now with this crisis.

The political elites can get passports for their families and their kids are mostly dual citizens after having acquired foreign citizenship in other countries.

You toil and lose your voice singing for the political elites and yet here you are, stuck without a passport whilst they don’t care about your plight on this Saturday, as they enjoy expensive whiskey in their air conditioned mansions North of the railway line.

The lack of bandages, gloves, medicines and good care in our public hospitals is all linked to our failure to reform.

The many unnecessary trips to the cemetery to bury our loved ones is also linked to our government’s refusal to fully implement political and economic reforms.

How do you expect an economy run my corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to give your parents at the village a better life and health care when you don’t question why a government minister should have three brand new cars whilst you have no ambulance at your district hospital?

When there are NO reforms, there won’t be huge investments, when there is no investment, you won’t get jobs and the tax base will shrink.

When that happens there won’t be foreign exchange to buy material for things like passport material.

When the foreign debt has not been restructured, there won’t be further lending to Zimbabwe and that results in a junk credit rating.

It is called the relatedness of issues.

Until those holding us hostage in economic purgatory release their grip, expect more suffering and difficulties ahead.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. 

He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow, CNN African Journalist of the year and CNN Television Journalism Fellow. He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

The late superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France, in the UK at the Heart of England International Film Festival and in Texas at The US African Film Festival (TAFF).

You can watch the State of Mind trailer below.