By Emmanuel Kafe
Following an article titled “Shocking corruption at Passport Office”, which exposed deep-rooted graft at the Passport and Birth Registry offices, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe last week came out guns blazing.
During a tour of the passport, registry and immigration offices, Minister Kazembe spoke strongly against corruption and promised to rid the offices of bad apples.
The minister’s first port of call was the National Passport Production Centre, where he addressed the media and Passport Office staff.
Minister Kazembe gave a stern warning to the staff members that are allegedly involved in corruption.
He also urged the public to come forward with the evidence that will help nail the culprits.
“In my interactions with various members of the public and media since I took over this portfolio, I have been inundated with calls alleging corrupt tendencies in the Passport Office.
“Let me reiterate once again that corruption in all its forms will not be tolerated. Anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will be dismissed forthwith,” Minister Kazembe said.
He added: “It is incumbent upon all of us that we deal with the few bad apples among us. They are tarnishing the good name of the department.”
The minister said members of the public should assist Government in fighting the scourge by reporting corrupt officials. This was the same message that Minister Kazembe took to Gweru during a familiarisation tour of the registry and immigration offices in the City of Progress.
“Without members of the public alerting us about suspected corruption, we won’t get to the bottom of it. If you are asked to pay a bribe, you need to report that official as soon as possible,” he said.
During the same tour, Mrs Respect Gono, the chief immigration officer, told the minister that they had been forced to centralise some services in Harare to curb rampant corruption in her department.
“We were forced to take some immigration services to Harare because of corruption in the regional offices. But we have managed to clean out the rotten apples and we are in the process of decentralising immigration services,” she said.
Minister Kazembe said the fee to obtain a passport remains at $53, although discussions are underway to review this and allow locals with free funds to pay in foreign currency.
“Government will soon promulgate a Statutory Instrument that will allow locals with access to foreign currency to apply for passports which they will acquire timeously,” he said.
He, however, said Government was working towards clearing the passport backlog.
“In this respect, Government has committed resources for the purchasing of consumables so that we clear the backlog in the first half of the year. If we are to meet our targets, we need to up our production from the current 2 500 to 8 000 passports a day. For this vision and thrust to be a success, we have to work extra hard to meet the targets,” he said.
Recent reports alleged that a massive staff transfer is currently taking place at the Passport Office.
However, Mr Clemence Masango, the Registrar-General, refused to comment on those reports.
“I do not discuss office issues with the media,” said Mr Masango. The Sunday Mail