By Robin Muchetu
In a bid to expedite the issuing of emergency passports and avoid litigation, the Government has directed that the document be applied and issued only at the Registrar General’s Office in Harare.
This was after it was noted that the 24-hour emergency passport, which costs US$318 was in some cases taking more than a week to reach the owner, thereby defeating the “emergency” status of the document, leaving the State liable to prosecution for failing to deliver the passport in the prescribed 24 hours.
Acting Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri told Sunday News that citizens should take note of the changes to avoid delays in the event they want to travel as a matter of urgency.
Citizens have registered their dismay after being denied access to pay for forex passports in other provinces except Harare only as they could not be delivered within 24 hours.
Emergency passport applications were previously submitted at provincial registry offices but the passports are taking more than 24 hours to return to the city of application.
The development comes at a time when the country is expected to receive a number of diasporans, especially those based in South Africa commonly known as injiva who will be coming for the festive holidays where they also take time to regularise their travel documents as some would have expired.
“It is not that we are denying them to apply from any offices they wish, but if you look at it, you apply for a 24-hour passport and you are in Bulawayo and we take four or more days to give you that passport, that becomes a breach of contract. That’s where the matter is.
“For this US$ passport, if you give us your application at 9am, you are supposed to get it at 9am the following day.
One is confident that they can book a flight to travel at 1pm as they are guaranteed a passport within 24 hours. Imagine booking a flight and the passport does not come back within the stipulated 24 hours because you applied from Bulawayo.
That will be bad,” he said.
Added Mr Machiri; “We want to ensure that we honour our contract with you by giving you the passport in 24 hours.
Provinces outside Harare are now scared to breach that contract, hence they do not want citizens to apply anywhere outside the Harare RGs office.
“We have recorded instances where we have been taken to court for breaching contracts when a passport is not availed within 24 hours after paying forex and the courts looked at our agreement where we promised to deliver within 24 hours and we were found on the wrong side.”
The acting RG also said provinces like Bulawayo vehicles come once a week for the delivery of passports, which completely erases the possibility of a 24-hour passport being issued from the province.
However, the acting RG said the current passport backlog is below 300 000 as some passports have been issued.
Before the onset of Covid-19, the backlog was crawling towards the 500 000 mark. The Sunday News