E-passport applicants struggle to collect their travel documents

Electronic passport applicants in Bulawayo are struggling to collect their passports after having endured snake winding queues during the application process, a development they have blamed on the registry officials’ inefficiencies.

In the past before the introduction of the new machine-readable passports, citizens who were visiting registry offices to collect their documents would just walk in at any time of the day during working hours and be served in a few minutes’ time.

However, following the introduction of the new passports that has since become a thing of the past as the collection queue is now longer than that one for those applying.

Some people spend the whole day in the queue waiting to be served as the process is also longer and cumbersome.

An ordinary E-passport costs US$120 and is out after seven days while an emergency one which costs US$220 is processed within 48 hours.

When CITE visited Bulawayo registry offices twice this month on September 15 and 27, unusually long queues of people wanting to collect their passports could be seen.

“Give us our passports; we want to go back home; do you think we enjoy sitting here,” said one of the applicants from the crowd.

“You cannot just park us here as if we have nothing to do; we are not your children.”

When registry officials tried to silence him, others joined making the situation uncontrollably.

“Something is wrong somewhere in this whole passport application system,” said one woman.

“How can we spend the whole day here just to collect passports? What is difficult about giving us our passport? On top of enduring hours when we came to apply, we are still made to suffer again when collecting! Could it be that the technology is vexing them? Remember when everything was done manually, we never queued that long to collect passports.”

Another woman alleged registry officials could be deliberately delaying the process as a way of soliciting bribes from citizens who are in a hurry and have no time to spend in those long queues.

Already three are people by the gate who are demanding bribes to facilitate easy passport collection.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from the Office of the Registrar-General could not yield any fruit.

“Having more people coming to collect than to apply for the e-passport is evidence of mismanagement of the application, production and issuance system of the e-passport by the officials,” said social commentator Vusumuzi Chirwa.

“Current issuance delays make e-passports less different from ordinary passports as far as the system is concerned.”

Effie Ncube a political analyst said it was unfortunate that the system meant to benefit citizens had turned out to be a disadvantage.

“The e-passport system is crumbling under the immense weight of the inefficiencies that permeate the enter service delivery system,” said Ncube.

“What was supposed to change people’s lives is turning out to be another burden on the already overburdened citizens. All this is part of systemic failures that are now found everywhere in our country.”

He added: “The failures are also benefiting the syndicates and feeding the lucrative corruption at the registry as citizens are being forced to bribe their way to getting passports.”

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