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Govt launches e-passport services in Byo

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage has launched the electronic passport application service system in Bulawayo, as part of efforts to decentralise the process and bring convenience to citizens.

Before the launch, people were travelling to Harare to apply for the e-passports since there was no supporting infrastructure in other areas.

An e-passport is ready within seven days while the turnaround of a normal passport used to take several months.

The Civil Registry Offices in Bulawayo will also be processing express passports that take 48 hours to come out while the Registrar General’s office added the application process would be further decentralised within the city meaning there are to be two passports offices by end of the year.

Speaking at the official launch held at the Civil Registry Department Offices Wednesday, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, promised the decentralisation process would further cascade to other areas.

“I’m aware Zimbabwe is one of the very few countries in the world with this facility. The roll out started in Harare and Bulawayo is the second province and it will further cascade to district centres across the country,” he said, appreciating the role of Garsu Pasaulis, the company working with the government.

“This process and infrastructure have been taken to Hwange and Lupane in Matabeleland North and as we speak work is in progress. This similar exercise shall follow to the seven provincial registry offices which must be up and running by June 30 this year.”

Kazembe added e-passports would be initially be processed in provinces but plans were afoot to further decentralise the e-passport enrolment services to all districts, in line with the dictates of devolution.

“Decentralisation started with the establishment of Chitungwiza passport offices, which are now operational. We are setting up infrastructure to again establish the e-passport service in Chitungwiza and this is already at an advanced stage of completion. The decentralisation of e-passport services to district level remains a priority for my ministry,” said the minister.

The minister said he was aware of the challenges people faced in trying to acquire travel documents but assured them that with decentralisation of the e-passport centres, long queues that were witnessed before would be “soon a thing of the past.”

“Over and above, there will be cameras and I know we have had problems with corruption, where people ask for bribes for one to get passports, now with those cameras, if someone asks for some money, just give them because that’s how we will catch them and deal with corruption,” Kazembe noted.

Kazembe highlighted his ministry was also focused on contributing optimally towards the ease of doing business through the deployment of online platforms, which are critical towards the enhancement of service delivery.

“We are working on plans to establish an online passport system for the convenience of the general public. This is at an advanced stage. I’m aware that they have started testing the system,” he claimed.

“Yes, we are decentralising right now but when everything is said and done, the ultimate objective is for people to apply for passports from the comfort of their homes. That’s the best way to decentralise services using cellphones, desktops in the office, from anywhere and we are already working on that.”

The minister also expressed concern over criminal elements purporting to be employees or agents of the Civil Registry Department who were defrauding the citizens of their ‘hard-earned cash’ promising facilitation to acquire e-passports and in other cases, identity documents.

Acting Registrar General, Henry Machiri added the issuance of the e-passport and accelerated service delivery would go a long way in enabling security of the registry department and bringing convenience to the public.

The acting RG said since the e-passport processing started on January 18 this year, as of March 21, 2022, a total of 26 395 e-passports had been produced.

“13 886 from female applicants while 12 509 are males,” Machiri said.

“I encourage you to take this opportunity to apply for travel documents and desist from engaging in border jumping because crocodiles will be waiting for you.”

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