Residents in Bulawayo and surrounding areas are rushing to apply for passports before a significant price increase takes effect in January 2024.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube last week announced a proposed increase in passport fees while delivering the 2024 national budget.
The ordinary passport fees will rise from US$120 to US$200, while emergency passports will cost US$300.
The surge in applicants has led to long queues and delays at the Civil Registry Offices in Bulawayo.
Many residents say they have been camping out overnight to secure their place in line. Some have even reported paying bribes to jump the queue.
One resident, who identified herself as Mganu, told CITE that she arrived at the passport office around 4 am.
“I have been in the queue since then, and my child is crying,” she said. “The news of the passport increase is the one that has prompted everyone to come here and apply for passports to evade the increase in January.”
Another resident, Sheilla Nkomo, said she spent the night at the passport office and was number 165 in line.
“We have managed to pay now, but we are waiting for other verification stages,” she said. “The news of the passport increase is the one that is causing panic among people as people want to take passports before they can be increased next year.”
Residents are also frustrated by the long processing times. Nkomo said it is taking people three to four days to complete the passport application process.
“We are now spending three to four days without finishing the process,” she said. “As it is, we were told that they are finishing serving those from yesterday, of which again they won’t even be cleared today because they have too much pressure.”
Some residents have expressed anger at the government for raising passport fees, arguing that the increase is unaffordable for many Zimbabweans.
The finance minister said the revenue generated from the passport fees will be ring-fenced towards road infrastructure development.