The Sunday Mail
THE Registrar-General’s (RG) Office has issued over 50 000 electronic passports (e-passports) at its offices in Harare and Bulawayo in the past three months, underlining the progress Government has made to ease access to travelling documents.
Plans are underway to open eight other provincial e-passport offices by the end of June.
Government, which entered a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement with Lithuanian company Garsa Pasaulis (GP) to produce new passports that meet modern international standards, launched the e-passport office in Harare on January 18, with the Bulawayo office opening on March 23.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, the RG, Mr Henry Machiri, said there is enough material in stock to increase the rate of production of passports.
“We started producing passports on January 18, 2022 and as of today (April 21,2022), we have issued 51 080 e-passports. These are e-passports applied for by people in Harare since January and since March for those in Bulawayo,” he said.
“I can now say that we have enough material and we have ramped up production. With the current system, the Government signed a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), whereby GP invests and they will be paid gradually. So, in terms of consumables, they are now readily available.”
Other provinces, Mr Machiri said, will start to issue passports by June 30 this year.
It has since emerged that passport offices will not be limited to provincial capitals only, but will also be available in districts.
“The other provincial towns should have these centres by June 30, as what was promised by early this year.
“We still stand by that date. These are Lupane in Matabeleland North, Gwanda in Matabeleland South, Gweru for Midlands, Masvingo for Masvingo, Mutare for Manicaland, Marondera for Mashonaland East, Chinhoyi for Mashonaland West and Bindura for Mashonaland Central,” he said.
He also gave an update on the online passport application system, whose booking system is now live.
“It is ongoing work but I can assure you that before the end of the year, it will be possible that people can apply in the comfort of their offices or homes.
“However, this does not mean that one applies and the passport is delivered to their doorstep. A travel document is a secured document and has to be given to the rightful owner. So one can apply online and notified of when to come to have their biometric information taken so that we make sure that the information on their passport is correct, this is international standards. All this seeks to shorten the time when the client is at our offices.”
Last month, an Express Passport Office Centre was opened at the RG’s Office in Harare to specifically handle online applications.
The online application system is available on the website expresscentrezw.com, which readily gives instructions on available booking.
Manager of the Express Passport Office Centre Mr Terence Mutemararo recently told The Sunday Mail that the system sought to eliminate congestion at passport offices.
In 2020, The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission published a report titled “A Report on National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe,” which recommended that the country develops a national policy on access to documentation and decentralisation of the RG’s Office services.