By Robert Tapfumaneyi
AUTHORITIES within the country’s registry have issued over 9 000 new passports to Zimbabwean applicants based outside the country following a government decision to accept foreign currency from those in the diaspora.
This, according to Registrar General Clemence Masango, has ignited similar demands by locals to be allowed to pay in foreign currency if this was a guarantee to the quick issuance of the much sought after document.
Currently, locals pay Z$53 for a normal passport which should ordinarily take a maximum of six months to be issued while Z$318 is charged for 24-hour emergency passports.
However, the continued shortage of foreign currency to import the special paper used to print the travel document has seen the printing backlog surge to 300 000 as of late last year against a printing capacity of – at one time – 800 per day.
Against this background, government came up with a resolution to charge those based outside the country in foreign currency, something that has generated movement in the processing of applications from outside.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Masango said Zimbabwean applicants based in the country were also demanding for a chance to pay in foreign currency if this guaranteed early receipt of the documents.
“…Locals are saying yes, ‘we have our foreign currency and why are we being left out’,” Masango said.
“They have said other sectors like fuel and service stations, any motorists with foreign currency can buy fuel, so why not do the same here at the passport office?
“This is under review and as a department, once we get a directive, members of the public will be told.”
Masango said over 9 000 travel documents have been issued between 12 December 2019 and 15 January this year for Zimbabweans based abroad.
“The programme for Zimbabweans living in the diaspora was approved by cabinet for passport applicants to pay US$318.00 and receive the passport within 24 hours,” he said.
“Following a decision by Cabinet authorising us to accept passport fees in foreign currency from our citizens living in the diaspora, because of their peculiar situation, that they live in a foreign country, they cannot even one day be without regular papers.
“And we cannot also as a country afford to have anyone deported simply because we cannot give them a passport.
“So, with effect from 23 December (2019), we have been receiving passport fees in foreign currency. So far we have received, processed and also issued passports on urgent basis that is within 24 hours from those that will have paid US$318 or equivalent in Rands.”