Lawyers Says Phasing Out Old Passports Unconstitutional

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THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says the government’s decision to introduce an electronic passport and phase out old travel documents by the end of 2023 violates some provisions of the country’s constitution.

In a tweet, the ZLHR also challenged the government’s move to use the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) for processing fees for the electronic passports, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa unveiled this week.

“We have written a letter to Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe telling him that his decision to make the current passport non-operational and non-functional by 31 December 2023 is grossly unreasonable as many citizens had obtained or renewed their current passports and had parted with hefty sums of money in paying the prescribed passport fees. We told him that it is grossly unreasonable and unfair to impose an obligation on current passport holders to apply for an e-passport by December 2023 even when their current passports still have many years running before their expiration date.

“We said this is a violation of the right to administrative conduct which is substantially fair and reasonable & hence is a breach of Section 68 of the Constitution. We also asked Hon. Kazembe to furnish us with the procedures and criterion used to designate CBZ Bank as the entity to be processing e-passports. We stated that in terms of Section 35(3) of the Constitution, it is the State’s primary obligation to provide citizens with passports & other identity documents.”

The government announced that CBZ Bank will be tasked with the processing of all passport applications at an additional cost of US$20.

“We requested this information in the interest of public accountability & transparency. We gave Hon. Kazembe a 48–hour ultimatum to respond to the issues of concern which we raised in our letter.”