Sunday, 13 March 2022


IN a development that will bring a major relief to people in the southern parts of the country, the Bulawayo Civil Registry Office will start processing e-passports by 31 March, as the Government seeks to decentralise the issuing of travelling documents.

President Mnangagwa launched the e-passport in December last year, which is aimed at enhancing security by preventing identity theft and forgery. Issuing of the e-passports started in January but has only been confined to Harare while provincial Civil Registry Department Offices were still processing traditional old passports.

However, it has emerged that the department has almost finished installing all the necessary infrastructure at the Bulawayo office with work on the processing expected to start at the end of the month.

A visit to the offices on Friday revealed that the department has finished building a shade where people will be housed while processing the documents. On one side senior citizens and those with disabilities will be served exclusively.

A CBZ bank passport branch office has also been established. The fee for processing of an e-passport has been pegged at US$100 in addition to a US$20 application fee, paid directly to CBZ.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe told Sunday News in an interview on Friday that all the facilities have been put in place at the Bulawayo office.

“Yes, facilities have been put in place in Bulawayo to start issuing the e-passports. Bulawayo will be followed by Gwanda,” he said.

Although Minister Kazembe was non-committal on the dates, officials in Harare and at the office confirmed that they were told by authorities that the office will be open at the end of the month.

“Staff has been trained and by end of this month we will start processing the e-passport,” said a senior official in the department.

Minister Kazembe, however, said citizens who had applied for the old passports should not panic as government will continue to issue them out and clear the backlog.

“Those who had applied for the old passport are still going to get them as we are going to clear the backlog. They are going to be used until they expire. I know people are panicking thinking that there is a deadline in the near future. No, they should be able to collect their passports and in fact we are still issuing those passports.

We are going to print all of them and issue them to the applicants. In fact the two passports will be used for quite some time until we are able to phase the old ones out,” he said.

Minister Kazembe said the e-passport had an advantage over the old one as it was in sync with the technology prevailing across the world.

“However, it is to your advantage if you are a citizen to have the e-passport, but if you want to wait for the old one, it’s up to you. But as we go forward, it will be difficult for you to use your machine readable passport because of advancement of technology. You will go to some countries in Europe or in the West where they now have two routes (queues at ports of entry).

There is one for the machine readable passport where you will see up to 300 people in the queue and in the smart route you will find no one. This is because technology can now validate your passport within a second. This happens through the chip on the electronic passport.

That chip contains your biometric characteristics. They are embedded on that chip. So, as you present your passport to the reader, all of your information is then validated into official recognition,” he said.

The move to issue e-passports is in line with the Government’s vision of a modernised economy through the application of advanced information and communication technology systems. Key features of the new e-passport include, among others, an electronic cover with a chip and a security thread fully embedded in the inner booklet pages.

The Government has indicated that more centres will be able to process the e-passport by the end of this year.

Apart from local centres, the Government has said it intends to indentify about 15 missions and countries across the world to do applications for the Diaspora community. Sunday News


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