THE Registrar-General’s office, long synonymous with harrowing inefficiency, incompetence and corruption, cannot decentralise the processing and printing of passports to the districts for fear of “terrorism”.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
This shocker, likely to cause despairing and dismissive shakes of the head among many, came from Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede who, due to his office, has become the face of the public’s ordeal at the hands of passport office staff at Makombe Building in Harare.
Mudede, whose department is said to be processing about 3 000 passports daily, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tuesday that passport forms could be distributed at district level, but had to be sent to central registry in Harare for processing.
He seemingly did not specify the nature of the terrorism threat the country is facing, leaving its nature the subject of speculation, or, more likely, derision. As far as most Zimbabweans are concerned, the country faces no internal or external terrorism threat.
What is incontestable is that many Zimbabweans recoil in horror at the mere thought of visiting the congested and dilapidated RG’s offices to acquire/renew identity documents despite the fact it is their right to do so.
The teeming passport offices at Makombe have become synonymous with corruption as passport seekers are shuttled from one office to the other in a painfully slow and deliberately frustrating process.
This is unless you have been “referred” to specific officials or staffers after money has changed hands through the intricate channels the staff has set up with outsiders, in which case service is surprisingly prompt and courteous.
The graft at Makombe is fed by the centralisation of passport processing as officials and staff takes full advantage of overwhelming numbers and consequential chaos to exact personal gain from the desperate public.
Quite rightly, many consider the passport office an obstacle to obtaining a passport! Only last week two Bulawayo sisters only managed to attain theirs after intervention by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Reportedly, Mudede’s office had initially branded them “aliens”, leaving them ineligible for Zimbabwean passports despite being born in this country, in the 1960s, to a Zimbabwean mother and Zambian father. That is official xenophobia at its worst.
In 2012 Mudede assured Zimbabweans they would benefit from the computerisation of his offices as it would improve efficiency and reduce queuing time.
The effects of that technological intervention largely went unfelt.
With Mudede’s office apparently on some terror alert, the fear is that it will remain business as usual at Makombe, with all the attendant inconveniencies.
Conspiracy theorists will surmise that the continued centralisation of the passport printing process despite much clamour for decentralisation as evidenced by the country’s recent constitution-making process is part of the election rigging process of which Mudede is allegedly a vital cog.
The part Mudede’s office played in the chaotic voter registration process last year ahead of the July 31 general elections, which amounted to systematic disenfranchisement and shady payments to Nikuv, remain fresh in the minds of many Zimbabweans.