Jacob Mutisi ICT EXPERT
There is great news coming from Zimbabwe on how the government has made it “easy” to obtain identification documents, especially the passport.
We ICT professionals feel very excited about this wonderful development.
However, it is disturbing to note that what is happening at the Zimbabwean embassy in London is in sharp contrast to the latest developments at the Registrar General’s (RG) office in Zimbabwe, hence the need to engage the services of top-notch webmasters and web developers to be on the ground for continuous updating of this great nation’s embassy websites.
Experience at the Zimbabwe’s embassy in the UK:
My passport was due for renewal on March 4, 2022, as I envisaged to dash to Zimbabwe over the British April school holidays.
I “Googled” the Zimbabwe Embassy and got a Google Business confirmation that the opening hours are from 0800 to 1200.
I surmised that I would not be the only one in need of a new passport or other related services.
So I went early to dodge the long queues. I got there by 0700 hoping to be one of the first to be served.
At 0750 a gentleman opened the main door of the entrance of the embassy and I was excited that I would be the first to be served.
It was cold and I figured it would be warm inside and was ready to walk into our embassy.
I was immediately advised that the embassy opens at 0900.
On querying why the difference in time with what was reflecting on the website and Google Business, I was shocked to hear that it was the “wrong website”.
The right Zimbabwean Embassy website is called www.zimlondon.gov.zw (Talk about totally confusing people).
He went further to advise me to get passport photos from a shop that was five minutes away down the road.
By then there was a small group of us.
We trudged along to the photographer’s premises.
It was a broom cupboard in a skyscraper and the cost is £10 and the standard passport photo is £6. Anyway, why do I have the right to complain?
We finally got in.
I queued up and waited in line.
The line moved fast.
When my turn came I was met by a lady who was as polite as anyone in public service could be.
I was given a form to fill and told to go and make copies of my IDs.
I had to go out of the building again to a photocopying shop to perform this latest task.
I returned and was directed to the payments window.
I paid my fee and was directed to go to the first window again.
At the first window my paperwork was given the once over and I was directed to the fingerprint desk which was in another room.
I found an elderly Asian gentleman who was on the phone (reminded me of Bhadella Wholesalers where you were served behind a counter of some sort.) He assisted with the fingerprint process and directed me to go back to window 1.
I was now given the passport form to fill out.
I filled it in and took it back.
It was given back to me once again and I was advised to send the form to Zimbabwe and someone could get the passport once it’s done for me.
I just shudder to think why in this day and age we should have such a primitive mode of applying for a passport in a first world country like the United Kingdom.
The Zimbabwe government has been praised by the World Bank and international organisations for implementation of some of the best electronic systems in Africa.
Why are we not implementing the same ICT systems at our embassies?
What kind of image are we projecting out there?
There is a need to have a biometric system that eliminates the traditional “picture taken” methodology which is very ancient.
Zimbabwe needs a centralised database system which eliminates submission of photocopies for one’s identification documents and get everything digitised as we embrace the paperless office.
What is baffling is why our Registrar General’s office would require document duplicates ( IDs, passports, marriage, birth and death certificates) to bring photocopies of what they created themselves and registered; a clear reflection of resistance to embracing technology which makes the process less cumbersome and convenient to both the service provider and service receiver.
Does this mean that our Registrar General does not have electronic copies of our identity documents on their servers?
Zimbabwe is a progressive country and should progress both internally and internationally.
Are we equating our great country to a city in the United Kingdom?
This is disgraceful and should be rectified with immediate effect.
Once again I want to register my gratitude to the Registrar General for a job well done at the Zimbabwean office.
Let us do the same to all our embassies so as to ensure a dignified reflection of our country to the rest of the world in line with our mantra, “Zimbabwe is NOW open for business”.
Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers.