THE Registrar-General’s Office has managed to reduce the passport backlog by 20 per cent, taking advantage of a lull in new applications due to Covid-19 restrictions that have limited travel to the offices.
According to The Herald, before the lockdown, production of passports had been seriously affected by increasing applications and foreign currency shortages.
But the office managed to produce 83 379 passports during the first two months of the lockdown period.
When President Mnangagwa announced the first lockdown in March this year, the number of overdue passports stood at 400 961 but is now at 317 582.
The department has not been taking new applications, which has given it ample time to reduce the passport backlog.
“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we have managed to produce 83 379 passports,” the RG’s Office said. “Even though the department is focusing on the production of passports, Covid-19 has negatively impacted on the process.
“As a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19, the department is currently operating with one-third of its staff complement and so it is unable to utilise its full capacity.”
The backlog was a result of challenges in the importation of the special paper needed to produce passports, as only a handful of companies in the world produced it, with Zimbabwe yet to find a viable local alternative.
“Procurement of consumables is underway by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance,” said the RG’s office. “The availability of consumables will facilitate the clearing of the backlog.”
Section 66 of the Zimbabwean Constitution says every citizen has the right to enter Zimbabwe, the right not to be expelled from the country and the right to a passport or other travel document.
A few months back, Zimbabwe started the remote issuance of passports to citizens in the Diaspora.