The government’s decision to slash the price of ordinary passports by 200% to $50 from $170 is a good gesture, as it will make the travel document affordable to everyone, including its own workers.
This makes the official document exactly what it is — basic, just like a national identity card.
As far back as the pre-dollarisation era, passports had become a luxury for a privileged few.
For civil servants who earn between $150 and $250 and others who have been relegated to the dregs of society, making a living often means crossing the border once in a while to import one or two things for sale, to supplement low earnings.
The trend became quite pronounced in the last five years when Zimbabwe’s economic downturn aggravated, triggering a historic social incursion that saw Zimbabweans moving out en masse to settle in other countries or do commodity broking.
This boom in cross-border trading has continued into the current stabilisation era, sustaining the demand for passports.
But the government did not help the situation, as it priced the commodity beyond the reach of many who badly needed them.
Thank God, it has finally seen the light! It has even put icing on the cake by scrapping the penalty for replacing lost travel documents.
This move will probably see every Zimbabwean gaining access to the travel document, which for years had become a preserve of the rich.
We hope that the responsible ministry and the Registrar General’s office have put in place the requisite systems and mechanism to cope with the likely upsurge in numbers of people who are obviously going to apply for the document from now onwards.
The ball is now in the Home Affairs’ court to improve its administrative system so that it logistically well-positioned to deal with the anticipated chaos.
It is an open secret that the queues that have always been part and parcel of the Registrar General’s office, even when only a few people could afford passports, were a thorn in many people’s flesh.
In light of this, it is critical for this office to be fully equipped to deal with the expected demand.
We hope that the homeland ministry will live up to its promise that it was setting up measures to deal with the influx of passport seekers.
For a long time, Fidelity Printers – the official government printers – have always struggled to meet demand for the special type of paper used in the production of this critical document.
Government has to deal with that issue as a matter of urgency, otherwise it might fail to deal with the logistic nightmares this new development is likely to bring to the fore.