Long, winding queues are synonymous with public service delivery in this country.
The throngs of people at the offices of the Registrar-General (RG) throughout the country, as they seek passports, identity documents and birth certificates, often give the impression that Zimbabwe has a large population which the country’s home office cannot adequately serve.
Far from it.
The queues are a product of bureaucratic delinquency and concomitant criminal behaviour of touts and so-called consultants.
The state of affairs at the offices of the RG has become so desperate that people seeking passports are sleeping in queues in the hope that they would be at an advantage when offices open in the morning.
In Bulawayo we recently reported that people seeking passports had running battles with the police who reportedly tried to chase away those who had gathered to try to get passports.
We have heard all sorts of excuses from the office of the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede and the parent Home Affairs ministry to explain the chaos at the registry offices.
These range from antiquated equipment to sanctions.
We however believe that the mess at the RG’s office is reflective of wider operational deficiencies which cannot be corrected by a mere computer.
It is the way the system of getting documents has been designed and is being implemented which is the major source of concern.
There are too many processes involved in getting a passport.
Added to this applicants have to bring in an assortment of documents which must be complete before being processed.
There is no proper notice board to advise applicants on what documents to bring or to fully explain the process of application.
Application forms for passports are not always readily available but they can be acquired from touts and “consultants” who sell them for as much as $20 each.
To cap it all, passport officers are often rude, unco-operative and work at the speed of a glacier.
A lot of them spend time outside conducting personal shady projects or processing applications brought in by “consultants” who can induce the sloths to move at lightning speed.
There is no better setting for corruption and all sorts of chicanery than this.
This drama is being replayed in most urban centres because we have a system in place that is generally designed to create desperation in people and induce them to make drastic decisions to get passports.
It is a system premised on several layers of official bureaucracy and has invited more strata of informal red tape.
Delays in this case are inevitable and applicants have to pay more than they should ordinarily do to obtain a passport.
This is embarrassing to say the least.
People are losing resources because we have a super-inefficient system which has remained frozen in a time warp of retrogression.
A passport is a symbol of freedom and gives the holder a sense of belonging.
In this country, the cost of freedom has always been high and there is no better way for the government to improve on this than by eradicating the scams at passport offices.