Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede, who is in charge of Zimbabwe’s corruption-ridden passport office, on Friday claimed his office was squeaky clean and accused government ministers who recently investigated and exposed massive scandals at Makombe building of “politicking”.
Mudede called a press conference where he blasted NewsDay and Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Tichaona Mudzingwa and Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone and told journalists that officials at the passport offices did not take bribes and were not corrupt in any way.
The Registrar General, who is implicated in the embarrassing “Diesel N’anga” fiasco where a magistrate said he had a hand in the massive fraud, did not give journalists a chance to ask him questions.
Mudede blamed the corruption that has tainted his offices on touts.
He said recent reports carried in NewsDay had tainted the image of his office and staff whom he said worked tirelessly to ensure passports were issued under very difficult economic circumstances.
“The allegations that the Central Registry staff and the police have been mischievous and receiving money from people in queues are not true,” said Mudede.
“What happens outside our offices during the night is beyond our jurisdiction.
There are touts outside who mix with the people in
queues and the question of touts is well known even in the transport sector or banks,” he said.
He said 12 touts had been arrested in connection with swindling people seeking passports from his offices.
However, investigative research by NewsDay at the Bulawayo Central Registry office last month revealed that staff at Mudede’s offices were engaged in corrupt activities and were taking bribes from desperate people who wanted to jump the long queues.
A visibly angry Mudede said deputy minister Mudzingwa had a political motive because he ended up addressing crowds of passport seekers.
“One would wonder the motive behind the public address by the deputy minister and whether this was not a deliberate political move as he was observed distributing business cards to the gathering and inviting the people to contact him for assistance,” said Mudede.
Mudede said allegations by the deputy minister that his office served only 200 people per day were not true.
“The truth is that we handle 400 passport applicants daily.
However, we have a severe shortage of staff of up to 340 people.
With the current passport printing machinery, the department is able to produce 900 passports a day,” he said.
Turning to Home Affairs co-minister Makone, the RG said he was surprised that the minister was investigating her own department while she was fully aware of the challenges it faced.
“If at all there are pressing administrative issues to be addressed, these should be discussed by the Registrar General with the Permanent Secretary and the co-Ministers for Home Affairs instead of managing the situation through the press,” he said.
Mudede said the emergency passport fees attracted extra expenses because of the limited time and interruption of ordinary routine processes, and his office charged $385 for an express one-day passport and $310 for an urgent three-day passport.
He said long, unmanageable queues had been anticipated after the reduction of passport fees.
Makone and Mudzingwa were not available to comment on Mudede’s attacks on them on Friday.