NYANGA — Zimbabwean foreign missions have reportedly been fingered in a suspected passport scam involving tourists intending to travel to the country.
Although details on the scam are still sketchy, the hotel industry has taken the issue with government amid reports visitors to Zimbabwe could have lost their travel documents to unscrupulous embassy officials.
As a result, government is set to launch a probe into the reported disappearance of passports of tourists who had applied for visas, but lost their documents.
The development follows concerns by the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) at the just-ended congress in Nyanga that some prospective visitors to the country had lost passports under mysterious circumstances.
Kingdom Hotel general manager Derrick Kung said prospective visitors were also complaining of late release of their passports, adding in some cases it took as long as six weeks before they got their travel documents back.
“We have been informed by our clients that some of them had not received their passports back after applying to get a visa to Zimbabwe and as such had to reapply for new passports in their countries,” said Kung.
Chief Immigration officer Senior Assistant Commissioner Clemence Masango said: “I have taken note and I will raise the issue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an investigation to find out if that happened and take corrective measures.
“We are not represented in every country and that situation is nor peculiar to Zimbabwe. We have begun in our way to open new consulates.
“We have opened in Shanghai and Hong Kong to complement the Beijing office, and South Korea to complement our mission in Tokyo, Japan.”
Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president Tendai Madzivanyika added: “We have heard this, and it is happening.”
In a related development, the hospitality sector has called on government to reconsider the categorisation of countries that required visa to get into the country.
Kung said there was a need to reclassify emerging nations like China, Brazil and Russia from being Category C countries to make it easy for their citizens to visit the country.
Visitors from Category C countries have to acquire a visa before leaving their countries, while visitors from Category B acquire a visa at the point of entry. Countries under Category A do not require a visa to enter the country.
“It’s beyond the department and it is supposed to function on reciprocal terms. We have made offers to such countries, but China refused,” said Masango.
Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi said: “We as a country have to get out of the reciprocity model as we are the ones who want the clients.”