REGISTRAR-General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede has said South Africa should consider accepting Zimbabwe’s machine-readable biometric identity cards as travel documents alongside passports following the banning of Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs).
Mudede told Parliamentarians visiting Makombe Building in Harare yesterday that the security features on the Zimbabwean ID cards made up of polythene and synthetic material were better than passports.
He said these could be used alongside passports as travel documents because they were machine-readable at the highly computerised ports of entry.
“We can negotiate with the South African government to have our IDs replace ETDS; they actually have similar features with our passports,” Mudede said.
He was addressing members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development chaired Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi West Biatar Nyamupinga before the committee’s tour of the RG’s Offices.
The demand for passports in the country has been high since the turn of the century as people sought travel documents to run away from a rising economic meltdown.
More than two million Zimbabweans are believed to be living in South Africa either legally or illegally.
South Africa banned the use of ETDs by Zimbabwean travellers ahead of the soccer World Cup staged in June 2010 to control the influx of people.
Mudede said the demand for passports would remain very high due to the economic situation in the country. He said the country was still grappling with Western-imposed sanctions. He said the long queues experienced at the passport office were a result of people renewing their documents including those coming back home who were in desperate need of passports in order to regularise their stay in foreign countries.
He said his office was now processing ID cards for foreigners staying in the country for six months so that they would be in the registry’s database for easy monitoring. “Anyone who comes as a foreigner and is here for six months, we give them an ID card. We need to identify them if they commit crimes. The ID card will have expiry dates,” Mudede said.
The RG said his office was also issuing out high-security feature citizenship cards to foreigners staying in the country to avoid a situation where people would cheat the system.
Nyamupinga, however, expressed concern over the long queues at the Passport Offices. She suggested that the Registrar-General’s Office set up separate queues between men and women to avoid cases where women fall prey to sexual abuse.
Nyamupinga also asked what the Registrar-General’s Office was doing to control the ever-increasing number of touts who preyed on innocent passport seekers.
Mudede, however, said queues were unavoidable; the concern should be on how to manage them.
He said the issue of touts was proving difficult to deal with as his security personnel apprehend them, handed them over to the police and within a day, they would be back after paying “lenient” fines.