ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa who need to apply or renew their passports are struggling to access the online application portal to process their applications.
The online application system is facilitated by the Zimbabwean consulate in South Africa, where applicants book appointment slots so they can go collect passport forms which they then submit at the Registrar-General’s Offices in Zimbabwe.
The bookings are only done on Wednesdays at 4pm, but only a few have managed to access the online portal as the system “always” says it is “fully booked”.
After booking, the forms are then submitted in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean Community in South Africa chairman Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena fears that if the South African government makes a call to renew work permits, some will be caught flat-footed as they do not have passports.
The Zimbabwean consulate has specified it can only serve a limited number, and the problem is the portal always which seems to be fully booked.
About 150 people are served per time. When the system is opened for bookings, it is already full.
Failure to access passport forms is a challenge, as Zimbabweans need the document to apply or renew their South African permits.
Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, has confirmed that the Zimbabwean consulate is aware of the challenges faced by applicants, but could not accommodate people physically due to COVID-19 restrictive measures.
He says the book 55 clients per hour, which translates to 275 clients per day.
He says the service is provided from Monday to Friday and they are aware that the platform fills up within a very short space of time.
Hamadziripi says there is a significant backlog of nationals who wished to apply for passports, but it was a consequence of the lockdown restrictive measures that were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says the consulate wishes and desires to clear the backlog in the shortest time possible.
The Registrar-General’s Offices in Zimbabwe remained closed for the greater part of 2020 during the COVID-19-induced lockdown period, but opened briefly towards the end of the year with priority given to those working outside the country.
This was short-lived as Zimbabwe was placed on another lockdown on January 5 this year, which was continuously extended.
Government has also increased passport fees, which saw an ordinary passport increased to US$60, a three-day passport — US$200 or the equivalent in the local Zimdollar with an emergency 24-hour passport remaining at US$318. Centre for Innovation and Technology