When the Zimbabwean government introduced e-passports at the end of 2021, it was met with both fanfare and outcry. The govt listened to its citizens and backtracked on one of the contentious announcements:
- Old passports will be valid until their expiry dates, not December 2023 as originally proposed.
The rollout of equipment and the relevant training of Central Registry staff is ongoing and so some of the promises made are not yet in place. For example, the Ministry of Home Affairs said,
In line with the COVID-19 restrictions and your convenience, issuance of biometric or e-passports is only done online. Anyone can apply for a biometric passport whether your passport has expired or you have it or you have applied before as long as you are a Zimbabwean citizen.
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This online registration is still not possible. To this day, one can only physically apply for the new e-passport in Harare at the New Civil Registry Office. Those outside the capital have to make the journey and those abroad have to seek locally based relatives’ help but can only get the old passport.
The govt is still issuing old passports and they will be valid until their expiry dates. So, if one cannot make the Harare journey, they can apply for the old passport. At the embassy for Diasporans and at local passport offices for non-Hararians in Zimbabwe.
Minister Kazembe promised that the govt is working to decentralise e-passport processing:
The Bulawayo Registrar-General’s Office is already being equipped with systems capable of processing e-passport applications.
As you are aware we have a partner we have contracted to issue the e-passport, we want to expedite the process so that everyone is not left behind.Minister Kazembe Kazembe
Scammers saw an opportunity
Work on the online facility is ongoing and there is no timeline on when that might be ready. This situation has given ideas to some scammers:
- The govt said we could apply online
- The online facility is not yet ready
- A significant number of people don’t know this
- Most people won’t know that zim.gov.zw is the Official Portal of the Government of Zimbabwe which is meant to provide a single window access to the information and services being provided by the Government of Zimbabwe for citizens and other stakeholders
Scammers are creating their own websites and claiming to be the actual Central Registry platform for e-passport applications. One of our readers tipped us to one such website: zimpassports.online (Note you can send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Zimbabwean govt is not affiliated with this website or any other website claiming to offer e-passport applications. Remember that the govt will most likely utilise the zim.gov.zw portal for e-passport applications processing.
We got in touch with zimpassports.online and can confirm they are a scam or at the very least are misrepresenting their relationship with the Central Registry. Said zimpassports.online,
This is a Central Government website in-tender with the Registrar’s Officezimpassports
This is not true. It is not a ‘central government website.’ They are mostly targeting Zimbabweans in the diaspora, pretending to be the central registry and offering to ‘ease the e-passport application process.’ As a result they will accept payment via instant EFT, PayPal, Mukuru, EcoCash Remit, Western Union, Skrill Moneybrokers and bitcoin.
Wouldn’t that be the day. The Zim govt accepting bitcoin? That right there should be a red flag to all who would use the service. We pressed on this and they said,
please understand that, Zimbabwe has got to many limitations when it comes to international trading, due to the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.zimpassports
So, they are using the sanctions angle to sell people on the idea that the Zim govt is now accepting bitcoin. We expressed surprise that the anti-crypto govt would have national bitcoin wallets for this process. They replied,
I actually admire your sense of curiosity, Bitcoin is a very sensitive topic and more especially when it comes to the Government, its unimaginable.
In contrast to all that, btc is actually the most hassle free with respect to the sanctions.
The BTC is to be sent to the Central Government’s Wallet. Due to sanctions our government is not allowed to access other financial institutions internationallyzimpassports
This is all nonsense. There is no Central Government Bitcoin Wallet in Zimbabwe.
Not just zimpassports.online
Zimpassports.online’s beautifully designed and official looking website has convinced some that they are the real deal. The colour scheme and fonts are not too far off from official Zim govt websites’. The coat of arms was a nice touch, putting a neat bow on the imposter.
There are other ‘companies’ offering non-resident Zimbabweans e-passport services. There are several such on Facebook promising that “You can Now Apply For an E Passport While you are Abroad.”
The difference between these and zimpassports.online is that these Facebook guys are not claiming to be actual central registry staff. They promise only to submit documents on your behalf. However they are promising what they cannot deliver. They cannot get you an e-passport whilst you’re abroad. So, treat them as scam artists.
We asked the Central Registry staff and were told that there is no facility yet available for those abroad to apply for the new document, so if you are applying for a new travel document it’s the old passport for now.
If you are abroad, go to the Zimbabwean embassy and fill out the forms. Then you send the documents to someone in Zimbabwe to complete the process for you. NOTE that this is for the old passport, but worry not, the old (non-electronic) passport will be valid for a while like we mentioned above.
- You currently cannot get an e-passport from outside Harare (other centres will be ready soon with Bulawayo set to be the second such e-passport processing location)
- If you’re outside Zimbabwe, go to the embassy to renew your old passport
- If you’re in Zimbabwe, make the journey to Harare to apply for the e-passport, otherwise you can apply for the old passport at your local passport office
- Old passports, i.e. the non-electronic ones, will be valid until their expiry dates and not December 2023
- There are scammers online promising to process e-passports applications – don’t believe them
- The official online facility for processing e-passports that was promised is not yet ready
- Find out all there is to know about the new e-passports here: