At this point we are used to being promised things that are not yet ready. The world over, everyone from governments to your local cobbler are guilty of premature promises. I can’t count how many times I have bought stuff only to be told it’s not yet ready after paying.
The Zimbabwe government has made its fair share of premature promises. We cannot know the actual intentions they have so we will call the promises premature and not false for now. This applies even more to the issue of e-passports.
When the Zimbabwean govt announced that we would have e-passports there was general euphoria, albeit cautiously. We are all pleased to see that indeed, e-passports are now acceptable as official documents at all ports of entry. It’s good to see but it’s not impressive as the work to achieve that was mostly sending specimens to border personnel.
It is the other announcement that they made last year that has frustrated citizens and caused confusion. At launch, 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.Min of Home Affairs
That was not the case on the ground. Citizens have only been able to apply for the e-passports physically in Harare. The perfect opposite of what was promised by the Home Affairs ministry. As we covered earlier, scammers saw this and started tricking Zimbabweans into believing that their bogus sites were the official e-passport online portal.
Provincial capitals to process e-passport applications soon
The govt has assured us that we will be able to apply for the e-passport at more locations within Zimbabwe. Bulawayo will soon be able to process the applications. I know, we keep being told ‘soon’ but this time the Home Affairs minister has given a date.
…we are already in Bulawayo and we should start next week and from there, we are going to Gwanda and then Lupane, Marondera, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and the rest of the country.Min Kazembe
He said this yesterday, in Dubai, so we should expect Bulawayo to process e-passports from the 21st of March.
The online system is 80% complete
The platform that was supposed to be the sole platform for e-passport applications is now close to completion. Said the minister,
The development of the online system is now 80% complete and GP said by the end of April, but I want to say in May, we should have this system up and running and people can apply online.Min Kazembe
The government has “already identified 15 embassies where the online services will be deployed.” South Africa will naturally be first and the minister said the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) will be second.
This should be all the proof people need that the website promising to handle your applications is bogus. One, the service is not yet ready and when it becomes ready, select embassies will be able to handle online applications.
On the same day that Minister Kazembe shared the information above in Dubai, an Express Passport Issuing Office was opened at the Registrar General’s office in Harare. This office will handle the upcoming online applications. It is through this office that the whole process of applying and collecting passports will be able to be done in just 48 hours.
Applicants will not need to visit the passport offices to use the online system and so it should lead to less congestion at the offices.
That’s all well and good but remember the minister said that the online system is not yet ready. The Express Passport Issuing Office may have opened but the actual online portal that we will be able to use to apply is not yet in place. Unless the Minister is mistaken and the registrar has forgotten to share the links to the portal.
For now, it appears as if only centres, i.e passport offices or embassies where “online services will be deployed” will be able to handle online applications. For Diasporans in countries where the embassies won’t get the ‘online services’ deployed, they will have to physically visit the centres to apply like always. I don’t get it but it is what it is.