Mukudzei Chingwere and Ivan Zhakata
There is a spike in demand for passports driven mainly by nationals living outside the country but home for Christmas with their families, plus those who find it impossible to take a few hours off work to apply.
However, the Civil Registry Department is coping by working Saturdays, putting in extended hours and deploying more staff.
In an interview yesterday, Registrar General Mr Henry Machiri said his office had expected the annual spike in demand and had put in place measures to deal with it.
Mr Machiri also cleared the misconception regarding old passports following the roll-out of e-passports now in full swing. The ordinary passports are valid up to the date of their expiry set out in the document, contrary to the misconception that they would no longer be valid after December next year.
The department has scored marked improvement in the issuance of passports and said they will not let go the successes they have recorded by building up a backlog which inconveniences people.
“Increased passports demand did not take us by surprise. It is something we expected which usually happens at the end of the year. We knew it was coming and we are thus prepared,” said Mr Machiri.
“We have compatriots who reside out of the country and when they come here for holidays they will want to renew their documents. We also have those who are based here, particularly those working in industries who usually do not have time to apply for these passports when they are at work, and so they will do so during the holidays.
“As a department, we are prepared for this upsurge in demand. Our busiest offices, Bulawayo and Harare, are working from 7am to 7pm and they will be open on Saturdays to clear the huge numbers of those who want to apply for their documents.
“We have also deployed more manpower on the ground to ensure that we are adequately staffed and our citizens should not panic at all,” said Mr Machiri.
“The old passports are still valid and will expire 10 years after the date of issue.”
In a statement earlier yesterday, the department said the new measures to increase more working hours were meant to assist all persons applying for e-passports and the extension will be in place until the demand is under control.
“This window has been specifically opened for the convenience of clients applying for the e-passport only. All other vital civil registration documents will continue to be issued during normal weekday operating times.
“As the department continues to devise strategies to enhance service delivery, we anticipate that these extended operating hours will tremendously facilitate efficient e-passport services in response to the high demand for the service. The department therefore, urges citizens to take advantage of the extended operating hours to apply for their passports.”
The Civil Registry Department is also issuing e-passports at a growing number of district offices now as a way of decongesting the metropolitan, as well as bringing services closer to the people as prescribed by President Mnangagwa.
Centres issuing e-passports include Beitbridge District Registry, Hwange District Registry, Lupane Provincial Registry, Gweru Provincial Registry, Chitungwiza District Registry, Murewa District Registry, Marondera Provincial Registry, and the Chinhoyi Provincial Registry.