Blessings Chidakwa and Yeukai Tazira
Passport production has increased from 60 to 1 000 per day following the delivery of essential consumables, including paper, gold foil, passport covers, glue and security threads, and a new printing machine for personalisation.
Production is expected to increase further to at least 3 000 daily as two new personalisation machines are on their way.
Plans are afoot to introduce day and night shifts to clear a 340 000 passport backlog that accumulated since last year.
Government is also this year targeting to produce the first batch of at least 20 000 e-Passports (biometric passport which includes a chip).
Addressing the media yesterday after touring passport production offices at Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema said new applicants will now collect their passports in a period of a month.
“As the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, my ministry is charged with the responsibility, among others, of providing civil registration and travel documents.
“The Department of the Registrar-General is currently facing an increasing backlog of passport applications currently (at) 340 000, dating back to July 2018.
“At the moment, the department has less than 2 000 passport consumables and has for some time now been issuing just 60 passports per day, only to unavoidable urgent cases and avert total shutdown.
“I promised the President and the country that we would soon be producing 3 000 passports per day towards our targeted figure of 8 000 per day, which is equal to our production.
“As of today, we are upping our figure from 60 to 1 000 per day,” he said.
Minister Mathema said the low production of passports had been occasioned mainly by the unavailability of foreign currency to procure the needed consumables including passport paper.
“Also, due to the passage of time and natural wear and tear, some of the passport production machinery now need to be replaced or upgraded.
“The challenges being faced by the central registry relate mainly to our indebtedness to the suppliers as opposed to incapacity or inefficiency to produce same.
“Following the intervention by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, my ministry in conjunction with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has already started addressing this matter,” he said.
The minister also said they have paid US$3 million to clear their US$7 million debt to consumable suppliers.
Minister Mathema said Government was liaising with key suppliers of passport consumables so that the department can buy directly from the suppliers as opposed to going through third parties.
“This development will see the department being able to increase its daily production capacity. The current order of consumables for 50 000 passports was squeezed in by the suppliers on their production line.
“This has cushioned us to start production.
“As more material comes, the department will be able to further increase passport production issuance.
“Members of the public and the country at large will continue to be updated on this development. This week the department received 50 000 identity consumables, 50 000 passport consumables and one passport printer,” he said.
The Registrar’s department currently has 92 000 stocked passports ready for personalisation which were not being personalised prior to the delivery of the required consumables.