BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
GOVERNMENT yesterday awarded businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s CBZ Holdings the monopoly to collect passport fees for the newly-introduced electronic passport (e-passport), which will be pegged in foreign currency.
Tagwirei, who also got a lucrative contract to fund the Command Agriculture Programme in 2016 through his Sakunda Holdings, reportedly owns over 30% stake in the country’s largest financial institution.
The new e-passport was launched yesterday by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at Chiwashira Building in Harare and will attract passport application fees of US$20 that will be processed at CBZ Bank.
Government also gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI) 273 of 2021, to introduce the e-passport.
It will be produced in partnership with a Lithunian printing company, Garsu Pasaulis (GP).
The passports currently in use will stop being on December 31, 2023 despite a statement by the Home Affairs ministry on Monday that the old passports would be valid until they expire, which could be before, or after the date.
An ordinary passport will now cost US$100, while an emergency passport will cost US$200.
“The minister hereby notifies that henceforth, the government cease the issuance of the current type of passport and in place thereof will be issuing electronically readable passports (e-passports), whose charges are specified in the schedule. The current type of passports, issued before the date of operation of these regulations, will cease to be acceptable internationally by December 31, 2023 and will, therefore, need to be replaced by e-passports in terms of these regulations,” Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe said at the launch of the e-passport.
The main opposition MDC Alliance immediately accused government of handpicking CBZ as the sole bank authorised to process e-passport application fees.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said: “The MDC Alliance is extremely concerned at the latest move by Mr Mnangagwa’s regime to introduce a new e-passport in a manner that does not comply with the principles of administrative justice established in section 68 of the Constitution.
“We have consistently challenged the regime’s penchant for dodgy deals, and the failure to comply with due process and transparent tender regimes in the award of public contracts including this very passport production one.”
She said the fact that CBZ, associated with the regime, had been awarded a monopoly to collect passport application fees was unfair, adding that there were inconsistences in government statements on the expiry of old passports.
Speaking during the launch of the e-passport, Mnangagwa said the new system would enable production of 30 000 passports per day, starting next year.
He said the government-GP partnership would also produce national identity cards, birth certificates and other security documents.
“Although we have a huge backlog, we have put up infrastructure to clear it. Processes with an online interface system will be decentralised to the provinces and foreign missions abroad,” Mnangagwa said.
“A massive national registration mobile exercise will be done next year to ensure citizens have documents before the next general elections.”
The country has been facing shortages of passports and identity card document consumables, and has a huge backlog of more than 400 000 passports dating as far back as 2018 due to shortages of foreign currency to import the required
Last year the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs toured the passport offices in Harare and heard that the department was receiving about 2 000 applications for passports daily, but was only able to produce about 400 per day.