Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage says the Registrar-General’s office will not renew expired passports that still have blank pages as it was against the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.
This comes following concerns from the public over the continued delays in the processing of passports in the country. The Registrar-General’s office has reported that the passport backlog has now surpassed 370 000.
Most people who are applying for new passports say they have old passports with many blank pages, resulting in calls for the Government to consider extending the lifespan of such documents.
However, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema told Sunday News in an interview that the Government will not consider extending the lifespan of expired passports.
“All passports in the world belong to IATA, no passport belongs to any country, we work according to the rules and laws of that organisation. So, if you have a passport that was not used and has expired, in any case why would one have a passport that they are not using, you cannot use it again. You apply for a new one,” he said.
Minister Mathema said Zimbabwe is part of the international community and passports are part of the international community where rules are standard.
“People who do not use their passports until they have expired are simply showing us that they do not need the passports. You cannot apply for a passport and not use it for years and it expires and you expect my office to grant you the permission to use an expired passport because it still has a lot of blank pages, it does not work. If a passport has expired that’s it, it does not matter how many blank pages it has, it will not work and that is the rule in countries all over the world. We cannot change the international laws because we have a challenge in Zimbabwe of passports.”
He said the situation concerning access to passports was not yet desperate and efforts were being made to ensure that people have travel documents. Minister Mathema said people should be patient as Government has not failed to issue passports but the process was being hindered by the shortage of foreign currency to procure booklets and paper to print the documents.
He encouraged members of the public to continue applying for passports despite the challenges which he said would be rectified as a matter of time. He said it was a Constitutional right to access the vital documents that enable people to travel outside the country. The Registrar-Generals office says it is able to process 750 urgent passports per day.
The country also stopped issuing Emergency Travel Documents more than four years ago after most countries in the region turned them down.