BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) yesterday challenged a move by the government to award CBZ Holdings a monopoly to collect application fees for the e-passport.
The lawyers also challenged Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe’s decision to phase out current passports by December 31, 2023 arguing that he did not have Constitutional powers to make the declaration.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the e-passport on Tuesday where he announced that CBZ Bank will collect the US$20 passport application fees.
On the same day, Kazembe gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI) 273 of 2021 introducing the e-passport and announced that old passports will be unacceptable after December 31, 2023.
But the ZLHR in a letter to Kazembe gave the minister a 48-hour ultimatum to furnish them with the procedures and criterion used to select CBZ Holdings to receive and process passport application fees.
“Further, we note that in terms of Section 35(3) of the Constitution, it is the State’s primary obligation to provide citizens with passports and other identity documents,” the lawyers said.
“In terms of the aforesaid regulations, we note that CBZ bank is charged with the processing of all applications at an additional cost of a US$20 fee. In the interest of public accountability and transparency, we kindly request to be provided with the procedures and criterion used to designate CBZ bank as the entity to be processing e-passports.”
Businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei reportedly owns a 30% stake in CBZ Holdings.
ZLHR argued that Kazembe’s decision to phase out current passports was grossly unreasonable, unfair to passport holders and in violation of the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act.
“The enabling Act of Parliament being the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act does not give you the powers to promulgate regulations regulating the issuance, phasing out of passports and the stipulation of passports fees,” the lawyers said.
“The enabling Act gives power to the Minister of Home Affairs to promulgate regulations dealing solely with citizenship and matters in relation to which you may regulate in terms of the Act are specified in Section 22 of the Act and you are empowered to promulgate regulations dealing with the issuance of passports. Consequently, it is our respectful view that by promulgating the Citizenship (passport fees) regulations you acted ultra vires the powers conferred on yourself by the Citizen of Zimbabwe Act.”
But presidential spokesperson George Charamba scoffed at the lawyers’ challenge and insisted that there was no going back on e-passports.
“E-passports: Even when the rail was introduced, those who made a living from bullock-drawn carts thought the world had ended,”Charamba posted on Twitter.
“Today, who remembers they used to rely on manyurusi (horses) for conveyancing??? Muchajairira henyu (you will get used to it); e-passport will not vanish because you have sweared. Or impotently shaken a fist in your own face! You wanna play, you gotta pay!”
Ordinary passports will cost US$100 and emergency passport US$200. The country is battling a passport backlog.
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