Bulawayo proportional representation Member of Parliament (MP), Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, has demanded swift action from the government on the renewal of expired passports for Zimbabweans working in the diaspora to avoid jeopardising both their jobs and work permits.
The government, which has been battling to clear passport backlog dating back to February 2019, recently announced new passport fees in foreign currency and promised to move with speed in clearing the backlog. A passport now costs US$60, US$200 and US$318 for an ordinary, three-day and 24 hour travel document
Speaking in Parliament Tuesday on a matter of national interest Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the authorities did not seem to be treating the issue of passports as a matter of urgency.
"I want to move a motion on a matter of privilege on national interest," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
"Mr Speaker Sir, we have noted in the last few weeks that the Passport Office is unable to deal with issues around the issuance of passports. What is more concerning Mr Speaker is the fact that as I speak to you right now, there are people particularly, coming from the diaspora, South Africa in specific terms who have permits and are supposed to be going back to work."
She said despite the government having indicated that Zimbabweans domiciled outside the country would be given priority and having pegged emergency passport fee at US$318 per travel document they were still not accessing those passports.
"Some would go and do the applications in Bulawayo but they are being asked to come to Harare and they are being moved from pillar to post," decried the legislator.
"We had a situation in the last two days where many of them were arrested for breaking the curfew because many of them have to sleep at the Passport Office. I will therefore request through you Mr. Speaker Sir, that we have the Minister of Home Affairs coming to the House as a matter of urgency to issue a ministerial statement and indicate to us what they are doing around these issues of passports because it is not sustainable."
Misihairabwi-Mushonga added: "We cannot have people being treated in the manner that people are being treated at the passport office."
In his response, National Assembly Speaker, Jacob Mudenda said: "I suggest you ask a question tomorrow (Wednesday). It will be faster that way. A ministerial statement may take another two weeks."
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology