A nationwide campaign to issue primary identity and registration documents will be launched next year, coinciding with the voter registration blitz ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections, President Mnangagwa said yesterday during the launch of the new secure electronic passport at Chiwashira Building in Harare.
The e-passport was launched after Government entered into a partnership with a Lithuanian company, Garsu Pasaulis, on a build, own, operate and transfer basis to produce the new passports that meet modern international standards that will allow Zimbabweans to travel without additional complications.
The switchover will also eliminate the large backlog of applications built up during the lockdowns.
The partnership will also see the company refurbish provincial and district registry offices and provide material to produce national identity cards. In addition, an online passport application system will be introduced, to allow applications and payment for the documents online.
An electronic passport or e-passport contains an electronic chip. The chip holds the same information that is printed on the passport's data page: the holder's name, date of birth, and other biographic information. An e-passport also contains a biometric identifier.
All of these features are designed to protect citizens from identity theft because it is difficult and expensive to steal the information stored on the document's encrypted digital record. E-passports also allow for faster passage through transit at your home border post.
The President said the nationwide registration campaign follows the impact of the delays arising from the Covid-19 lockdown.
"In the midst of these achievements, my Government is cognisant of the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the civil registration process. This has not only been the case with Zimbabwe, but the world at large.
"In light of this, a massive national mobile registration exercise will be rolled out commencing the second quarter of 2022 to issue primary documents. This exercise has been timed to coincide with voter registration in readiness for the 2023 harmonised general elections," President Mnangagwa said.
The launch of the e-passport and the state-of-the-art passport enrolment centre, was in line with Government's vision for a modern and digitalised economy.
Strategic investment in key areas of the digital economy was critical for Zimbabwe to keep pace with the dynamic and technological environment.
"The rolling out of the e-passport project, therefore, dovetails with the National Development Strategy-1 objective to modernise the economy through the use of ICTs and digital technology.
"It is also evidence of my Government"s commitment to ensure that every citizen has easy access to vital civil registration and travel documents. I am however, alive to the challenges that our people have been experiencing in trying to acquire travel and other official documents. This has resulted in the accumulation of a huge backlog.
President Mnangagwa said the production of the e-passport heralded the country's entry into the era of smart technology in travel and identification documents and conforms with the dictates of regional and international conventions, protocols and treaties that Zimbabwe is party to, particularly those relating to civil and travel documents.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation Convention requires that member states take measures to ensure the integrity, authenticity and security of travel and identity documents.
The e-passport will be machine readable to eradicate the incidence of counterfeiting.
"Our people are set to benefit immensely with the introduction of the e-passport through the enhanced security standards at our ports of entry and exit.
"The key features of the new e- passport include, among others, an electronic cover with a chip, a security thread fully embedded in the inner booklet pages, as well as unique pages of the passport, each chronicling a story about Zimbabwe's rich cultural heritage and major tourist attractions," said the President.
These enhanced security features, the President said, will go a long way in fighting cross-border organised crimes and illegal migration and maintain the integrity the country's immigration system.
"Once implementation of the biometric system goes full throttle, we will begin to witness increased production of not just e-passports, but also national identity cards, birth certificates, entry visas as well as residence permits," he said.
The era of long queues and corrupt tendencies in the issuance of vital civil registration documents, is indeed coming to an end.
Speaking at the same occasion, Garsu Pasaulis chairman, Mr Emmanuel Cato reaffirmed his company's product quality saying they would execute their mandate with due care, diligence and professionalism.
"We will ultimately solve the current problem of non-issuance of passports. We will enhance access to passports by renovating and modernising all the 10 provincial passport enrolment offices by the end of June 2022.
"We will fully equip all the selected Zimbabwe embassies and start issuing passports from them by December 2022 and we will supply Zimbabwe with the consumables required for them to issue out two million ID cards by December 2022," he said.