Can Govt Be Trusted With Its Promise To Open UK, SA Passport Printing?
31 March 2024
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By Dorrothy Moyo | Zimbabwe’s government has once again announced the imminent launch of an e-passport printing centre, this time in Johannesburg, set to begin services next month for Zimbabweans residing in South Africa. This announcement, made through The Sunday Mail, marks yet another chapter in a series of government promises aimed at improving access to essential civic documents for its citizens, both at home and abroad. However, a closer look at the historical context of these announcements reveals a pattern of delays and unfulfilled promises dating back to 2016, casting a shadow of skepticism over the current projections.

Ambassador David Hamadziripi’s statements regarding the completion of the Johannesburg centre and the final stages of staff training suggest readiness. “The e-passport processing centre in Johannesburg is complete and ready to operate,” Hamadziripi confirmed, emphasizing the facility’s capacity to process significant numbers of passports efficiently. Yet, similar assurances have been given in the past, raising questions about the viability of these timelines.

The plan to decentralize passport services, including opening additional centres like the one proposed in Gokwe South and extending services to Zimbabweans in the diaspora through offices in the United Kingdom and the United States, echoes long-standing governmental intentions to enhance service delivery. Registrar-General Mr. Henry Machiri’s remarks about working on the “final stages” of the Johannesburg centre do little to dispel concerns, given the history of such announcements.

This pattern of repeated promises, with reference to the deployment of e-passport services and the opening of overseas centres since as far back as 2016, has led to a growing perception among observers that these initiatives might be more aspirational than actionable. The statement from the Zimbabwe consulate in Johannesburg, indicating that the rollout of the e-passport system is at an “advanced stage,” is met with a degree of skepticism by those familiar with the saga’s history.

The announcement, while representing a potentially significant leap forward in the government’s efforts to modernize and streamline the process of obtaining passports, particularly for the diaspora, raises valid concerns about the feasibility of its implementation. The repeated delays and the cycle of renewed promises without substantial progress have understandably tempered the enthusiasm of Zimbabweans, both within the country and abroad.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube’s mention of funds allocated for upgrading the country’s embassies as part of the 2024 National Budget offers some hope. Still, it does not fully assuage doubts borne out of years of waiting for these services to materialize.

As Zimbabwe once again stands on the precipice of what could be a major advancement in public service delivery, the question remains: will this announcement transcend the cycle of unfulfilled promises? Or will it become another footnote in the ongoing challenge of accessing essential civic documents for Zimbabweans worldwide? Only time will tell if the government’s latest promises will finally be realized, breaking a pattern of wishful announcements that have yet to come to fruition.