Zimbabweans based in South Africa have appealed to government to reduce the passport processing fees saying they could not afford the current costs since their income has been negatively affected by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, said they had not been spared the COVID-19 economic hardships and hence the request for downward review of passport fees.
Zimbabweans based abroad are expected to pay US$318 for new passports. “We call on the government to reduce the passport fee in solidarity with the working people who are under global lockdown following the outbreak of coronavirus,” the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesperson, Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi said.
“A caring government will reduce the passport fees by at least 50% and still recoup passport production costs.”
The Registrar-General’s office says it is failing to clear a backlog of 300 000 applications due to foreign currency shortages to import consumables such as ink, films, ribbon and passport paper.
They also want the embassy in that country to be fully equipped to process passport applications, rather than the current situation where they have to return to Zimbabwe to hand in the application forms.
Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesperson, Bongani Mazwi, was quoted by the Herald newspaper on Thursday as saying that the organization had since engaged Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa over the matter.
“We call on the government to reduce the passport fees in solidarity with the working people who are under global lockdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mazwi said.
He said the government could cut the passport fee by 50 percent and still recoup production costs.
The request by Zimbabweans in South Africa comes after the Zimbabwe government announced that its diplomatic mission in South Africa had introduced a gradual resumption of consular services to facilitate the repatriation of those in need of returning home.
This follows the recent relaxation of lockdown measures by the South African government.
The Zimbabwean government last year introduced a policy to charge citizens living in the Diaspora in U.S. dollars for production of passports, as a way to help it raise foreign currency to import consumables required in production of passports.
It pegged the fee at $318 US dollars.
Most Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora have had their income streams affected by the pandemic, with students in particular, being the most affected.
This has resulted in many students opting to come back home, with government in some cases assisting with their repatriation.
“It has become painfully clear that one must fork out this huge amount to get a passport processed, otherwise they will wait months for a passport to be issued. Many have reported that they were told to top-up as long as their passports hold a work permit,” Mkwananzi said as he lamented the slow pace it takes the RG’s office to process passports.
Government in March this year gazetted Statutory Instrument 61 of 2020 to enable applicants to pay passport fees in foreign currency