Farirai Machivenyika and Ivan Zhakata
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe yesterday experienced the corruption at the Makombe passport office after he was asked to pay a US$30 bribe to jump the queue.
Minister Kazembe, who has been carrying out impromptu visits to the Registrar General’s offices visited Makombe office where he endured the rot citizens are enduring to obtain passports.
Unfortunately, the bribe recipient Avito Newton (40) ran out of luck after the minister had him arrested.
In an interview, Minister Kazembe said he has been conducting unplanned visits to the births and deaths registration offices at Market Square and the passport office at Makombe Building.
“Today (yesterday), I decided to wake up very early and just dressed up in a way that nobody would recognise me. I wanted to have a first hand experience of what transpires before the officials come to work,” he said.
“I got there and somebody came to me and he offered a place. There were so many who battled for my money so I settled for one then I followed him and he showed where my place was then I paid him US$50 and I wanted some change that is when his life changed. I told him that, look, you have made a big mistake. You are trying to sell a place to a person when you are not supposed to sell a place to anybody.
“Unfortunately for him, there was a police officer nearby then I called him and asked him to take the guy to the police station. I went back and joined the queue again and I observed a number of things that I will discuss with officials just to find ways to improve.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of Newton.
“The ZRP confirms that the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage caused the arrest of Avito Newton (40) at Makombe Building, Harare for criminal activities today (yesterday) at about 0645 hrs. The Minister saw the suspect touting for persons who wanted to be assisted in obtaining passport application forms at a cost of US$30.
“The suspect was given US$50, which he took and started talking to the Honourable Minister on passport acquisition and was subsequently arrested,” he said.
On Wednesday the minister also went to the births and deaths registration office at Market Square in another unannounced visit.
“I went around just to have an appreciation of what challenges people are facing, without people knowing that I am coming,” he said.
Meanwhile the RG’s department this week introduced double shifts in the production of passports as part of measures to clear the backlog that has accumulated since March 2019.
The double shifts began on Monday to clear the backlog that currently stands at 225 747.
The backlog has been accumulating owing to the shortage of consumables which require foreign currency to procure.
Minister Kazembe said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services yesterday.
The day shift starts at 8am to 4pm while the evening shift starts at 8pm to 4am.
“The strategy is aimed at clearing the passport backlog with the introduction of the double shift working programme. My Ministry will be in a position to produce between 4 000 and 4 500 passports a day.
“The expected daily output for the day shift will be between 2 000 and 2 500 whilst the expected output for the night shift will be 2 000,” Minister Kazembe said.
He added that Treasury had made a commitment to avail funds for the procurement of additional equipment to complement the existing machinery.
Procurement of additional equipment and consumables would increase the production capacity from 4 500 to 9 000 thereby reducing the turnaround time for the clearance of the backlog.
Minister Kazembe said the measures would result in the RG’s department being able to meet the current demand for passports while ensuring that the backlog did not recur.
The department is currently issuing passports for Zimbabweans staying abroad and locals in emergency situations.