Government too broke to print plastic I.D.s and passports

By Tererai Karimakwenda
05 October 2006

The Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede revealed last week that his office does not have enough funds to print passports and identification cards due to a lack of funds. Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us Mudede made the comments on the programme “Behind The Camera” which aired on state television last Wednesday. Muchemwa said the problem is so serious that Zimbabweans who applied for I.D.s or passports in mid 2005 are still waiting for their documents to be issued. And the average waiting time is now 6 months to 3 years.

Mudede said his department does not have enough in its budget and has had to focus its resources on elections. But Muchemwa said this is confusing because the government created the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which has the mandate to compile the voters’ roll and organise all elections. He also wondered whether Mudede’s comments implied that the ZEC fell under his jurisdiction.

The Registrar General’s office used to issue metal I.D. cards made of aluminium. But for over a year the department has had to issue plastic ones similar to bank cards. Muchemwa said the RG is so broke that it is failing to print even these cheap plastic cards, and is now issuing a paper version called a waiting pass.

Zimbabweans are automatically issued an I.D. card when they turn 18 years old. Without the card they cannot apply for a passport and without a passport they cannot travel. Muchemwa said the long waiting periods have made life very difficult for those who need personal identification and travel documents.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news