By Nkosana Dlamini
Former Finance Minister and lawyer Tendai Biti has hinted on a possible court challenge against Statutory Instrument (SI) 273 of 2021 which gave legal effect to the scrapping of the current generation of passports in place of an e-document.
Under the SI gazetted by Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe, citizens will now troop back to the Registrar General’s office to apply for e-passports with the current ones set to automatically expire end of 2023.
Government will now cease the issuance of the current type of passports.
While applying for the e-passport, locals are required to each part with US$100 for an ordinary passport with an emergency one set to cost US$200.
Government decreed payments are to be made through the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) which shall pocket US$20 processing fee from each application.
The choice of CBZ as the administrator of the payments has invited scorn from observers who felt President Emmerson Mnangagwa was trying to further enrich controversial business tycoon and ally Kudakwashe Tagwirei who reportedly owns over 30% stake in the country’s largest financial institution.
However, Biti strongly feels the new arrangement smacked of a ploy to privatise the much sought-after document by the Zanu PF regime.
“The privatization of passport production is yet another chapter in lengthy anthology of crony capitalism under Emmerson. Passport data is a pvt&security issue that can’t be outsourced. Further what criteria has been used to select Tagwireyi as the producer of these passports?” Biti said.
He added, “It’s unprecedented that a regime can decree that all passports will expire on a certain date. The processing of new passports will be a humongous multi billion dollar business. It will also a logistical nightmare. This regime has no boundary, no morality, no limitations, no shame.
“SI 273 of 2021 is blatantly unconstitutional. Kazembe Kazembe has acted outside powers provided to him by the Citizens Act Cap 4:01.
“That SI needs to be challenged in court. Enough of these roving bandits. Enough of a vacuous government driven by greed avarice & aggrandizement.”
Responding to newspaper reports flogging Tagwirei’s shadow in the arrangement, government spokesperson and Information Permanent secretary Nick Mangwana felt there was nothing amiss with CBZ processing the payments.
“So Govt banks with the @CBZHoldings and has done so from time immemorial. It now says those who want to pay for the passport please do so at our bank. But some gutter tabloid screams, ‘ED ALLY CLINCHES PASSPORT DEAL’ for that! Surely, Critical Thinking doesn’t live here anymore,” Mangwana said.