Lawyers group confronts Kazembe over passport decree

By Nkosana Dlamini

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have written to Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe declaring his move to decree a two-year expiry date for the current generation of passports in place of an electronic document was unlawful.

The prominent lawyers group went on to give the top government official 48 hours to give a legal justification on the unpopular move and to furnish reasons why the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) was designated as the sole administrator of the new e-passport application fees.

Kazembe, as minister, gazetted Statutory Instrument Statutory Instrument (SI) 273 of 2021 which gave legal effect to the introduction of an e-passport in the country and the scrapping of the normal one that has been in use for decades.

Under the SI, locals shall pay US$100 application fee and an additional US$20 administration fee through CBZ.

The move has ignited a public outcry especially among those who recently acquired the document after partying with amounts as high as US$318.

The choice of CBZ has also raised a lot of dust amid claims this was a move to further enrich Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a controversial business tycoon and top ally to President Emmerson Mnangagwa with has over 30 percent stake in bank.

In a new twist to the development, ZLHR has thrown down the gauntlet, telling Kazembe to come clean on his controversial decision or face legal action.

Said the lawyers group in a tweet Thursday, “We have written a letter to Home Affairs&Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe telling him that his decision to make the current passport non-operational & non-functional by 31 December 2023 is grossly unreasonable as many citizens had obtained or renewed their current passports & had parted with hefty sums of money in paying the prescribed passport fees.

“We told him that it is grossly unreasonable & unfair to impose an obligation on current passport holders to apply for an e-passport by December 2023 even when their current passports still have many years running before their expiration date.

“We said this is a violation of the right to administrative conduct which is substantially fair & reasonable & hence is a breach of Section 68 of the Constitution. We also asked Hon. Kazembe to furnish us with the procedures & criterion used to designate CBZ Bank as the entity to be processing e-passports.

“We stated that in terms of Section 35(3) of the Constitution, it is the State’s primary obligation to provide citizens with passports & other identity documents. Govt announced that CBZ Bank will be tasked with the processing of all passport applications at an additional cost of US$20.

“We requested this information in the interest of public accountability & transparency. We gave Hon. Kazembe a 48 –hour ultimatum to respond to the issues of concern which we raised in our letter.”

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