Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Registrar General (RG’s) Office has reopened to the public after having scaled down operations when the country recorded a spike in Covid-19 infections.
Covid-19 cases increased towards the end of June resulting in President Mnangagwa imposing a tightened Level Four national lockdown.
At the peak of Covid-19 cases, the registry was mainly issuing burial orders.
Issuance of birth certificates, passports and IDs were suspended during the intensified lockdown as Government had decongested the workplace to 20 percent.
President Mnangagwa on Tuesday reviewed the national lockdown from Level Four to Level Two and among the new measures, business is now operating between 8am and 7pm while the work place operates with 50 percent capacity.
The relaxation of lockdown regulations has seen the Civil Registry Department, commonly known as RG’s Office, increasing its services to the public and has started accepting passport applications, issuing births certificates and IDs.
A Chronicle news crew observed passport seekers yesterday queuing to be attended to at the Passport Office in Bulawayo.
Residents, however, expressed disappointment as only a handful of applicants were being attended to.
The public said officials told them that they were screening and prioritising emergency cases among the documents’ seekers.
“We are told that they started serving the public yesterday but only a few people are being attended to at the moment. I don’t know if it’s true that they are only serving 20 people per day and if we consider the number of applicants who are here, they will take months to attend to all of us. We have been waiting for the Passport Office to reopen but this is seriously underwhelming for us. Government should consider increasing the number of people being attended per day,” said a resident who identified herself as Mrs Nkomo.
In an interview, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Deputy Minister Ruth Maboyi said the reopening of the RG’s Office to the public is in line with the reviewed lockdown measures.
“The RG’s Office had reduced its operations owing to the increase in Covid-19 cases. But since the cases have decreased it has reopened and we expect it to attend to as many people as possible and attend to their national documentation issues,” said Deputy Minister Maboyi.
She said the RG’s Office would gradually increase its services to the public and attend to existing backlogs.
A comment could not be immediately obtained from the acting Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri as his cellphone rang unanswered.
Mr Machiri is on record having said that Covid-19 has created a national documents backlog.
Cabinet on Tuesday said the RG’s Office is expected to conduct a mobile national documentation exercise targeting the San community in Tsholotsho on Monday.
Briefing a post-Cabinet media briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the registration of 3 000 members of the San community would be conducted without hassles.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe recently told Chronicle that digital transformation of the Civil Registry Department would be completed by the end of December and will contribute to improved access of national documents.
Government partnered with a private partner to transform the registry into a modern department and would create a national biometric database for citizens and production of e-passports.
The deal is expected to enable diaspora-based citizens to acquire national documents including passports from where they are.
At the moment, members of the public are struggling to obtain documentation with long winding queues being the order of the day, especially in major cities.
Recently, the RG’s Office had to call off a national identity registration exercise targeting Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council Ordinary Level candidates after its offices were thronged by hundreds of ID seekers.
The country is battling to clear a passport backlog of 225 747 with some passports applied for as far back as March 2019. — @nqotshili.