Temba Dube, Deputy News Editor
Government has introduced night shifts for round-the-clock production of passports to clear a backlog that has resulted in people having to sleep at registry offices.
It has also emerged that there are challenges in production of plastic national identity cards, due to a shortage of consumables.
Government is, therefore, giving priority to high school pupils who need the IDs to sit for public examinations and people with selected emergencies while the rest of applicants are getting “green copy” waiting passes.
Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services that double shifts that will work five days a week have been established to clear a backlog of 225 747, dating back to March 2019.
Under the new arrangement that was introduced on Monday, the country will be producing up to 4 500 passports daily while Treasury is set to procure machinery to double the output to 9 000.
So desperate were people to get travelling documents that last month hundreds of people thronged the Bulawayo Passport Office after being misled by social media reports that travel documents applied for by the end of February 2020 were ready for collection.
The correct position that was published in the Chronicle was that passports that were applied for by the end of February 2019 were ready.
Explaining how the double shifts would work, Minister Kazembe said: “. . .introduction of Double Shift Working Programme with effect from 26 April 2021.
The programme consists of the day and night shift. The night shift operates from 8pm to 4am whilst the day shift operates from 8am to 4pm. “The two shifts will be working five days a week excluding weekends. 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.”
He said treasury had committed to availing funds to buy consumables and augment existing machinery to ensure continuous and improved production.
“Procurement of additional equipment and consumables will increase the production capacity from 4 500 to 9 000 thereby reducing the turn-around time for the clearance of the backlog. These measures will see the Ministry being able to meet the current demand for passports while ensuring that the backlog does not occur,” said Minister Kazembe.
He did not give a time frame on when the backlog would be cleared.
On plastic IDs, he said his ministry will conduct a national mobile registration exercise once all logistics are in place to attend to backlogs.
“Coming to the issue of national identity documents, my ministry is faced with a challenge in the issuance of polythene-synthetic identity documents.
“This has resulted from shortage of consumables and non-payment of licences and dongles which require foreign currency. Some registry offices have since stopped issuance of polythene-synthetic IDs and have resorted to issuance of green copy waiting pass,” said the Minister.
Minister Kazembe said all registry services are now operational, albeit under strict Covid-19 regulations.