BY SHELTON MASINA
Allegations of corruption and bribery have resurfaced at some of the country’s registry offices with clients, especially those intending to collect their passports being forced to pay bribes to get travel documents in time.
This emerged during a survey done by the Southern Eye in Bulawayo at the registry offices where clients revealed that officials were demanding bribes for them to be assisted.
Indications were that Registrar-General officials would receive cash from desperate clients intending to collect passports in order for the process to be quickened.
“I came here last week to collect my son’s passport but the officers were dilly-dallying,” said a concerned client, who only identified herself as Judith.
“I asked one of the officials to be fast since I was in a hurry.
“He demanded R200 from me so that it is done without delay. I did likewise because I had no choice.”
Another client Calister Jana said he bribed one of the officials in order to collect her passport.
“I collected my passport two weeks ago. I bribed one of the passport officials with R100 in order for me to collect the passport without any delay,” said Jana.
It is alleged that the officials delay the process of passport collection in order to frustrate clients so that they pay bribes.
“The process of passport collection is time consuming and they put the blame on COVID-19 but their intention is mainly to get bribes from us,” a client, who only identified himself as Xolani, said.
Last month, touts had resumed operating outside Bulawayo Passport Offices and claim to be working with registry officials to facilitate the processing of passports.
The Registrar-General’s office partially opened in November after it was closed in March due to COVID-19 lockdown.
The office limits the number of clients served per day to about 25-30 to adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures.
It is alleged that touts join the queue in the wee hours of the morning in order to sell their positions to desperate applicants at R150 each.
“I came here around 5am and many people were in the queue.
“Around 7am, one of the touts came to me and said he was selling his spot in the front for R150,” said one Nobuhle.
Bulawayo provincial registrar, Jane Peters declined to entertain questions.
“The journalist must carry on with his investigation,” said Peters through her personal assistant.
During his recent visit to Bulawayo, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe said the registry office had taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the passport backlog.