HARARE – Interior Minister Kazembe Kazembe has stepped up his efforts amid immense public pressure, waiving the controversial $20 application fee for Zimbabwe’s new electronic passport.
The fees were to be collected by the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe under an opaque agreement that human rights lawyers say will be challenged in court.
In a legal document published on Friday, Kazembe said it would overturn an earlier decree announcing new fees for the so-called “e-passport”, which the government says has enhanced security features.
Kazembe has eliminated application fees, while the price of new passports remains at $100 for the ordinary passport and $200 for an emergency passport. It is still unclear when the new passports will be issued.
Zimbabwe says the current passport book will be phased out by the end of 2023, forcing the country’s 5.5 million passport holders to apply for the new documents.
Zimbabwean human rights lawyers wrote to Kazembe in December asking “to be provided with the procedures and criteria used to designate CBZ Bank as the entity handling ePassports”.
The bank is suspected of being part-owned by oil tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwireyi, who faces US and UK sanctions for bribing state institutions.
The lawyers also described the decision to let Zimbabwe’s current passport book expire by December 2023 as “grossly unreasonable”. Instead, they suggested that current passports should be allowed to run their course and only then should holders apply for the e-passport.
Zimbabwe has chosen the corruption-linked Belgian company Semlex, through its Lithuanian-registered subsidiary Garsu Pasaulis, to print the new passports.
The government has not said how long the contract will last and how much Garsu Pasaulis will earn from the deal.