Review & Mail Writers
Zimbabweans living in the diaspora will soon be able to apply for Zimbabwean passports without having to come back home under the new decentralization policy, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Writing in his weekly column, ‘None But Ourselves’ in a local weekly, President Mnangagwa said since the introduction of the E-Passport last year, the country was now closer than ever before to realising citizen rights to identity and travel documents under Chapter 3 of the Constitution.
He said while Chapter 3 of the Constitution declares that passports, birth certificates and other travel documents and identity documents are rights and benefits which have to be enjoyed by all citizens, not much ground was covered towards this goal under the First Republic, adding that the Second Republic had now made it its duty to ensure the gap was plugged once and for all.
President Mnangagwa said government was in the process of decentralising the service to all district centres in the country, adding that after launching the process recently in Murewa, seven other centres, which included Beitbridge, Hwange, Bulawayo, Lupane, Gweru, among others, were already issuing E-Passports.
He said the number of such service centres was expected to have risen to 14 by the end of September, with a target to eventually cover all the country’s districts.
“Extending such services to Zimbabwe’s key embassies and consulates in countries where large communities of Zimbabweans living abroad are found. Already, work has started in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, so the large community of Zimbabwean emigres living there will be served. Plans are underway to launch similar outreach services in Lusaka, Zambia, in London, United Kingdom, in Washington and New York in USA, in Australia and in the Middle East. Such facilities will respond to needs ardently expressed by Zimbabweans living abroad whom I had the pleasure to meet and interact with during my various fixtures abroad,” he said.
The President said Chapter 14 of the Constitution, which provided for devolution of governmental power in the interest of citizen participation and social justice, had effectively put an end to the bambazonke philosophy by which everything was centralised in favour of metropolitan provinces, cities and towns at the expense of historically marginalised rural provinces, districts, wards and villages.
“Now the Constitution requires that development and decisions be participatory, spatially even and balanced, thus ensuring no person, no place and no community is left behind. The Second Republic declared and announced its commitment to this ethic and constitutional stricture way back in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, just before our 2018 harmonised elections. Since then, the Second Republic has made devolution its watchword in the management of the Nation’s public affairs. The results are there for all to see,” he said.
He said his government was harnessing devolution to deliver rights to its citizens by bring core services closer to citizens and communities, thus facilitating access, enabling participation and achieving inclusivity and fairness.
“Accessing rights and benefits promised by the country’s Constitution must not be allowed to be burden and a cost to the citizen. Our understanding of devolution thus encompasses resource allocation and bringing public goods and services, those promised by our Constitution especially, physically closer to people and communities by decentralising arms of the State,” he said
He admitted that over the years, government’s performance in the delivery of birth certificates, identity cards, passports or other identity and travel documents to the citizenry had been chequered, a situation which motivated him to place this vital public activity area under close scrutiny, including paying unscheduled visits to offices of the Registrar-General.
“Time was when the situation was quite dire, with citizens stuck in long queues and often waiting for more than a year to get documents which our Constitution regard as a right. Especially affected were our citizens in remote rural communities and in the Diaspora. Government thus had to intervene decisively, and to think outside the box to bring this to an end. Lately, delivery has improved somewhat, even then with sporadic hiccups here and there, now and then, as was witnessed only a week ago,” he said.
The Head of State said the outcry which followed the temporary interruption of services last week was a reminds that indeed, identity and travel documents were a human right whose delivery to the citizen must never be delayed or delivered in a burdensome way.
He said in line with the Constitution and the promise made to citizens, Government had made delivery of the documents one of its Key Result Areas, thus, had taken several steps to ensure identity and travel documents were delivered efficiently and smoothly.