FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube has proposed a sharp hike in passport fees despite concerns over the lack of transparency on how the proceeds are spent.
Critics say while access to a passport is a basic human right as it enables people to exercise their constitutional right to free movement, Zimbabwe’s passport fees are almost 400% higher than those of other Southern African Development Community countries, making them the most expensive travel documents in the region.
Presenting the 2024 National Budget in Parliament, Ncube proposed several measures to raise more tax revenues amid growing economic instability.
The head of Treasury intends to increase passport fees from US$100 to US$200 for ordinary passports and from US$200 to US$300 for emergency passports by next January.
An additional fee of US$20 is charged for every electronically readable passport application to obtain a quick response (QR) code.
This makes Zimbabwe’s passport one of the most expensive in the world.
With Zanu PF dominating Parliament, the budget proposals are expected to sail through.
Last month, the Auditor-General (AG) raised the red flag over failure by the Home Affairs ministry to provide information on how much was raised from the issuance of electronic passports (e-passports), amid concern that Treasury could have been prejudiced of millions of dollars in revenue.
According to findings in the Auditor-General’s latest Appropriation Accounts, Finance and Revenue Statements, and Fund Accounts for the year ending 31 December 2022, the Home Affairs ministry disclosed revenue collected in local currency while the service is being provided in hard currency.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the e-passports in 2021 after the government partnered a murky Lithuanian company in producing the travel documents.
Before the introduction of the e-passports, an ordinary passport cost US$53, while an urgent passport (three working days to process) cost US$253.
The e-passport project is being implemented by the government in partnership with Garsu Pasaulis on a build-own-operate-transfer arrangement.
Comparatively, South Africa charges R400 for a passport, equivalent to US$25, while Botswana charges P260 (US$25). Namibia’s passport goes for R400 (or US$25), and Mozambique charges 2 500 meticais (about US$40).