- Posted February 5, 2013 by
Getting a Passport in Zimbabwe (My Experience)
The Zimbabwe Home Affairs offices have got to be one of the worst places to go on earth. The unfortunate thing is that you will go there sooner or later because that is where all your important documents are obtained. I have had my fair share of experiences with that place but this latest experience had me shaken.
Getting a passport in Zimbabwe is one of the most difficult things to do and after contemplating on whether to get one the easy way (involving hundreds upon hundreds of dollars) I decided to cut on costs and do it the long, honest way- little did I know that was a big mistake.
I had to wake up early in the morning, 3:45am to be exact, so that I could get there on time (i got there at 4:45am) and get a decent place in the line. Upon arrival I noticed that they were already many people there, I'd say around seventy or so, but there was no turning back. I paid the taxi driver his fair and as I stepped out of the car a man came and offered me a position he had saved- number six on the line. Now, some men actually wake up very early to secure places that they can sell to those who do not want to wait far behind the line- I was offered number six for US$15 after negotiation. So we waited until the gates were open.
The gates were opened at 5:30am and all those that bought places were the first to get in. We were happy because we thought we would be done in no time, little did we know that there was a lot more that was going to happen that day before we could leave. They made us line up like school children or jail inmates and then they marched us in as if we were a group of disorganized people.
Then the horror began...
They started splitting the line into different parts; those who wanted Birth Certificates, Identity Documents and they also split us into groups of who was sixty years and above, had children bellow eleven and a provision was also made for the pregnant- this was all around 6am.
All this time one big man in a white shirt was commanding the show. He then started to ask for those who wanted an emergency passport which cost US$320 or so. No one stepped out. He then started to ask if anyone felt cheated by the person in front of them. One man raised his hand and all those in front of them were commanded to go behind the line! Another woman raised her hand and then he and those in front of the woman moved to the back of the line. This really angered me because anyone could’ve just risen up their hand and claim they were cheated only to inconvenience those in front. So as you may guess, I and those like me went to the back of the line and all the monies we paid to get a position in the line we gone.
Having checked our documents and stapling them together we were then led to another line- this was around 7am. We were also given numbers and I was assigned number 154 because of my position in the line. The cruel man then started giving us instructions telling us that we would succeed in getting out passports if we followed his instructions. He kept moving people around and re-appealing for those who wanted the more costly and quicker emergency passports- no one flinched.
It was 8am and the offices opened. The line started to move. I was now 9am and I hadn't got into the building yet but I was facing the door that led to the payment hall. We waited a good hour and as we were about to be let in they told us to wait (they were going on their tea break)! So we did, I mean we had no option. They let us in at 10.30am and upon entering the payment hall we were met with a thousand odors shared between hundreds of people. On the wall was a 'no corruption' sign even though corruption was heard everywhere. It was hot, and there was no fan or air conditioning in sight. Children were crying everywhere and there was no place to sit but the floor. The line was barely moving and I only paid for my passport after about an hour. There was no food around and I was very thirsty and hungry.
From there it was picture time. This process took the most time. It was around 11:30am by then and we were led to another line. This line was the longest and we were all squashed in one hallway. People were sitting on the floor and what was most frustrating was the fact that the line was not moving.
To our relief all those who had taken their own passport photos at a commercial photo shop were called to come and get their fingerprints taken. We waited in a shorter line here but our hopes of finishing before lunch were crushed as we were told our photos were of 'poor quality'. This happened twice! So we had to get others which cost money (US$4 for a set and come back). It was lunch time so we had to wait a little bit until they opened again.
Offices were reopened, this time our pictures were accepted. Our fingerprints were taken and we were led outside to hand over our forms. Upon collection we were told to follow the lady who was collecting the forms. People rushed as if they were offered free money. We sat on a bench and they called our names one by one. Mine was called early. This was the home stretch. I submitted my application and that was it!
I waited for a friend I made to also complete her application. We were together the whole way. It was honestly a very bad experience but thank God we succeeded. So if you ever want a passport in Zimbabwe go for the emergency passport or go prepared for only the worst whether you are first or last in the line.