A passport is a privilege in Zimbabwe

Published: 28/Jul/2020
Source: African Arguments (Royal African Society, UK)

By Kudzai Mubaiwa

My passport is one of my most prized possessions. You can’t always get another one even if you have the money.

This is the third essay in the six-part series guest edited by Nanjala Nyabola. Additional editing by Ayodeji Rotinwa. Illustrations by Diana Ejaita.

I got my current passport in 2016, three years after the election that ended the Government of National Unity. This was also the year the government introduced bond coins and bond notes, and foreign currency became, once again, scarce.

I opted for the 24-hour delivery, which can mean three working days or literally the next day, depending on the mood of the officer who serves you. The passport cost me just over $260 (this was, in theory, exactly equivalent to the 260 bond notes but not in practice). I was harassed, infantilised and generally condescended by the officers at the passport office but my work involves travel, so it was a business expense and a worthy investment.

The next time I was at the passport office was in March 2017 during Zimbabwe’s cash crunch. I applied for a passport for my infant daughter. By then, the situation had deteriorated and getting an emergency passport was the only sure way of securing one, regardless of the cost. But in Zimbabwe, “emergency” doesn’t mean fast. We were lucky to get it. In January 2020, when I checked the progress of a relative’s passport, I found that they had just begun processing applications from September 2018.

A passport is a privilege in Zimbabwe. It is one of my most prized possessions – more than my favourite gadgets of similar or greater value – because you can’t always get another one even if you have the money. It is my guarantee that I can exit the country and breathe every once in a while. The currency crisis means that most now cannot afford it, even at 150 Zimbabwe dollars ($6). I know from the financial literacy classes I teach across Zimbabwe that it remains amongst the things for which many students and young people save and aspire.

Read further: https://africanarguments.org/2020/07/28/a-passport-is-a-privilege-in-zimbabwe/

Themes: ID Documents and Passports
Regions: Zimbabwe
Year: 2020