For some reason, yesterday for the first time since it all began, the plague at our passport offices seems to have entered the collective minds on social media. People were posting videos and pictures of the endless queue of people desperate to get a passport.

Like everyone else, we have known and reported on the passport backlog for a while now. These days if you apply for an ordinary passport you will have to wait at least a year before it comes out. For you to apply for an emergency passport you have to book an appointment and bring letters to support and detail why you need this passport.

It’s all the government’s fault, passports are too cheap

You can blame the government for all these backlogs. They have been suffering setback after setback, with broken machines and shortages of materials being some of the cited problems. All these problems can be blamed on the fact that the government still charges:

  • Ordinary passport $53.00
  • Urgent passport (3 working days) $253.00
  • Express urgent passport (24 hours) $318.00
  • Temporary Travel Document $38.00

These are ridiculous prices which are a holdover from the USD era. Nowadays these translate to:

  • US $3.50 for the ordinary passport
  • US $16.80 for the 3 day passport
  • US $21.20 for the one day passport
  • US $2.50 for the TTD

We used the current Interbank rate of $15.27 here, not black market rates.

These prices are ridiculous and its no wonder why the government is struggling to find foreign currency to subsidise this shortfall. It’s sad but passport prices have to be raised to economic levels if the backlog is to be cleared.

It would be excusable if these were birth certificate and national identity prices since IDS and births are a right that must be accorded to every citizen even the poor. Passports while a right, do not fall in the same category. Those applying will probably be more than happy to pay the price and actually get their passports in time instead of this.