I was a bit surprised to see a flurry of news articles saying Zimbabweans would be able to apply for passports online. These headlines by various blogs were crafted in such a way as to make you think that this was something the government was going to be implementing soon. Like soon soon. That’s not the fault of the bloggers, their articles were relying on the statement issued by the Minister of Home Affairs.

We are in the process of coming up with an integrated information communication technology (ICT) solution which will not just bring these physical structures to your doorsteps, but bring the actual service to homes through online services.Ideally, the passport application process in its entirety should be done within the confines of our homes.

You see these people clapping – they are crying. People are being swindled at passport offices. Corruption must come to an end. When people come to our offices, please let’s serve them with the dignity they deserve. Two or three should be arrested to set an example.

Minister Kazembe Kazembe speaking at the official opening of the Chitungwiza Passport Office

The website already exists!

There is already a government website that is supposed to allow you to apply for all sorts of government documents. It was launched back in 2012 I think. The idea was that you could apply for your passport online and spare yourself the pain of having to physically go to places like Makombe where corrupt wolves will devour you. This was going to happen soon and as a sign of sincerity, the site even allowed people to download passport application forms instead of having to pay for them during the in-person application process.

The online passport application website already existed. It was neglected until by the government until it became broken

The idea of online applications was executed to the point where there was already a bit functional and just waiting for the green-light from the government. You can click here to see some of the government services that are already online. The online passport project just fell by the wayside when the GNU ended in 2013. Not a single passport application was ever done online using this platform.

The thing is the Zimbabwean government likes to make announcements about big things cooking. Most of these announcements never progress beyond the announcement stage. Take for example the digitisation exercise at ZBC. It has been ongoing for almost a decade and once in a while an excited minister makes a vague announcement to the effect that soon we will have lots of digital TV channels. Some have even announced how these channels are going to be divvied up.

In colloquial Shona there is a name for this-kuhumana. It means that someone is just spouting stuff, shooting the breeze as they say in some English speaking regions. If you don’t believe me look at the statement below:

We have a backlog of 355 000 passports, they need to be processed and that backlog has to be cleared before year-end. The major challenge is the lack of consumables. Decentralisation is an ongoing process. The solution is computerisation. There is no decentralisation that beats applications via online.

Minister Kazembe just shooting the breeze back in January of this year

Anyone can make an announcement wait for action

Again Zimbabwean government officials like to make announcements all the time. It gives the impression of progress even when there is none. Don’t believe what you hear unless it comes to pass. We should not hold our breath until the launch happens. Then we can talk specifics and evaluate how well the system works. The rest kungohumana. Remeber soon can be eight years or a decade.