Good to see Gershom raise another issue that I have been quietly puzzled by, but I have never got round to blogging about. That is the poor and ill judged approach to the issue of passport renewals. Words fail me on the shambolic planning that has come to represent the way the relevant Ministry has approached this issue - I leave it to Gersh to elaborate :
I would add though that this passport saga illustrates why more than ever the diaspora should recognise the need to organise themselves. The only reason GRZ is able to come up with such ridiculous plans and timescales is precisely because the diaspora lacks a voice - they suffer from "coordination failures". Which is why I am excited by this initiative we are working on. It should allow Zambians in the future a channel to engage GRZ on a range of policy issues, including those that affect them directly.
Zambians living abroad have learnt with a sense of shock and dismay that the government is in the process of changing passports and that holders of the old documents should change them by April next year.
Much as there is need for the change of old passports to new ones with enhanced security features, the suddenness with which the process is being conducted is illogical, to say the least. The changes with the concomitant costs should apply to new applicants and those whose passports are expiring rather than a blanket call for everyone to change the documents.
The Zambian authorities should understand the cost involved in changing passports for individuals and families and also the cost of obtaining visas in foreign countries and the general inconvenience of the process. This is not to mention the fact that some passport holders hold documents that were issued as recently as three months ago from the old batch.
This change of passports being foisted on the citizens could cost Zambians living in the UK up to £2,000 applying for new visas within a short time and in these days of the credit crunch, this is not a small amount.
Even then, the process of applying a passport both at home in Zambia and abroad can be stressful. Passports take ages to be sent to embassies and high commissions from where they are applied for and staff at these missions always blame the Passport Office in Lusaka for the delays.
One hopes that the new Home Affairs Minister, Dr Kalombo Mwansa will look into the concerns and change the modus operandi of the passport renewal exercise.