How to renew a Zimbabwean passport
I recently went through the process of renewing my Zimbabwean passport, and I thought I would write everything down so others can know how its done. The process outlined here is the same for those looking to get Zimbabwean passports for the first time. Getting a passport, it has to be said, is no easy task. However, it turned out to be easier than I thought it was going to do.
You see, the passport office in Zimbabwean has been in the news over the past few years for all the wrong reasons. For one thing, there are always allegations of corruption hanging around the place. Then there are allegations of incompetence. I can’t say I witnessed any of that when I went there to renew my passport.
How to apply for a passport in Zimbabwe
My passport expired way back in 2017. My mistake was not renewing it at that time. I didn’t have any need for it, and the Passport Office at Makombe building was a place that I dreaded. My advice to people is that they should renew their passports as soon as they expire. Don’t wait till you really need it like I did. Otherwise you will be in for a long wait. So, what’s the process of getting or renewing a passport in Zimbabwe?
- You need to get to the passports office at Makombe early:
This is something that I was very cognizant of. There are so many people looking to get passports that you need to get there early to have a chance of leaving early. The congestion at Makombe is one of the reasons why a number of people have been going to Marondera or Bindura to get their passports there. These places do not have as many people, and they are reported better organized.
When I went to renew my own passport, I woke up at 2am. By 3am, I was in town. After finding a safe place to park my vehicle, I then walked across town to get to Makombe building. There is parking there, but there are those council people prowling about and if you don’t pay for your parking, they will clamp your car. And the charge when your car gets clamped has recently risen a staggering 1000%! So, the fact that you don’t know when you are going to be done at Makombe means you will need to find somewhere free where you can leave your vehicle. Otherwise you could end up paying more for parking than you are paying for the passport!
Walking alone at night
Anyway, I can’t say I wasn’t scared while walking near Harare Gardens at 3am while on my way to the Harare passports office. I got really scared when I saw 6 men walking towards me near the former United States Embassy. I was on the side of the park, but immediately cross to the side of the Embassy. Two or three of the men followed me to that side! That was a really frightening experience, I tell you. Anyway, I decided there was nothing to do but to act as if I was not afraid of anything.
So, I greeted them, “Ndeipi wangu.” And they replied. But as we passed, one of the men asked me if I could spare $2 bond dollars. I think they knew that I was scared. Anyway, I stopped and began to take out some money that I had in my wallet. Better to lose $2 bond dollars than the USD$318 that I had on me. But then, the man who had stopped surprised me by saying, “Haa iribhoo blaz, don’t worry,” as I tried to hand him the money. And he refused to take the money and walked down the road along with his friends. I don’t really know what that was all about. Perhaps I was saved by the fact that I was near the building that used to house the American Embassy. Or maybe they were just testing me. Perhaps the fact that I was “willing,” to give them the money that they had asked for disarmed them? I don’t know!
- You need to have photocopies of your old passport (the page where your details are), your birth certificate and your national identity card
When I got to the passport office, the queue was not very long. There were about 30 people in front of me. Some of them, it later turned out, had slept in that queue! I don’t really think that is necessary. If you can get into those early Kombis, then you should be fine. Anyway, as soon as you arrive, you will be greeted by vendors selling various wares. One of the things that you will need to buy, if you do not already have one, is a black pen, for use when filling out your forms later.
You also need to ensure that you have photocopies of your old passport, your birth certificate and your national identity card. Now, I already had copies of my national I.D and my birth certificate. However, I had forgotten to have the details page of my old passport done. Fortunately, there were people there who specialize in making those photocopies. They take you into town (you walk) and you pay to have copies of these documents done.
- Next you wait patiently in line for several hours
The wait is really the most difficult thing about renewing your Zimbabwean passport. After arriving at around 3:30am, I had to wait while standing in line till 7:30 am, when we were then ushered into the Makombe yard. Between my arrival and that time, there were interludes where a street preacher came to preach about old mattresses and how we should all take care of our parents. Apparently, the guy does that every day and he never varies the script.
There was also another guy who came along selling a handy cutting tool. His demonstration peeling potatoes and vegetables was a thing to behold. Overall, he was a good salesman. After the demo, he sold all the samples of the product that he had brought along with him. Again, this man appears to be a fixture at the passports office in Harare.
- You are then ushered into the Makombe building courtyard
I should mention that there are armed policemen who control things around the passport office in Harare. As a result, the queue was orderly. I was near the front, relatively speaking. Some of the vendors who were there claimed that the day was rather slow and usually the queue is longer. And indeed, by the time we were ushered into the Makombe courtyard, the queue had grown frighteningly long. But that need not put you off. Fact is, everyone who comes there initially stands in one line.
So, there are people there who have come to get identity documents, and others who are looking for emergency travel documents. At 7:30, we were ushered into the yard. Immediately afterwards, a man came who began to separate us into our various categories. By the time he was done, there was a queue for I.Ds, another for ETDs, and a 3rd for passports. Then the man separated those in the queue for passports into those who were looking to pay in USDs, those that had cash bonds and those that had swipe. I joined the queue of those that had cash bond notes and was now at about number 10. So, right at the front.
- At 0800hrs, you make your payment
By 8am, we were standing outside the windows where payments are made. At 8, the windows opened, and there were about 4 cashiers who were accepting cash. I didn’t stay there long. Upon making payment, I was given the passport forms. I then went into the courtyard at the passports office, where I began filling out my form.
- You then fill out your form
I have something of a phobia for forms, and I had dreaded this part. However, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about. It didn’t take me 10 minutes to complete filling out the form. And there was a lady inside one of the rooms calling out to those that were done with their forms to bring them inside. When I was done, I submitted my form to her, and she told me to go to Room 13, which turned out to be a waiting room.
- Next, you get your photo and fingerprints taken
It used to be that you needed to bring along passport photos when applying for a Zimbabwean passport. Now that is no longer the case. The place has modernized and they have machines that do fingerprints and photos. It didn’t take me long for my name to be called out. I then went and sat in front of these machines. I was told to look at the camera, and my photo was taken. And then, the friendly guy there told me to place my fingers on the fingerprints machine. Less than 3 minutes after arriving there, I was done. He then printed a paper bearing my details, and I was told to take it to a lady at a computer nearby.
- Completing the process
The lady asked me a couple of friendly questions while capturing my details into the computer. Then I was done. To be frank, I was surprised that I was done already! It wasn’t even 9am yet. I think those machines have really simplified things at the passports office. Or the guys there have developed a system that’s faster than they used to do.
How much is the passport fee in Zimbabwe?
The fee to get a Zimbabwean passport, when I went there, was $53 bond dollars. However, that is bound to change at any moment. There was also an option to pay $318, but it was only open to those that had permits from the diaspora. So, I wasn’t able to utilize this option. As a result, I may actually have to wait very very long to get my passport. That’s the sad part. The people that go out there ought to be regarded as an export, and there is need to ensure that the process of having them go out is made smooth.
I wrote a letter and attached a letter from an employer who has offered me a job in the United States. But apparently, there are so many of these letters that it can take up to 2 months for one to be read. Don’t know if the offer will still be around then. Anyway, that’s how you apply to renew a Zimbabwean passport. If you are in the Diaspora, then you need to get application forms at your nearest Zimbabwean embassy. Overall, I found the experience to be not as frightening as I had been made to believe. What do you think? What was your own experience? Feel free to leave a comment below!
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