Government Maintains Passport Fees in Foreign Currency Despite Introduction of ZiG

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HARARE – Despite growing public demand for passport fees to be payable in the local currency, the Zimbabwean government has opted to retain the requirement for payment in foreign currency, even after the recent introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion, David Kuda Mnangagwa, clarified that the government is bound by contractual obligations with the company responsible for implementing the electronic passport system, stipulating that passport fees must be settled in foreign currency.

The electronic passport system was launched in December 2021, with ordinary passport fees set at US$150 and emergency passport fees at US$250. The implementation of this system involved a partnership between the Zimbabwean government and the Lithuanian company, Garsu Pasaulis.

Zimbabweans have raised questions regarding the continuation of passport fees in foreign currency, especially in light of the recent introduction of ZiG. Concerns have been raised about the disparity between requiring foreign currency for passport fees while simultaneously cracking down on street forex traders.

In response to queries raised by Senator Meliwe Phuti in Parliament, Mnangagwa emphasized the complexity of the passport fee issue, citing contractual obligations with the investor as a determining factor. He highlighted ongoing discussions among relevant stakeholders to address this issue within the framework of ZiG.

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, a vocal critic of the government, disputed the government’s rationale, alleging that influential figures involved in the passport deal prioritize foreign currency over the local currency, despite claims that ZiG is backed by gold and foreign exchange reserves.

Chin’ono raised concerns about the practicality of requiring foreign currency for passport fees in an environment where US dollars are scarce, potentially driving people to resort to the black market.

The debate over passport fees underscores broader discussions about the adoption and acceptance of ZiG within Zimbabwe’s economic landscape. While the government cites contractual obligations, critics question the feasibility and implications of maintaining foreign currency requirements for essential services like passport fees, particularly in the context of a new national currency.