Of Passports and open defecation

Sinqobile Tessa
BUSY, BUSY, BUSY: The packed Bulawayo Passport Office
  • Putting up with a pong to get a passport

  • ‘Passport queues to be outlawed to stop open defecation’

This rather unusual headline in the local Chronicle newspaper caught my attention on Tuesday for a few reasons.

The story was about councillors raising concerns about the stench emanating from human waste around the Bulawayo passport office.

For starters, I think the main problem here is not open defecation but the fact that people are forced to spend the night outside the passport office to be served the following morning.

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Of course the bigger issue is that more and more people are looking for opportunities to leave the country as there seems to be no hope of the economic situation changing for the better any time soon.

Recent national census preliminary results showed there was a high number of Zimbos who migrated to other countries in the last five years compared to yesteryears.

Anyway, back to the other reason why this story caught my attention; three weeks ago I was at the passport office and witnessed firsthand the desperation of getting a passport and having to withstand the overpowering stench of urine. It honestly was disgusting and made it impossible to for me to eat my Simba chips!

Of passports and open defecation
IN DEMAND: Zim passport ( Pic by Daily News)

My South Africa based sister processed her passport application forms at the Consulate in Joburg and sent them to me for submission at the passport office in Bulawayo.
Since all the verification had been done at the Consulate, I assumed my role was easy as it was just to pay and submit. I was wrong.

On the first day, I went to the offices around 9am and found the gate closed with the security officer saying they were not letting anyone in at that moment as there was a large number of people who were already inside.

Indeed I could see tens of people inside while scores of others were outside waiting for their chance to get in. I told the officer that I was just there to simply submit on behalf of someone and his answer shocked me.

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“My sister, just be here by 4am if you want to be served,” he said.

Heeding his advice, I drove to the passport office in the wee hours two days later so I could be there by at least 4am hoping to be the first person or at least amongst the first 10 people in the queue.

I was in for another shock when I got there!

There were over 40 people already in the queue, with some literally sleeping on the pavement.

The good thing though is that being an early bird paid off as I was out of the offices by 11am and my sister’s passport is out already.

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And as for the councilors wanting to outlaw queuing because of people relieving themselves in the open, I don’t see that working.

They might as well provide mobile toilets as a remedy for the situation, or better still employ more staff so the queues move quicker!

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