THE newly appointed Home Affairs Kazembe Kazembe faces an acid test as he assumes a scandal ridden ministry which is afflicted by a massive passport shortages crisis, Zim Morning Post can report.
The outgoing minister, Cain Mathema, dismally failed to come up with a panacea to the passport crisis, with the situation further exacerbated by corrupt tendencies of some senior government officials.
The dragnet also included ousted former permanent secretary Melusi Matshiya, who was also alleged to be part of the syndicate.
The ‘purging’, therefore, technically serves as a ‘cleansing’ of the ministry, submitted a top government official who refused to be named.
As previously reported by this publication, senior government officials are raking in thousands of dollars in kick-backs from a squalid deal struck with Israeli security company, Nikuv International Projects Ltd, which has now seen Zimbabwe’s passport backlog soar to over 300 000.
Although, he faces a Herculean task, Kazembe has a decorated history of achievements in his assignments.
His career has since taken a new trajectory that saw him being a school teacher, businessman , Minister of Information and Communications Technology and Cyber Security and now the ‘hot seat’ he was appointed to last Friday.
Efforts to draw a comment from Kazembe on his immediate proposed solutions to the passport crisis drew a blank as his phone went unanswered.
He also did not respond to messages sent prior to going to Press.
The passport backlog has ground many Zimbabweans, with some resorting to paying bribes in order to obtain the travel documents.
Investigations into the matter showed corruption is not only rampant at the Registrar General’s Office, but that the-bribery-pyramid extends to the office of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage’s ousted permanent secretary, Melusi Matshiya.
Sources told Zim Morning Post that Matshiya was currently fighting in the corner of Nikuv against the desires of other government officials who want a new contractor who would offer long suffering Zimbabweans a fresh start.
“The current deal is such that Nikuv is a facilitator for the purchase of consumables. Government can cut out the middleman by awarding a contract to a company which has the capacity to provide the service,” the source told Zim Morning Post.
“The biggest hurdle is individuals coalescing around the permanent secretary. They are holding onto Nikuv taking advantage of the process which is open to manipulation through inflating prices of consumables and receiving kick-backs.”
In 2013, without going to tender, the then Robert Mugabe-led government awarded Nikuv the contract to take over the production of passports from government printers (Fidelity).
The move was seen as a reward to Nikuv for its role in the 2013 disputed elections.
On its part, Nikuv backed its operations, with officials insisting they received the contract because their system issued an advanced machine-readable passport which was highly secure and tamper-proof.
It was said Nikuv’s service would produce a new digitalised document that would eliminate counterfeit passports and also allow the country to match international e-passport standards.
Their role also extended to designing procedures, supplying special chemical products and passport issuance workflow.
Six years later, Zimbabweans are worse off than they were before the coming in of the Israeli company.
Former minister Mathema blamed the crisis on foreign currency shortages.