Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
At least 33 officers were arrested this week over missing receipt-books and embezzlement of thousands of dollars at the Registrar-General’s Office in Harare.
Receipt-books went missing with the officers, mainly cashiers, being accused of stealing money paid by people seeking documents like passports, birth certificates and replacement national identity documents.
Instead of banking the fees in terms of the law, the suspects would pocket the money.
Of the 33 suspects, 18 were picked up on Monday while 15 were arrested yesterday by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commercial Crimes Division.
The first batch of 18 appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday where they were freed on $200 bail each. The remaining 15 suspects were by last night still assisting police with investigations.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests.
“We can confirm that 18 of the suspects from the RG’s office were arrested yesterday (Monday) while the other 15 were arrested today bringing the total number to 33.
“Their charges range from embezzlement of cash paid by people and under the Banking Act, for pocketing money paid by people,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi, who is yet to verify the actual amounts involved, said investigations were still in progress.
The latest developments come after Government recently directed the Registrar-General’s Office to set up a committee that will oversee the vetting of passport applications in a bid to eliminate corruption.
The committee will be responsible for determining the applicants who should get passports, starting from those wanting to travel on an emergency basis.
This was said by the Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Mr Melusi Matshiya in a recent interview with The Herald.
He said the setting up of the committee followed unconfirmed reports that some applicants were being charged up to US$200 by some unscrupulous officials to have passports quickly processed.
Currently, the RG’s office is producing 800 passports per day, but plans are afoot to ramp up production to about 4 200 following the acquisition of consumables.
In July, the Registrar-General Mr Clemence Masango also issued a stern warning to officials in his department who were capitalising on the challenges in the issuance of passports by demanding kickbacks from desperate citizens intending to acquire emergency travel documents.
Desperate Zimbabweans are parting with huge sums of money to pay bribes in order to obtain passports as the Registrar General’s office is battling an acute shortage of special paper and ink used to make passports, resulting in a huge backlog for travel documents.
Mr Masango said Government officials should desist from taking advantage of the people’s desperate situations through taking bribes.
“Government policy as pronounced by His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa including our Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage (Cde Cain Mathema) reiterates the same point, which is zero tolerance to corruption. We therefore appeal to everyone, our clients, citizens and officials to desist from corruption,” he said.
Mr Masango said those caught engaging in corrupt activities would face the full wrath of the law as they will be dealt with by law enforcement agents and consequences will follow.