Cablegate: Zimbabwe Passport Registrar in Denial
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #1133/01 3540632
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190632Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3842
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0555
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0150
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001133
DEPT FOR CA/FPP AND AF/S B. WALCH
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO KCC
JOHANNESBURG FOR RCO MICHAEL VEASY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT PGOV KCOR KFRD ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE PASSPORT REGISTRAR IN DENIAL
REF: HARARE 000996
HARARE 00001133 001.2 OF 002
1. (U) SUMMARY: In a meeting on December 16, Zimbabwe Registrar
General Tobaiwa Mudede denied the existence of any problems with
Zimbabwean passport controls. Instead, he boasted of Zimbabwean
passport security features that insured individual identity, and
blamed Zimbabwe's excessive passport processing time on the failure
of applicants to check on their applications. Mudede's remarks come
on the heels of a three-fold increase in Zimbabwe passport fees, a
processing time measured in years, and confirmation by Post of
compromised Zimbabwe blank passports. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) As the Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede is in charge of
Zimbabwe passports and voter registration. In a meeting with Conoff
to discuss Zimbabwean passport security features that was three
months in the making, Mudede boasted how Zimbabwe had led the region
in incorporating machine-readable passports that included a
fingerprint image on the bio page. Accompanied by his passport
policy expert, passport technical expert, and a host of MFA
onlookers, Mudede refused to discuss any security features unique to
Zimbabwean passports. Instead, he attempted to assuage concerns by
anecdotally comparing the uniqueness of Zimbabwean passport security
features to zebra stripes.
3. (SBU) With attempts to discuss security features thwarted, Conoff
inquired about Zimbabwe passport controls and processes, and
presented Mudede with evidence that strongly suggested a compromise
in the security of Zimbabwe passport supplies. Mudede responded
that if true, such a situation represented a world-wide criminal
problem, and was a matter for the police. He demanded that all
suspect passports be turned over to the Registrar General's office
immediately so the holders could be thrown in jail. When asked
about the Zimbabwe passport process and the extended backlog in
applications, Mudede blamed the applicants themselves for the
backlog, saying they presented "problem" applications in which the
personal data could not be verified. He went on to say that his
office did not have the time to write to every "problem" applicant
for verification of personal data, but instead waited for applicants
to return to the Registrar's office to check on their applications.
He attributed the Zimbabwe passport backlog to the failure of
applicants to check on their applications in a timely manner.
4. (SBU) As reported reftel, corruption has become endemic within
the Zimbabwean civil service, resulting in a near total collapse of
government controls over passports and official documents. Civil
servants, whose salaries have been eroded to practically nothing by
hyper-inflation, have become not only susceptible, but dependent on
bribes and kickbacks for basic subsistence. On December 11, citing
escalating costs, the Registrar General's office raised passport
fees 300 percent, resulting in a fee of USD 650 for an urgent
(expedited) adult passport. Although the fee for normal processing
was only raised to USD 120, our sources involved in the Zimbabwe
passport process report that only expedited applications are being
processed and that only U.S. dollars are being accepted for payment.
This dramatic increase in cost will most certainly add to the
popularity of alternative passport services, and further fuel a
flourishing industry of fraudulent document vendors.
5. (SBU) In the latest example of passport fraud seen at Post, an
alert FSN recognized a suspect Zimbabwean passport during NIV
intake, and immediately notified the Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU).
The FSN's suspicion was raised due to a lighter than normal
background printing on the bio page. Upon examination, we
determined the passport was printed from an authentic blank (book),
but was obviously fraudulent. The bio page had a sealed film that
was a crude attempt to mimic the glossy appearance of authentic
passports, and the passport lacked the fidelity found in the
background printing of authentic passports. In addition, the
fingerprint image included on the bio page obviously did not match
the prints taken during the subject's NIV interview.
6. (SBU) Upon investigation by the FPU and ARSO, the passport was
found to have been obtained through a Harare "agent" in 2006, and
was used to travel from the U.S. to Zimbabwe in December of 2008.
In December 2004, the subject had received an F1 visa to study in
the U.S., and was in school when her passport expired in 2007.
Unable to obtain a new passport through the Zimbabwe Embassy in DC,
she asked her mother for help.
7. (SBU) The mother told us she was frustrated in her attempts to
apply for her daughter at the Registrar General, and mentioned her
dilemma to an agent that had previously helped her with a South
African visa. She said she paid the agent a USD 200 brokerage fee,
received the passport a few days later, and then mailed it to her
daughter in the U.S. The daughter was applying to renew her F1 visa
when the fraudulent passport was discovered at Post.
HARARE 00001133 002.2 OF 002
8. (SBU) COMMENT: Passports for Zimbabweans have become more than
just travel documents. They represent an opportunity to obtain
food, medical care, and subsistence that has become unavailable in
Zimbabwe. The state of denial exhibited by the Registrar General is
all too familiar. While average Zimbabweans struggle with multiple
examples of a failed government and a cholera outbreak that was
unimaginable just a few years ago, Zimbabwe's leadership refuses to
acknowledge the situation. We anticipate the demand for Zimbabwe
passports to increase, with a growing percentage of this demand
supplied by fraudulent document agents. END COMMENT.