As part of its reforms agenda, the Immigration Department banned all freelance photographers on October 1, 2016 from loitering and taking pictures of its clients, however the department has made an unexpected u-turn on the decision with the ‘dobadobas’ back on the Blantyre premises.
In an interview with the Malawi News Agency (MANA) Friday, the National Immigration Deputy Public Relations Officer Wellington Chiponde said they are aware of the activity.
“Yes the middlemen are still there and we cannot chase them because they have their rights to be doing business anywhere. Actually what we did was to remove their need of them within our system.
At first there was a need for them. After giving our applicants forms we could ask them to go outside to take the pictures from the middlemen. And that was how their presence was justified,” he explained.
Chiponde noted that since this process was bringing a lot of inconveniences among the passport acquiring process the department thought it wise to start taking the pictures themselves within their premises.
“We used to tell people that when going to get confirmations from the DC’s Office, they should already be having the passport photos. But now, we take the pictures ourselves and do the interviews also within our system,” he said.
Chiponde explained that what they did really was to cut the middlemen from the link of involving themselves with the passport processing system and if they are there it is because they are doing their own businesses and the fact that they have cut them off, their photos are not valid in their system hence not bringing any problems.
“The main reason for cutting them off was for security purposes,” he noted.
However, the explanation by Chiponde contradicts that of the Principle Immigration Officer Patrick Ngombe who was earlier quoted in the media just before the ban as to why they wanted the photographers off their premises.
“The department has taken this move after observing that there were increased cases of people being cheated and robbed of their money by some people who pretend to be immigration officers.”
Ng’ombe was quoted in the local media adding that they have had cases of innocent people being taken away to other places as far as Kamuzu Central Hospital to be photographed only to be robbed of their money intended for passport application.
Moreover, the dobadoba photographers were also seen to be assisting passport applicants fill their passport forms hence aiding some obtain the document using false information.
Commenting on the recent development on condition of anonymity, one of the dobadoba photographers said that they are still there because it is their business place and they cannot go anywhere.
“We can’t go anywhere because this is our place of business. Although we are close to the immigration offices, where we stay and conduct our business is not within their premises. What they said was that we should not be taking the photos for passport purposes and we do exactly that,” he said.
According to the dobadoba photographer, if a customer comes for a photograph, they ask first the purpose of the photo and if it is for the passport acquiring process, they direct them to the immigration office but if it is for other reasons, they offer their services.
Source: Malawi News Agency – MANA