South Africans and Zimbabweans — and citizens of all the countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — might soon be able to travel the world with the same passport, and borders within the region will be something of the past.
Tanzania's foreign minister Augustine Mahiga told that country's Daily News that SADC states are busy working on a common regional passport which would also stimulate regional trade.
"These passports will be a better catalyst of ending challenges arising from movement of people," Mahiga said. It would also create a borderless region and continent, he said. "It will significantly boost regional trade."
The paper reported that this could give SADC nations the most powerful passports in the continent because countries like South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius rank highly in the number of countries citizens could travel to without a passport.
Plans for a SADC passport emerged after African Union heads of state launched an African passport at the body's summit in Rwanda in July last year. The East African Community launched its passport four months earlier and put these into operation in January this year.
SADC members include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The SADC passport is meant to work as an international travel document across the globe and is supposed to ease immigration challenges.
The news comes amidst a fresh spate of anti-foreigner violence in South Africa and promises by the department of home affairs to tighten immigration checks and to clamp down on illegal foreigners.
South African government officials did not immediately respond when asked to comment about South Africa's progress on such a passport.
Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, has however already tweeted about the news. "When done it will emulate ECOWAS on the road to free mobility," he tweeted. ECOWAS is the Economic Community of West African States.