The government of Botswana through Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi has ordered Minister of Basic Education, Bagalatia Arone to compile academic records and transfers for the Namibian refugee students in Botswana in what the migrants have termed “forceful and unfair relocation”.
The government’s hard-line stance on the refugees follows a decision by 947 Namibian migrants at Dukwi Refugee Camp to resist voluntary repatriation to their country of origin. The idea to force the Namibians to return to their country is subsequent to the lapse of their refugee status. Kgathi invoked the cessation clause in 2015 but the refugees are still on grace period. The refugees have been given up to the 11th of July to have registered for repatriation to their country of origin. Kgathi says failure to comply will result in them being declared illegal immigrants.
The ministry of Defence has apart from education authorities, written to Ministry of Health and Wellness instructing it to pile up refugees’ medical records as they are left with only 18 days in Botswana. “We had a meeting last week with a delegation from Namibia and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where we discussed processes not to endanger their lives,” Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsiane said.
She added that, “There are issues of health, education and housing which are very essential in repatriation. It is true we are compiling their academic records so that there will be smooth coordination when they get there (Namibia).” She says the information should be collected so as to understand how many would need education and at what levels. Further, “others are on medication, and we should give our Namibians counterparts statistics as to how many need Anti-retroviral Therapy or any other medical assistance so as we don’t deny anyone their basic rights.”
The refugee students are scattered all over the Central District region with 22 of them at Nata Senior School. Others are at Francistown, Tutume and Masunga, Tsiane added. “We don’t know what is going to happen to our kids who are about to sit for their national examinations since the government is insisting that they will be removed from schools with immediate effect.
Remember most of these kids are Batswana by birth, in Nata for example 21 of those were born here,” said Caprivi community spokesperson, Felix Kakula when delivering a petition at SADC to block their repatriation this week. “Those writing exams like PSLE, JCE and BGCSE may proceed immediately after July 11th others will then follow suit,” said Tsiane.
NAMIBIANS REFUSE TO LEAVE
The Namibian refugees have promised to fight a spirited war to defeat government efforts to repatriate them to Namibia. “The problem is not yet solved. We are not going to register to go back, it is better someone throws you in fire than throwing yourself on [fire]. We want Caprivi to be an independent state as it was before the Namibian government annexed it or there should be negotiations,” said Kakula.
Another member of the Caprivi community, Bothman Ntesa who spoke to this paper supported Kakula. “Wherever the government of Botswana takes us to we will go, in fact we are going to the centre of illegal immigrants in Francistown if at all they will take us there. The registration to go back has long started but only seven have done so,” he stated standing in front of the SADC headquarters.
“Those who do not register may not be eligible for the repatriation packages which include basic building materials and food rations among others,” Tsiane pointed out. Failure to register will also affect students who will be kicked out of school. “We gave them protection as per their request now the situation has normalised. About Caprivi being an independent state is something else they will sort out with the Namibian government,” ministry of defense says.
A source from UNHRC says, if the migrants do not register they will no longer be under their jurisdiction and the immigration laws will deal with them since they will be illegal immigrants. The refugees, on annual basis, cost UNHCR P10 million as they are given food rations, school uniform for kids and transport to school. The Namibians fled here in October 1998 with 100 being the armed Caprivi Liberation Army and 2500 civilians. Their leadership of Mishake Muyongo and Chief Boniface Mamili were long resettled to Denmark in the early 2000s.
The Dukwi Refugee Camp is housing 2318 refugees with 947 being Namibians. Zimbabweans will also be sent packing once Kgathi is done with the Caprivi. Sources tell this paper that already the northern neighbours have been engaged on the matter and they agreed that soon after the general elections in August they will voluntarily go back to Zimbabwe. By far they have engaged the Zimbabwe Minister of Home Affairs and Culture, Dr Obert Mpofu, who has appealed to Zimbabwean refugees at Dukwi Refugee Camp to go back home. Zimbabweans who thronged Botswana after the 2008 bloody elections have been given political refugee tag are currently 687 at the camp.
However, despite the ministry’s unswerving stance on the two nationalities other refugees will be left behind. Angolans, Burundians, the Congolese, Ethiopians, Rwandans, Eritreans, Sierra Leones, Moroccans and Somalis are some of the nationalities accommodated at the camp, but why are they left behind? “These other countries have smaller numbers of migrants, so the idea is to begin with the large numbers first.
This is done so that it would be easy to resettle them elsewhere in the world once numbers have dwindled and it would be clear that there is no option for them hence it is easy to be resettled,” said a source. Further, it is said the reason to repatriate the two nationalities is basically because UNHCR is closing shop in Botswana. “United Nations is clear, if the number of refugees are less than 3000 it does not need UNHCR presence, so we should begin with high numbers first.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.