The government of Botswana though Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi has resorted to the forceful repatriations of Namibian and Zimbabwean refugees whilst leaving out other 11 nationalities in Botswana.
In a meeting with the refugees who are accused of having ignored the calls for them to exercise voluntary repatriation, Kgathi has directly instructed them to return to their countries of origin, lest they are taken for illegal immigrants. “The government of Botswana, in terms of agreements reached in the tripartite forum between governments of Botswana, Namibia and the UNHCR, has decided it is time for you to return to your country of origin,” Kgathi said.
The decision was taken as the two nations of Zimbabwe and Namibia are now considered to be stable, safe and secure nations with well-functioning governing institutions that observe the rule of law. The idea to force the two nationalities with particular emphasis on the Namibians to go back comes after their refugee status lapsed when the cessation clause was invoked in 2015. 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. “You are not refugees, nor are you guests of the government of Botswana,” he quipped.
The Namibians have in the past interdicted their repatriation through the courts of the law. By then, they contended that the repatriation process lacked the assurances and the reasons for which they fled their country in the late 90s. According to Kgathi, the environment is now conducive for them to return home to participate in the socio-economic, cultural and political arena of their home country.
Caprivi community spokesperson, Felix Kakula has however maintained that they are not going anywhere. “The problem is not yet solved. We are not going to register to go back, its better someone throws you in the fire than throwing yourself in it.” 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. The registration to go back has long started but no one has bothered to.”
The Namibians snubbed the meeting scheduled for yesterday (Friday) with the UNHCR pleading with them to register for repatriation. The Dukwi Refugee Camp houses 2318 refugees, of which 947 are Namibians. Once Kgathi is done with the Namibians, he will go for the Zimbabweans, sources say. Already, it is alleged, the northern neighbours have been engaged on the matter and they agreed that, soon after the general elections in August they will voluntarily return 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 return home. Zimbabweans who came to Botswana after the 2008 bloody elections were granted political asylum are currently sitting at 687 at the camp.
"We had a two hours meeting with them yesterday, in a cordial atmosphere. The engagements were quite open and candid and I got to understand some of the reasons we have people in Dukwi. Most of them have been here for 10 years," Mpofu said before adding, “the situation has changed and we will actually ensure that they come back home without any victimization or retribution,” Mpofu said.
Despite Kgathi’s unwavering stance on sending the two nationalities back to their countries, he will not touch other nationalities at the camp yet, these include; Angolans, Burundians, the Congolese, Ethiopians, Ugandans, Rwandans, Eritreans, Sierra Leoneans, Moroccans and Somalians.
“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 the fact that UNHCR is closing shop in Botswana. “United Nations is clear, if the number of refugees are less than 3000 in a country, it does not need UNHCR presence, so we should begin with high numbers first.”
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 arrived in the country in October 1998 with 100 being the armed Caprivi Liberation Army and 2500 civilians. Their leadership of Mishake Muyongo and Chief Boniface Mamili was long resettled to Denmark in the early 2000s.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.