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.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.