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Gov’t in the dark over dual citizenships

Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu has stated that since President Khama ascended to the presidium in April 2008, 2219 citizens of Botswana were compelled to renounce their multiple citizenships in order to be recognized citizens of this country.


Multiple or dual citizenship was scraped at independence to eliminate its attendant danger of split loyalty and the disruption of the family unit. Batshu was responding to a parliamentary question posed by Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse.


However, perhaps as an indication of the irrelevance of the policy in modern times, Batshu said that government does not have statistics of the number of Batswana who continue to hold multiple citizenship, notwithstanding the prohibition. Batshu, who is also the country’s former top cop, stated, “We do not have the statistics since the perpetrators of this illegal act would not present themselves to government.”


Batshu also added that the policy is reasonable, describing it as “tenable because it currently serves the intended purpose”. He however in the same breadth also stated that the government is currently reviewing the Citizenship Act with a view to consider emerging issues such as dual citizenship.


“The review is at an advanced stage and the Bill will be brought to this parliament when the process is completed,” he noted and added that cabinet had considered and endorsed his request to amend the Citizenship Act some five months ago; in July 2016.
The Citizenship Act of Botswana was created by the Botswana Independence Order of 1966 whose Schedule was the Constitution of Botswana. Batshu conceded that it was initially largely a colonial legacy of the British Empire.


Batshu in his answer, indicated that the Citizenship Chapter (Chapter 3 of the constitution) largely translated the requirements of the previous Order in Council for British Protected Persons, into qualifications for citizenship of Botswana.
He further conceded that the Citizenship Act of 1982 that came into force after it repealed Chapter 3 of the constitution “took the campaign against dual citizenship a step further by providing that a person born in Botswana would not become a citizen of Botswana if at the time of his birth he acquired the citizenship of another country by descent through his father (but not through his mother).”


The Citizenship Act was reviewed in 1995 and 1998.In 1995 it gave impetus to the mother to pass her citizenship to her offspring while the 1998 review maintained prohibition of holding dual citizenship for persons of 21 years and above.
Meanwhile, three MPs in the 11th Parliament have thus far tabled motions calling on government to scrape prohibition against multiple or dual citizenship.


Keorapetse has tabled the same motion for debate in parliament. Another Botswana Congress Party (BCP) MP, Samuel Rantuana, has also tabled a motion that calls on “government to review the law on dual citizenship for children who were born by parents of two different nationalities.” Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Vice president and MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi, has as well tabled a motion requesting government to allow dual citizenship in Botswana.


In his parliamentary question, Keorapetse had asked minister Batshu to explain the government’s position on multiple citizenship and in particular to state reasons for a policy prohibiting the holding of multiple citizenship, the number of Batswana compelled to denounce citizenships of other countries in order to be recognised as citizens of Botswana since April 2008, the number of Batswana holding multiple citizenship albeit the prohibition and if the policy is tenable as well as whether the government would consider allowing multiple citizenship in future.


Meanwhile by April 2016 President Khama had deported and declared 2400 individuals persona non grata (prohibited immigrants). In the past two years, Khama has deported over 414 foreign nationals, 373 of whom were declared persona non grata in terms of Section 41 (1) (a) of the Immigration Act because they had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine for the various criminal offences they committed in the country, Batshu told the previous parliamentary sitting in April.


The other 40 foreigners, according to Batshu, were declared persona non grata under Section 41 1(c) which empowers the President to declare any person a prohibited immigrant in consequence of information received from a reliable source.
One of the latest to be ejected from the country is homophobic US Pastor, Steven Anderson. Khama revealed to Reuters news agency that he had issued an instruction to Immigration officials to deport the acerbic tongued American.


During his 18 years in power, Sir Ketumile Masire had deported only 115 individuals while Festus Mogae had deported 790 foreigners during his 10 year reign.

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