Slowly but surely, Zimbabwean refugees have started returning to their native country on voluntary repatriation basis, a senior official with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.
At least thirteen Zimbabwean refugees from the Dukwi Refugee Camp – situated some 160km northwest of Francistown, have retraced their steps back home courtesy of the UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme.
“In 2015, 13 refugees returned home to Zimbabwe,” Tina Ghelli, the UNHCR Senior Regional External Relations Officer for Southern Africa recently told WeekendPost. Ghelli said the refugees are returning because they have decided to go back home.
She added: “UNHCR’s policy is to assist refugees to return home voluntarily and in safety and in dignity. We do not force refugees to go return if they do not want to do so. Our mandate is to ensure that refugees are safe in all facets.”
According to Ghelli, there are 681 refugees and 48 asylum seekers from the neighboring Zimbabwe who are currently at the only refugee camp in the country alongside others from different nations such as Eritrea, Namibia, and Somalia to mention just a few.
The refugees from Dukwi camp said they were returning voluntarily following a reduction of food supplies at the camp and resumption of political normalcy in parts of the Matebeleland area in their native country.
Zimbabwean refugees fled into the country around 2008 at the height of a political tension between President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s ZANU PF and former Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
During that era, there has been constant attacks among the supporters of either political grouping. But in most cases, it was the MDC supporters who bore the brunt of following Tsvangirai especially in the southern parts of Zimbabwe.
“We are encouraged to return home after close to a decade housed at the Dukwi camp due to signs of peace and stability in our country,” said one refugee who chose to be identified as Julius only.
Julius has been at the camp since 2008. The period he did spend at the refugee camp has been an eye opener for him as he managed to understand some skills to survive when chips are down and is grateful about the hospitality extended to him by locals.
However, Julius who left part of his family in Dukwi camp as he monitors the situation in Zimbabwe, said food rations in the camps had reduced.
The remaining 681 refugees and forty-eight asylum seekers are however reluctant to return home as they feel the country is not yet safe under the leadership of the 91-year-old Mugabe who has been at helm for the past 35 years.
They also think that the Zimbabwean government could not provide them with the food, healthcare and education they currently receive in the refugee camps.
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.