BOTSWANA last week found itself entangled in an embarrassing diplomatic standoff with Zimbabwe after it deported 96 year-old Alfred Khumalo who had lived in the neighbouring country for 70 years.
Southern Eye Editorial
Khumalo was deported on Monday and arrived at Plumtree Hopsital the following day where he was admitted since he had been forcibly removed from Selebi Phikwe Hospital. He was being treated after suffering a stroke.
Botswana’s Labour and Home Affairs minister Edwin Bathu on Thursday told that country’s parliament that Khumalo had asked to be sent home because he was “sleeping rough.”
However, it has been since proven that Batshu’s statements were not true as Khumalo has clearly stated that he does not have any relatives in Zimbabwe. The neighbouring country reportedly sent an ambulance in effort to repatriate Khumalo but was blocked from doing so because of certain bilateral disagreements.
Botswnana’s constitution states that anyone who was resident in that nation automatically became a Motswana when the country attained its independence in 1966. Furthermore, Khumalo reportedly renounced his Zimbabwean citizenship in 2004 and was in the process of formalising his stay in Botswana.
It would appear that Khumalo was a victim of the bad relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana. Stories abound of Zimbabwean illegal immigrants who are ill-treated by officials in that country. Last week it also emerged that out of a total of 62 351 foreigners declared illegal immigrants and deported by Botswana since, 62 117 were Zimbabweans.
According to the breakdown, Zimbabwe had 62,117 deportees, 72 were from South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia had 20 each.
Kenya and India contributed 16 each, with Uganda, Malawi, Namibia and Pakistan accounting for 14 deportees. The influx of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, it has been argued fuels the xenophobia exhibited especially by immigration officials in Botswana.
While condemning Khumalo inhumane treatment by Botswana, would want to point out that this must be a wakeup call to the Zimbabwean government to address the problems that force this country’s young people to opt to illegal cross borders seeking a better life in other countries.
It is common knowledge youths in areas bordering Botswana and South Africa always see a future in those countries not in Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe even made a tasteless joke about the situation during the campaigns ahead of the July 31 elections but we hope Khumalo’s story would jolt the authorities into action.