SELEBI-PHIKWE — While to the government of Botswana, Alfred Khumalo was just an illegal immigrant and deserved to be kicked out, to some he was a father figure.
A member of the community, Tumalano Keothokile, said his children regarded Khumalo as their grandfather and the decision to deport him has traumatised them. He said the old man, who was also known as Matenge, sometimes stayed with the family. He revealed that he once stayed with the family after he had undergone eye surgery and needed someone to take care of him.
Keothokile said the old man only returned to his house after recuperating. Mmegi caught up with one of the owners of the yard where Khumalo stayed in Botshabelo suburb. But the woman, who did not want her name to be revealed, said she did not want to be caught up in the matter.
However, it was not before she whispered that Khumalo was her late husband’s friend and he was the one who gave Khumalo a place to stay.
She also said she did not have enough information about where exactly Khumalo originated from because she only met him in 2008.
She referred all questions to kgosi (chief) Kgakanyane Sebina, saying he was the one who knew Khumalo better. The old man is said to have been earning a living as a cobbler and was practicing as a traditional doctor.
According to a supporting letter written by kgosi Sebina, dated April 19 2004, he helped Khumalo process his citizenship application forms.
Khumalo is said to have arrived in Botswana in 1943 and lived in Francistown until 1948.
“In 1949 he relocated to Sebina village, where he stayed until 1957.
“He then went back to Francistown where he stayed until 1987. Khumalo then proceeded to Selebi-Phikwe in 1988,” the letter reads.
Meanwhile, Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi told Mmegi that once the government has taken a decision, there is nothing that can be done to change it. He explained that although he doesn’t support people who break the laws of the land, he did not expect the officials to transport a sick old man in the back of a van.
He said the immigration officials should have transported Khumalo in an ambulance since they had taken him from a hospital bed.
Mmolotsi wondered if the Immigration Act also states that a person being deported should be transported in a van despite their condition.
“It is shocking the way the 96-year-old was treated by the government of this country. Investigations were not done properly. They did not interview people who have known Khumalo since his arrival in the country. Only two people who met him recently were interviewed. The officials did not even travel to Sebina village to get more information about Khumalo,” Mmolotsi said.
He said if the officials had kind hearts, they should have treated Khumalo better instead of treating him like a “dog”. All hell broke loose for Khumalo on July 30 when a social worker called the immigration office in Selebi-Phikwe to say that a patient who had been discharged from Selebi-Phikwe Government Hospital in July 29 had nowhere to go and had no identity documents.