THERE was drama at Selebi-Phikwe Government Hospital in Botswana on Tuesday when immigration officials dragged a 96-year-old man believed to be a Zimbabwean from his hospital bed, with the intention of deporting him.
Alfred Khumalo had for the past 70 years been living in Botswana, but officials from that country said he has been doing so illegally and had to be deported.
A frail Khumalo tried to resist being bundled into a deportation truck, but his strength gave in and the immigration officials had their way.
He tried by all means to explain his situation to the officials, but they were determined to repatriate him back to his home country.
A Selebi-Phikwe resident, who was present when Khumalo was being dragged from his sickbed — Tumalano Keothokile — said the elderly man had settled in Botswana in 1943 at Sebina village.
He said Khumalo also moved to Matenge village and subsequently relocated to Selebi-Phikwe.
Keothokile explained that he met Khumalo in 1990 and all these years he looked up to him as a father figure.
He said Khumalo was in the process of acquiring citizenship, but it was unfortunate that the process had taken long to complete.
Keothokile said Khumalo was staying in Botshabelo Location and he got admitted at the hospital after suffering a stroke.
“I have been in possession of citizenship application forms, but the immigration officials came to my place on Friday last week and took them,” he said.
“They told me that they wanted to use them to assist the old man. I am surprised that today (Tuesday) they are repatriating him without consulting me.”
Keothokile expressed shock at the decision by immigration officials, saying they went behind his back to use the papers against Khumalo.
He described the decision as cruel and inhuman.
Investigations revealed that Khumalo was in a relationship with a certain woman in Selebi-Phikwe, but they were not married and did not have children together.
It has also emerged that Khumalo had been taking care of the woman’s children, just as their biological father.
Keothokile noted that the children had refused to take responsibility of the ailing Khumalo.
He also doubted if he had any relatives in Zimbabwe because he spent most of his life in Botswana.
One of the officers who was part of the team taking Khumalo back to Zimbabwe was overheard saying that Khumalo was not a Motswana and he had no place of residence.
He said the old man could still be allowed to visit Botswana if he had a passport.
He also added that they had already made arrangements with Zimbabwean officials to accept Khumalo.
Keothokile wondered where Khumalo was being taken to because he was last in Zimbabwe in 1943, describing his ordeal as torture.
Selebi-Phikwe assistant district officer Kushatha Tsokedi told Mmegi that she was not aware of the case, saying the immigration officials were better placed to comment.
She said there were procedures to be followed before one was deported from the country, especially in a case where one had stayed in Botswana for such a long time.
A senior immigration officer at the regional office said she could not comment on the matter because she has not been informed about it.
Khumalo was born in 1917 to a missionary father and his mother is said to be originally from Kwa-Zulu Natal Province in South Africa.