By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone - Namibian refugees have accused Botswana authorities of using underhand means to boot them out of the country.
These allegations were, however, shot down by Defence, Justice and Security, Permanent Secretary Segakweng Tsiane, who said claims that the Botswana government was secretly repatriating the Namibian refugees against their will were unfounded.
“I can confirm that we have received four Namibian refugees who want to take up voluntary repatriation back home to Namibia,” she said.
But the refugees who are former members of United Democratic Party this week accused Botswana of throwing its democratic ideals through the window by “ignoring who they are when it comes to the Caprivian issue”.
In a statement, the exiled leader of the separatist movement in the former Caprivi now Zambezi region of Namibia, Mishake Muyongo said the forced repatriation on 25 October 2018 under which Abel Walubita, Ben Zwelo, Nzundamo Matemwa and Limbo Malala were taken to Caprivi Strip is an open breach of international instruments that govern asylum seekers and refugee conventions.
“It is a common cause that the acts of the Botswana government this far on the Caprivian people is just aimed to appease Namibia on a friendly basis.
“The dubious so-called repatriation being conducted in Dukwi is actually a direct contempt of Court order of 18 March 2016 and 25 July 2018 consecutively held at Lobatse High Court,” he said.
Muyongo said these Caprivians were repatriated against their will, the government imposed migration laws that do not apply to political refugees in any circumstance as per the definition of a refugee under the UN convention of 1951 and protocol of 1967.
He added that “two of the deportees were in the centre for illegal immigrants after saving their sentences; they were later pounded with prohibited immigrants (PI), which rendered them to fall under immigration laws.”
According to Muyongo, one of them was stolen from his relatives in Dukwi Refugee Camp after allegedly being misled that he was being driven home after government officials bought him drinks.
“In a nutshell, I never expected Botswana to treat Caprivians in this manner. Caprivians and Batswana fought historical battles together, and Botswana should not forget the past, because it is the past that makes the good present,” he said.
Muyongo further said: “It is a surprise as the government says they cannot afford to lose their friendship with Namibia because of the Caprivi issue; a clear and loud statement that Caprivians are the means to strengthen their friendship. This newly found friendship with Namibia is a double-edged knife that will not cut only Caprivians but Batswana too.”
He said he was informed of humiliation and psychological torture Caprivians are receiving from the commanders of Dukwi Refugee Camp, who are charged with the affairs of refugees; they are being threatened and called names that they are afraid of hunger that is why they are refusing to go home, and many more.
He appealed to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to revisit the manner in which the Caprivians are being treated in Botswana.
“The judiciary of Botswana holds the clear record as to what made the Caprivians to flea (sic) from Namibia. On four different occasions, the High Court of Botswana ruled that Caprivians should not be taken back to Namibia citing political reasons,” he said.
The Lobatse High Court, about, 68 kilometres from Gaborone has since interdicted the Botswana government from deporting Namibian refugees.
Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa of Lobatse High Court in July ordered that the government should not deport the Namibian refugees until reasons for fleeing no longer exist. Tsiane argued that there was no way the government could act contrary to a court order.
She said the four Namibians who were allegedly deported were former refugees that had applied to be repatriated.
She said their applications were still being processed through the normal process, which is done in consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
She dismissed claims that they tricked refugees to agree to the repatriation arguing that the refugees are the ones who approached the ministry.
“This process is without any duress by anybody. It is also not in contravention of any law or court order. I can also confirm that the court order does not prohibit anybody who voluntarily wants to go home from doing so and be lawfully facilitated to do so,” she said.