Gaborone - The nearly 700 Zimbabwean refugees based at the Dukwi
Refugee Camp in Botswana, have started trickling back home with the
December 31 deadline looming.
This follows negotiations between the two countries earlier this year,
with indications that it is now safe to return home, particularly with
a new government in place.
The majority of the 688 refugees fled Zimbabwe at the height of an
often violent presidential election in 2008.
Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister, Obert Mpofu told Southern Times this
week that following meetings with his Botswana counterpart in March, a
number of refugees have returned home.
"Some have returned home. However, we need a wholesome solution and
have all of them back in the country by the set deadline," Mpofu said.
Botswana has said it would be difficult to sustain the stay of
refugees, with Namibians affected as well, after the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees, cut aid to the host
countries. This means Botswana has to dig into its own coffers to
cater for the emigrants.
After bilateral engagements between Harare and Gaborone, the refugees
requested a meeting with Mpofu, who flew to Dukwi in March.
He urged them to return home but some were skeptical and wanted assurances.
This week, Mpofu said he will engage further with Botswana Defence and
Security Minister, Shaw Kgathi over the matter.
While the Zimbabwean refugees were given a December 31 deadline, their
Namibian counterparts have been told to leave before July 13.
However, the Namibia refugees have vowed to stay put, refusing to return home.
They sought audience with SADC officials to no avail this week, and
the police had to transport them back to Dukwi.