Zim refugees in Botswana inch closer to return


Zim refugees in Botswana inch closer to return

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 19, 2018

    > Bakang Mhaladi

    Gaborone - Some 700 Zimbabwean refugees resident in Botswana are inching closer to a return home as the two countries’ governments are finalising their repatriation.


    otswana's Minister of Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, held meetings with the refugees recently, and those who wanted to return home were asked to fill-out forms.

    The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has cut aid to host countries, which means Botswana has to dig into its own coffers to cater for the emigrants.

    Following Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visit Botswana last week, Harare has asked the refugees to return home.

    Zimbabwe's Minister of Home Affairs, Obert Mpofu, said he was unaware that there are Zimbabwean refugees in the neighbouring country.

    He told state daily, The Chronicle, that they were in the process of facilitating the repatriation of the refugees, mostly those who fled after the disputed 2008 presidential election.

    "During President Mnangagwa's state visit to Botswana, we learnt that we have 700 Zimbabweans who are refugees in Botswana. We did not know about them until we visited Botswana. So we discussed with the ministers of defence, home affairs and immigration and we agreed that I lead a team to Botswana in a few days to understand the background to it," Mpofu said.

    The Southern Times can reveal that the majority of refugees have started filling-out repatriation forms.

    However, some, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had requested a meeting with a Zimbabwe government representative to clarify certain issues.

    "Some of us have nowhere to go, we have been away for 10 years and we need to discuss our future with the new government," one of the refugees said.

    "We ran away from the violence in 2008 and we lost our houses and property, we will need assistance before we commit to a return." President Mnangagwa has pledged to hold a free and fair election, inviting those interested in observing the poll, to do so.

    The atmosphere is seen as having drastically improved to allow the return of the refugees.

    "There is no need for anyone to be outside the country following the new dispensation. We want all our citizens back. There cannot be any reason that we are aware of for their continued stay outside the country," Mpofu said.

    Further meetings are scheduled between the two governments, with Mpofu expected in Botswana to meet Kgathi, before the repatriations begin.

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