Nqobile Tshili, chronicle Correspondent
GOVERNMENT is working on modalities to repatriate nearly 700 Zimbabweans, mainly victims of political violence, who escaped to Botswana 10 years ago after assuring them that their safety is guaranteed under the new dispensation.
Following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State visit to Botswana in February, authorities discovered that nearly 700 Zimbabweans sought refuge in the neighbouring country during the 2008 general elections.
The President then assigned the Minister of Home Affairs and Culture, Dr Obert Mpofu, to look into the matter and find ways of bringing them back home.
In an interview, Dr Mpofu said he recently visited Botswana and met the affected people.
He said he discovered that most of them were victims of political violence.
“There are about 686 Zimbabweans who sought refuge in Botswana. I saw most of them and they mainly hail from Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo and just a few from other provinces such as Midlands. Most of them left the country in 2008,” said Dr Mpofu.
“They said they left the country escaping political violence during the election re-run period. These people say they want to return home but feared for their safety. They want some assurances. “
The Minister assured them that they will not be harmed once they are back home.
He said Government was working with Botswana and its partners on modalities to repatriate the refugees.
“Some of them said their homes have been destroyed and are seeking assistance to rebuild them. I’m constantly in touch with some of them. Some of them are already coming. But we want this thing to be organised. We are working in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Botswana government,” Dr Mpofu said.
He said the coming in of a new leader in Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, will not affect bilateral relations between the two countries as he was already in the system as the neighbours forged new relations.
President Masisi, who deputised ex-President Ian Khama who retired on March 31 as the country’s leader, started work on April 1.
Dr Mpofu said he is satisfied with the change of heart among Batswana nationals in their treatment of Zimbabweans.
He said during his visit, he raised the issue of harassment of Zimbabwean illegal immigrants by their employers with relevant authorities and they promised to address the matter.
Dr Mpofu said he also appealed to Botswana officials not to shoot Zimbabwean cattle that stray into the neighbouring country.
“We also spoke about the issue of cattle straying into Botswana. We suggested that instead of them shooting down the animals they should quarantine them. Quarantining could be helpful because some of the animals would have been stolen in Zimbabwe and we would be intending to use them as exhibits after they have been recovered. But when they are shot dead we won’t have any exhibits,” he said.—@nqotshili