Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

Zimbabwe: Arrest sours plans for leaving Botswana

Publisher IRIN
Publication Date 19 February 2009
Cite as IRIN, Zimbabwe: Arrest sours plans for leaving Botswana, 19 February 2009, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

GABORONE, 19 February 2009 (IRIN) - Scenes of jubilation broke out at the long-distance bus terminus in Botswana's capital, Gaborone, on the day Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwean opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was inaugurated as prime minister - and the talk was all about going home.

For the next 48 hours, Zimbabweans, who according to some estimates add another 600,000 people to Botswana's official 1.6 million population, spoke of their homeland's renewed prospects, but the mood changed with the arrest of MDC deputy minister designate Roy Bennett on 13 February.

"The problem is, the things that forced us to leave home in the first place have still not been addressed," Amon Maredza, a hawker at the bus rank, told IRIN.

"Personally, I was very disappointed when we heard one of the people who were supposed to be sworn into office [Bennett] was arrested ... That is very disturbing if you are just about to make such a bold decision of going back home," he said.
The failure to release other political activists, accused of receiving military training in Botswana as part of a conspiracy to topple President Robert Mugabe, weighs heavily on the minds of Zimbabweans.

"I have always wanted to go back home when things normalise, but not now ... I certainly cannot take the risk and go home. I would rather remain here for a little longer, and see how the situation unfolds," Maredza said.

The reluctance to return home is not that life is easy in Botswana, but because for the meanwhile the neighbouring state offers greater benefits, despite the difficulties of living there.
"We just have to allow ourselves to be humiliated, that is the only way we can survive. People here are very impatient with us," said Mandla Mdlongwa, from Filabusi in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South Province, told IRIN.

"They have this attitude that we came here to take their jobs; they do not seem to understand that it is not our decision to be here, we were forced by circumstances beyond our control."

Expatriate Zimbabwean who fled the country's economic and humanitarian crises looked forward to going home when Mugabe, leader of ZANU-PF, and the MDC signed an agreement to form a unity government on 15 September 2008. "We were hopeful things would normalise when Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to work together last year. But at the moment, we just hope," said Mdlongwa. 

However, Thabang Molefe, one of the few local traders operating at the bus terminus, provided a different perspective. "It's not that we hate our Zimbabwean brothers or have any bad feelings towards them. Some of them are the problem - they are too arrogant and most of the time do not cooperate when locals want to talk to them," said Molefe.

"They always use Shona when communicating in our presence, but expect us to address them in English. We also feel it's not fair - we understood their problems when they came here, but now that the situation in their country has normalised, they should go back."
Yet Mdlongwa and Maredza insist the Batswana have a hostile attitude towards Zimbabweans, and especially towards Shona-speaking Zimbabweans. "They always say provocative things, but we do not retaliate because here you can easily get deported. At times they go and lie to the police that we are operating illegally," said Maredza, who has a valid work permit until the end of 2009.

"Even the authorities have this hostile attitude towards us. Right now, I know of a case where a Zimbabwean was robbed by police officers."
Maredza is referring to a case on the roll at Gaborone's Magistrate's Court where two police officers and five other local men allegedly swindled a Zimbabwean man out of US$1,600 and other valuables in Gaborone. The matter is set down for 24 February.

According to media reports, Dukwi Repatriation Camp, near the commercial town of Francistown, has delayed a decision to repatriate some of the 1,000 Zimbabwean refugees "until the situation has become conducive for their return".


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