Saturday, 21 December 2019


THE Government has said the 137 people that have been repatriated by Botswana through the Plumtree Border Post are not victims of Gukurahundi but people who had probably gone to the neighbouring country to look for employment as the facts do not add up to give the story the post-independence narrative.

Commenting on the reports that the returnees fled the country because of Gukurahundi, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Cde Monica Mutsvangwa, said in an interview that people should not use the Gukurahundi episode for political capital.

She said the fact that a number of the returnees have confirmed to having left the country 15 years ago disqualifies it from being a Gukurahundi story but essentially an economic one. She added that to give the story a Gukurahundi narrative is a politically expedient way of apportioning weight so as to gain sympathy from the international donor community. 

“I have seen the report which allege that some people have been living out of Zimbabwe for 15 years and this clearly has nothing to do with Gukurahundi legacy,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said she fails to see how the number of years they have been out of the country connects with Gukurahundi, unless that was stated for political reasons which were not historically factual.

“As a country we have faced a number of challenges mainly due to the impacts of illegal sanctions imposed by the West on Zimbabwe. For almost 20 years Zimbabwe has been isolated.

“There have been no meaningful investments, in fact there has been disinvestment, most industries closed down leaving most of our people unemployed. 

“This triggered migration of our people seeking greener pastures in our neighbouring countries and abroad. Some have made their lives and families elsewhere but should they think of coming home, we will embrace them because we all know home is best,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

The minister said that there were people trickling back into the country speaks volumes on the success and sincerity of the engagement and re-engagement efforts of the new political dispensation.

“The Second Republic in its engagement and re-engagement efforts has not left out our diasporans. Zimbabwe is their home and they are always welcome,” she added.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Cde Lovemore Matuke confirmed receiving reports of the returnees and echoed Minister Mutsvangwa’s sentiments that they, like so many others went to neighbouring countries under the weight of economic rather than political challenges.

He said the ministry was going to assess their needs and if need be start assisting them under vulnerable groups.

“We are going to assess their needs. If there is a need for them to be treated as a special group we will do so and make sure they get the assistance they require from the money allocated in the budget. They should not lie about Gukurahundi to gain donor sympathy, we are going to help them the way we are doing with everybody who is in need of assistance,” he said. 

Cde Matuke said it was not a secret that a number of economic refugees left the country under the guise of political asylum seekers when in fact they were not threatened politically.

Reports say about 640 refugees are expected to be deported back home with the 137 that have already arrived in Zimbabwe being the first group of returnees. The returnees were provided with transport by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

The Botswana government has reportedly given the refugees an ultimatum to register for voluntary repatriation by 31 December or face forced removals.

Reports suggest that Botswana believes the refugees will not suffer any form of persecution by the present political administration which is what precipitated its decision to return the refugees to Zimbabwe.

“The Botswana government is convinced that Zimbabwe is safe for the so-called political refugees. The thawing relations between Harare and Gaborone is on the mend following a change of administration in both countries with sincerity and engagement seemingly being the hallmark of the two’s political and economic route going forward,” said an official at the border. Sunday News


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