Tuesday, 22 June 2021


FIVE Zimbabwean nationals based in Botswana are resisting deportation citing fear of political persecution, NewsDay has heard.

The five Zimbabwean nationals, led by Terrence Charuma, are challenging their deportation despite the cancellation of their refugee status by the Defence, Justice and Security ministry in February.

The cancellation of their refugee status was confirmed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) after ruling out claims of political prosecution.

“Not only was the decision national and fully supported, the decision was more than one year later borne out and confirmed by the UNHCR also finding that the applicants no longer merit being recognised as refugees,” the director for refugee management in the Defence, Justice and Security ministry, Thobo Letlhage, said in the State’s opposing papers filed recently.

“The statements by the applicants that returning refugees have been subjected to human rights violations and languishing in jail are blatantly untrue and this is borne out by the finding of the government and UNHCR.”

Nearly 300 Zimbabweans sought refuge in Botswana citing political persecution during the violent 2008 presidential elections.

But officials from the UN refugee agency in Botswana and Zimbabwe now maintain that the refugees were no longer at risk.

“The citation by the applicants of an alleged fear of persecution is unfounded. The true and real reason the applicants refuse to go back to Zimbabwe is the prospect of exploiting economic opportunities that they have taken advantage of in Botswana. They are heavily involved in business ventures,” Letlhage said.

The UN refugee agency said returning refugees would be assisted with a cash grant, food package and sanitary items.

Reports indicate that the Botswana government will provide transport, while the reception of the returnees and their documentation and reintegration will be the responsibility of Zimbabwean authorities.

A number of nationals have returned home voluntarily, while some have been deported since the outbreak of COVID-19.

There are no clear statistics on the number of Zimbabwean nationals in Botswana and other countries. Newsday


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