Zim engages UN for repatriation of its ‘refugee citizens’ from Botswana

Harare – Zimbabwe has engaged the United Nations to assist the country in repatriating hundreds of citizens who have been living as refugees in Botswana for over a decade.

The two countries, during the tenure of their former leaders, Presidents Robert Mugabe and Ian Khama failed to make headway on the issue.

But with new leadership in charge in both countries, the issue of the refugees who have been stationed at Dukwi Refugee Camp is one of the many that will come under the spotlight as Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and Botswana’s Masisi meet under the auspices of the
Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Harare on Thursday. The majority of the Zimbabweans who are refugees at Dukwi trekked to Botswana at the height of political violence during the 2008 elections.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Sibusiso Moyo said at a meeting of ministers from the two countries that the issue concerning the refugees had been outstanding for some time.

“The issue of Zimbabwean nationals’ resident at the Dukwi Camp has been outstanding as an agenda item for a while. It is in view of this that the matter must be given priority to facilitate its finality,” Retired Lieutenant General Moyo. “I have since engaged structures of the United Nations Development Programme to partner our two countries in order to carry out the relocation to Zimbabwe of our returnees from Dukwi.”

Dukwi Camp was established by the Lutheran World Federation in 1978 to cope with an influx of refugees from the then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and apartheid South Africa.

It is estimated that it hosted up to 45 000 people at its peak escaping brutal regimes in Rhodesia, South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

Over the years the camp has also become home to people from Somalia, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

Some reports put the number of Zimbabweans resident at the camp at below 700. After a deadline was given to the refugees by the Botswana government to return home by December 31, 2018, slightly over 300 had been expected to return home by end of last month.
Besides the refugee crisis, Moyo said Zimbabwe and Botswana will sign eight agreements in various economic areas on Thursday.

Once strained under the leadership of Mugabe and Khama, relations between the two countries have thawed to an all-time high in months under new leadership in both countries.

Botswana has even doubled funding under a facility to Zimbabwean companies from BWP500 million to BWP 1 billion, about US$95 million. Botswana’s Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Dr Unity Dow said the meeting between the two countries leaders “is testament to our governments’ desire to further strengthen our bond of friendship and elevate our cordial relations to even high levels.”