This exercise earned the two countries showers of praise and accolades from the international community. For the concerned individuals this was merely an emotionally-charging operation that they viewed as a mere "return to their ancestral land'.
For them the repatriation of the remains of Kgosi Nswazwi signalled the beginning of the end of their exile. Like the biblical story about the Israelites and the promised land, they had patiently awaited their inevitable and imminent return to their motherland as negotiation between the two countries continued. For them December 2006 will remain indelible on their minds. For it marked the opening of the gates for them to safely return to their promised land. These are our brothers and sisters, our fellow countrymen, sons and daughters of this soil - Baka-Nswazwi.
Today I am taking a trip to this Nswazwi village. It is a village that for the past months made newspaper headlines, particularly about the arrival of the Baka-Nswazwi.
It is a big village and I do not know where to begin with my search for my people. I then remember that there is a very famous clergyman in this village known as retired minister Nsunda Moses Holonga of the UCCSA. We drive to his house. He is an old man. We introduce ourselves to him and our mission. " I will take you there," he says as he drags his old frame to his house to change. After a few minutes we are on our way.
We are now on this dusty and bumpy road that goes through the village. The retired minister is our guide.
The area looks green because of the prevalent Mophane tree in this area. Suddenly there is the appearance of children playing on the dusty road. There are sounds of cocks all over the place. There are also a number of women with buckets balanced on their heads. They are fetching water from a standpipe. Clothes are hanging nicely from the laundry lines. There are also multi-coloured portable toilets here and there.
Sounds of hammers and people on rooftops of houses under construction are everywhere. There are also heaps of building sand and piles of bricks of all shapes and sizes. A new ward for this village is slowly but surely taking shape.
All these are signs that I have finally arrived at the place of the Baka-Nswazwi, as they are popularly known in the village. " This is where they are found," declares Holonga as we alight from the car.
We decide to visit a number of homesteads. The first that we enter belongs to 45-year-old Galani Jenamo. " This is a five-roomed house with a toilet and a bathroom," he declares with a grin. Jenamo, a carpenter, says that he is building the ' mansion' from his pockets.
"I saved some money that I
am using to build this house. I used to operate a small business in Zimbabwe," Jenamo says as he stands up to consult the builders.
The father of four takes me down memory lane. "We waited patiently for our repatriation to our ancestral land. The whole process of negotiations about our fate intensified after the relocation and reburial of the remains of Kgosi Nswazi." He says that they went through a registration process to ascertain the actual number of those who wished to return.
He is full of praise for the two governments for the diligent manner in which they handled the operation.
As for the reception in the country and particularly in the village, he says:
" The Botswana government and the people of this village have really welcomed us with open hearts. All of us have been given residential plots. We already have Omang cards and passports to prove that we are Batswana." He says that these documents took a week to be processed, which is commendable.
" Social amenities such as toilets and water have also been provided freely,'" he says as he shows me the facilities.
Jenamo also discloses the fact that for the past three months they have also been getting food rations from the government. "But the three months have elapsed. We are, however, hopeful that the period will be extended as most of us have not yet found any employment."
His neighbours are the Mosinkis. They are a family of six. As I walk into their home, I find 45-year-old Glasher Mosinki relaxing under a shade. His wife is busy doing the laundry while their four children are running around and happily playing.
Like Jenamo, Mosinki testifies about the warmth and humility that continue to characterise their return. " It shows that our repatriation had been well planned. Some government officials usually come to check on how the resettling process is going on. We are really grateful of such gestures of goodwill," he says happily.
A farmer by profession, Mosinki laments the fact that he was forced to leave his cattle in Zimbabwe. "Due to this deadly foot and mouth disease (FMD) the authorities would not allow us to bring our cattle along, " he says sadly. He however, finds solace in the fact that he is a multi-talented man. "Right now I make money by repairing shoes because I am a trained cobbler," he says.
Mosinki also reveals that in terms of security they are "pretty safe: because the SSGs usually patrol this area to ensure we are safe."
"We walk freely even at night without any fear kana we are fully fledged Batswana," he says as he searches in his pocket for the Omang to prove the point. " I am a Motswana with an identity card and a passport," he says.