FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana government has been urged to find cheaper ways of dealing with the issue of Zimbabwean illegal immigrants.
Batswana interviewed likened the present state of affairs to a mad man who kept on pouring water into the drum and the water kept coming out at the other end. The Botswana government keeps taking Zimbabwean illegal immigrants to Ramokgwebana border gate for repatriation back to their country but the deportees keep crossing back into Botswana only to be repatriated again. This everyday exercise has seen the government spending millions of Pulas in what is said to be an effort to ensure their numbers in Botswana are controlled. According to the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Acting Assistant Manager (Communications) Letso Mpho, 46, 472 illegal immigrants were arrested and repatriated countrywide last year. From Francistown and surrounding areas alone 27, 001 illegal immigrants, mostly Zimbabweans, were nabbed and taken home. The amount of money spent on the aliens for both food and transport countrywide was P594 397, 32. Francistown and its satellites accounted for P158 730,14. Illegals grabbed in Gaborone and surrounding areas made the Botswana government P153 337, 65 poorer. Asked whether there were any other alternatives to the current method, which is draining government coffers, especially in these recessionary times, Mpho was ambiguous in his response.
"We believe that with time the continuous repatriating of illegal immigrants whether they come back or not, one day they will see that they are not welcome." He added that there is money budgeted for sending illegal immigrants back home and feeding them because the issue of illegal immigrants is one of the problems that the country has to address. That the statistics given above prove that more money being spent in deporting illegal immigrants is not helping to improve the country is indisputable. Illegals are costing the government in money, time and resources. They have become a legal responsibility to the government rather than a net benefit. They are taking taxpayers' money away from those who are lawfully entitled to using it and they are putting a burden on the government. In that context, Mmegi took to the streets to gauge the opinion of some citizens as to what should be done about the situation. Themba Habana, a retired school headmaster, agreed that the repatriation exercise is wasteful, especially that those people keep coming back to seek economic opportunities.
"Botswana should copy the Unites States of
"Their salaries should also be regulated so that they are also not exploited. We have to take into consideration the fact that these people are from a fellow SADC country, and it can happen that we too may one day be forced by circumstances to emigrate to other countries looking for greener pastures," he said. As for Tembezelani Bathoeng, a boutique assistant, concurred saying repatriation of Zimbabweans was a wasteful exercise as money spent can be used for education and other issues that would advance the development of the country. "The government should be strict so that deportees do not come here again. On the other hand we cannot return them all to their country as some of them have skills that can help develop our country," she said. Bathoeng's colleague Goitse Motsisi, says the government will never be able to curb this vicious circle of repatriation of illegal immigrants. She said instead government should draft the immigrants as farm hands at its farms especially that Batswana are not keen on agriculture. "We should also bear in mind that by coming to Botswana the immigrants are here to make money and they should be paid well while they work on the farms," she said. Other respondents averred that even though they are under-cutting the labour market by accepting low wages and under illegal conditions, the illegal workforce might be a necessary part of the economy because most Batswana do not want to work as casual labourers, "Why can't the government come up with tougher sanctions to ensure that illegal immigrants cannot come and stay in this country unlawfully? The idea of permits has failed to serve its purpose," said a respondent who declined to identify himself, who added that the government has to adopt a cheaper way of dealing with the problem. Government is said to spend more than P5 million monthly to repatriate Zimbabwean illegals. However, according to BOPA, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse said that should not be the reason to hate Zimbabweans, as the situation in their country was unstable.