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Lawmakers condemn unjust immigration law

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Since 2013 scores of Batswana of Angolan descent have been rendered stateless after government revoked their national identity cards.

This started when government used the renunciation law, which requires children born of a foreign parent to renounce citizenship of their parent at the age of 21 before they can be issued Botswana Citizenship.

Many who were issued identification documents (Omang and Passport) before despite the law, had their documents taken away which left them stateless and in a predicament whereby they cannot even seek employment. Such people cannot even access their bank accounts or carry out business transactions.

This is despite the pending immigration law revision bill which was recommended by Parliament through a motion that was passed in December 2019.

The Bill is expected to allow for default position for children born here to automatically become Batswana if they do not denounce the citizenship.

In this week’s edition FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA speaks to lawmakers from the affected constituencies on the matter.

KENNY KAPINGA (Okavango)

Botswana policy on immigration is next to fascist. There is a morbid fascination with the idea of Botswana being flooded by foreign nationals.

This ultra conservative policy has resulted in a very hostile policy towards refugees and immigrants.

Citizens of Botswana of Angolan descent should after more than three decades of their parents living in Botswana and them having been born in Botswana and having never set foot in Angola not be required to be still applying for Botswana citizenship.

It is a case of an abusive immigration policy.

This same policy resulted in a coercive repatriation of Namibian refugees despite their well-known desire to settle in Botswana.

I am totally opposed to such a policy, which is contrary to international norms and standards. I therefore repudiate it.

CARTERPILLAR HIKUAMA (Ngami)

It is unfortunate for government to revoke and impound national IDs of people who have been here in Botswana for close to 38 years, people who have immensely contributed to both the country’s economic growth and development.

They participated in various economic activities in different sectors such as tourism and Agriculture.

Some people who were born here have no other country to call home apart from Botswana.

Hikuama

As such failure to denounce automatically should make them retain their Botswana citizenship because they have never been Angolans in the first place.

It is time Botswana inherit these people once and forever because truly speaking they are Batswana in spirit and everything else; they have no interest or connections to anything in Angola. It will be a win for the country to make them Botswana citizens.

GORETETSE KEKGONEGILE (Maun East)

It is unfortunate that our people have been subjected to such inhuman treatment for such a long time.

Being rendered stateless by the country of your birth and origin is tantamount to a death sentence as your life stands still with no progression at all.

Kekgonegile

It is in that context that Parliament in its December 2019 sitting adopted my motion, which corrected the injustice and rendered Botswana citizenship the default position.

Unfortunately minister responsible has not rectified the law through Parliament Bill, of which I intended to do through a private members bill in the coming meeting as a long-term solution to this injustice.

MACHANA SHAMUKUNI (Chobe )

The case of revoking Omang is prevalent in the Ngami and Okavango areas. We do not have many people of Angolan descent in Chobe.

Most of the cases involve people whose parents were origionally from other countries including Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Shamukuni

I have not received any case of those from Angola to be honest. But there are procedures put in place to help those in need to renounce citizenship and people who are mostly affected are children whose other parents are from outside the country.

When they reach the age of 21, they have to renounce procedurally

We have structures in place to process these applications within reasonable time; tribal leaders (Dikgosi) are there to help with affidavits.

We are actually reviewing the default position law so that those who were born in the country would be assumed to be citizens unless they renounce it.
The bill is on the way. As you know everything is a process we have to consult and come up with the law that is implementable and the responsible ministry will do it.

Currently the custodian of the bill is the ministry responsible for immigration and national registrations.

KEBAREEDITSE NTSOGOTHO (North West district council chairperson)

Many people around Etsha are undocumented. They are being denied basic amenities because to access free services you need to be identified by your national ID.

While government officers take all their time to establish these people’s citizenships, their lives are on hold, they cannot make any progress in life.

Ntsogotho

Most of the IDs were revoked during the 2014 general elections period so we realized that this was not just an immigration issue but also a matter associated with elections.

Many people whose IDs were confiscated were associated we opposition parties.

Their Omang were revoked in order to reduce opposition party voting power.

We need to stand up and speak up against this kind of discrimination against our people.

There is need for intervention by members of parliament, District Commissioners and tribal authorities so that we see how best to assist these people.

In fact I believe the minister has to come forth and assist these people.

The issue here is not legibility because people who’s IDs were revoked have long settled in Botswana before independence.

It appears IDs were revoked following an instruction from the top.

It was a deliberate political stand to derive these people of their identity as Batswana.

These people came from Angola the same way many others arrived from many other countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and others to join hands and build this country.

They contributed immensely to the development of this country.

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