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Gov to repatriate 367 Zim refugees

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“We’re being forced out!” claim refugees

After a messy repatriation exercise involving Namibian refugees back in September, the government of Botswana finds herself dealing with another possible hot potato.

This time the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security has turned up the heat on 526 Zimbabwean refugees at Dukwi Camp.

Last year the government forcibly repatriated over 1, 000 Caprivians to Namibia after the Court of Appeal gave the green light for their removal.

The exercise, which attracted the attention of world media, was not without teething problems as some Namibians remain incarcerated at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants.

Having refused to leave, self-appointed Caprivian spokesperson Felix Kakula as well as Gaspa Machana, Nervous Lutambo, Richard Mosupali and Mikini Smith are still languishing at the centre after their refugee statuses were revoked.

Similarly, the Ministry is facing resistance from some Zimbabwean refugees, most of them members of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change who fled political persecution during the 2008 violent presidential election.

The Voice has been reliably informed that refugees who were given a deadline of 31 December 2019 to register for voluntary repatriation are now being threatened into signing or face forcible removal.

“They always remind us of what happened to the Namibians, and that we’ll be dragged out of the camp screaming and kicking,” said a concerned refugee who pleaded anonymity.

“Listen, we all know how this will end. We remember that Namibian kids were dragged out of classrooms as they sat for their exams. But for some of us, there’s no other option but to hold off with hope that the Botswana government will have a change of heart,” they added.

The source further claimed the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) is the one pushing for this ‘ill-timed’ repatriation.

“Chief of Mission Arvin Gupta is leading this and at times I feel he’s defying even the government because he doesn’t want to listen or wait until the concerned refugees are at least given a better package,” said the worried youth, who has called Botswana home for the last 12 years.

The source further maintained that after they told Gupta conditions in Zimbabwe are not yet conducive for their safe return, the UNHCR then offered them food rations for three months, transport to the border and US$300 (P3, 000) each.

“It is not enough, but some had to take it because we were threatened with being declared illegal immigrants. Most of those who left will be back here as illegal immigrants. For most of us there is nothing left in Zim, no home, no family and no hope!” they concluded desperately.

Responding to a questionnaire from The Voice, Secretary for Safety and Security-Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Pearl Ramokoka explained that the repatriation exercise is being facilitated by the Botswana government and UNHCR.

“So far it is proceeding smoothly,” she insisted.

Ramoroka said out of a total of 526 Zimbabwean refugees who were accommodated in Dukwi, 367 have registered for voluntary repatriation, of which 191 have already been repatriated, with 176 awaiting their turn.

“The ongoing repatriation exercise is for those who have registered for voluntary repatriation. Those who do not register will be managed under applicable Immigration laws and bilateral discussions with the government of Zimbabwe,” responded Ramoroka.

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How Gov bluddered on first Corona virus death

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*Hundreds exposed to the virus

Government secrecy and unreliable communication this week dealt a devastating blow to the fight against Corona virus, exposing hundreds of people to infection in Gaborone and surrounding areas.

As people reeled from the announcement of the first Corona Virus death in the country on Tuesday afternoon, it has emerged that government had known about the 79- year- old Ramotswa woman’s status since Thursday last week and concealed the information both to the family and mortuary that handled her body.

On Wednesday afternoon traumatised Babereki Ka Lorato Mortuary staff spoke of how they were unnecessarily exposed to the deadly virus.

Speaking in an interview with The Voice Newspaper on Wednesday, the concerned Chairman of the mortuary, Martin Gabokake said the woman was brought in a body bag on Friday.

“Our employees asked why someone who had died at Bamalete Lutheran hospital a day before was brought in a body bag and they were told she died of asthma, and so they let the body in and handled it in the manner they normaly handle all other bodies,” Gabobake explained.

He went on further to explain that it was only yesterday that to their shock and horror the staff was told of the true nature of the old woman’s passing.
“ Had we been told the truth to begin with, the body would have been handled in a safer way. The fact that they brought her in a body bag means they new something and they blatantly lied to us,” Gabobake said.

Her funeral was also not accorded the security screening associated with Covid-19 deaths, a source has revealed. Health officials have since asked villagers who had attended the old woman’s funeral to submit for testing as they to may have been exposed to the virus.

This was another terrible blunder by government. Had they disclosed that the old woman had died of COVID -19 or even told us that she was a suspected case, most of us would have kept away,” said the source.

Meanwhile government moved to quarantine 14 family members on Tuesday. All mortuary employees and close associates of the woman were also locked up for observation on Wednesday.

Colleagues of the deceased grandson, who works for a local hotel, have also been summoned for mandatory testing.

“Her grandson (name known to this publication) continued working with us and it was business as usual. He did not know his grandmother had the virus and died from it. They were very close. He is the one who took care of her and took her for hospital visits,” the worried colleague has revealed.

Efforts to get a comment from the grandson were futile at the time of going to press. In a telephone interview from quarantine he told The Voice that he wished for privacy.

Botswana has recorded one death as a result of the COVID-19 with three positive cases currently stable at the Sir Ketumile Teaching Hospital in Gaborone.

There are 189 negative results, 593 lab test performed and 1856 people currently on quarantine.

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Politicians clash over Covid-19 meeting

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The fight against Covid-19 stepped into the periphery of partisan politics this week as the absence of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leaders sparked accusations and counter-accusations over their invitation to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s closed meeting.

UDC President, Duma Boko and party vice president, Dumelang Saleshando, were not part of the delegation that attended the three-hour long meeting.

Although Masisi stated that Boko, like other party leaders was invited, the UDC has vehemently denied the claim.

In a press release that was issued last night the UDC said. “We have noted the events that have been evolving around the Covid-19 pandemic, its a serious matter that requires all of us to work genuinely. We value and encourage national dialogue on important matters such as the fight against Covid 19. The truth is that the UDC president has not received any invitation from Office of the President and we call OP to provide proof.”

However, when the UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa was asked about calls made to him by OP, he said, ” I was asked about Boko’s whereabouts by Kaelo Molefe and I told him I was in Phikwe. I asked him to check him at his house. This morning I got another call from Professor Mpho Molomo who said he had Boko’s invitation to a meeting with President Masisi and I suggested that they go to his house, an address which is popular within the government enclave. I indicated to him that I had received a similar call from Kaelo Molefhe and he said he was with him. Kaelo knows where Boko stays having been his associate in the build-up to the 2014 General Elections. So quite frankly I doubt he would say he does not know Boko’s house. As regards Nick and Keorapetse I cannot comment on their behalf, ” explained Mohwasa last night.

Dithapelo Keorapetse too said that the OP was being playful. “Why would they contact me for DGB? They are aware of his PA, VP, Secretary General, Spokesperson and UDC NEC. These are the people from who to check him. Whoever wants the UDC President from me for official things is playing. The state has been to his house several times. How did they suddenly forget his place of abode? Even Kaelo knows Boko’s House from his UDC days, ” said Keorapetse.

The accusations did not go well with the BDP Chairman of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, who expressed concern that the UDC was turning a pandemic into a political mudsling.

He said that all efforts including calls, text, WhatsApp messages to Boko, Moeti, Keorapetse and Boko’s bodyguard were made without any success. “There is a communication trail to prove this. UDC must know when to come to the table and be patriotic on issues on national interest such as COVID-19, its very disappointing for a party calling themselves an alternative government to behave in this manner but Batswana are watching and we know they will punish them for this.”

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