‘All born in Botswana before 30th December 1982 are citizens by birth’ – PS
For the past eight years, scores of Ngamilanders of Angolan descent became undocumented and stateless when their national Identity cards (Omang) were revoked by the Botswana government.
Some were referred to as refugees in the only country they know to be theirs and reduced to paupers as without Omang, one cannot get employment or enjoy free services including health, land, and education let alone access financial and banking services unless they complete the renunciation process.
However, last month brought a sigh of relief to these masses when the government pronounced that those born in Botswana before 30th December 1982 would no longer be subjected to such an immigration ordeal. Those born after 30 December 1982 would not be required to renounce citizenship unless they hold dual citizenship.
In fact, the government admitted that the Immigration Act of 1998 gave people born in Botswana the right to be citizens by birth.
In a saving-gram sent to immigration offices around the country on April 16th, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Motse Otlhabanye, admitted that this administrative measure has become an impediment to effective service delivery to the people.
“Although I recognise that they (administrative measures) were initially made in good faith it is evident that they have become a bottleneck and the public is negatively affected in the process.”
Otlhabanye was sharing what he said is a directive from the Minister that stated, “Persons born in Botswana before 30th December 1982, who acquired Omang cards and passports should not be subjected to any citizenship formalities (applying for confirmation of their citizenship). This is because there is no doubt regarding their citizenship status.”
Ahead of the 2014 general elections, Immigration and Nationality offices withdrew Omang cards and passports of some citizens who wanted to renew the said identification documents citing that they needed to renounce their Angolan citizenship.
This process left many people helpless including 70-year old Nangura Jack whose pension and food basket money were stopped when her Omang reached expiry date. Despite several attempts for her to apply for confirmation of her citizenship, she was never successful and sadly passed on early this year in Bombadi ward, Maun.
Others who spoke out about this matter termed it as discriminatory and prayed that someday things would change for the better.
But it appears God has answered their prayers because five months after the initial interview with Okavango Voice, the Ministry has released a positive directive.
In the directive, the government has stated that all these people were allowed in terms of section 4 of the citizenship act number 8 of 1998 to claim citizenship of Botswana because they are citizens by birth.
“They acquired their citizenship of Botswana at birth,” noted the P.S.
Communities affected by the renunciation issue are mostly in villages near Shakawe and Seronga including Etsha, Sekondomboro among others.