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Tough lives of undocumented Ngamilanders

NWDC CHAIRPERSON: Ntsogotho

Hundreds reduced to abject poverty by lack of Omang

Hundreds of Ngamilanders of Angolan descent have become undocumented and stateless when their Identity cards (OMang) were revoked recently.

Maapeo Yeto, of Bombadi ward in Maun is one such person who lives a tough life of an undoumented individual.

The 49- year- old woman has found herself in a predicament whereby she can’t work or enjoy benefits that citizens of this country are entitled to because she couldn’t renew her Omang (Identity card) this year.

Yeto like many others of Angolan descent who were born here and issued IDS only for such IDS to be revoked when they wanted to renew, is now living in abject poverty while she is waiting to renounce a citizenship of a country she has never been to.

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The renunciation issue has affected scores of people living in the Shakawe area, including Godigwa, Etsha, Sechenje and Sekondomboro villages.

Many claim their parents settled in Botswana from the neighbouring Angola before Botswana gained independence from Britain in September 1966.

“For many years I have been renewing my Omang without any problem. But in September I was rejected because my parents were originally from Angola. It was my first time to hear that my parents were Angolans because we were born in Sechenje/Sekondomboro in Shakawe area,” Yeto explained.

“There is absolutely nothing one can do without an ID. I used to work for Ipelegeng but now my hands are tied. I cannot even process my insurance policies and other related issues because without an Omang, its impossible to carry out official transactions,” Lamented Yeto

Her husband, Mashave Yeto is in the same boat.

Expressing his frustrations Mashave said, “I was born in Shakawe 55 years ago but I was recently told that I needed to renounce my Angolan citizenship. I have never been an Angolan. Yes my parents were originally Angolans but settled in Botswana way before Independence.”

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Mashave applied for citizenship in 2001 but he is yet to get approval.

DISTRESSED: Mashavane

“Fortunately I still have my ID but it expires in two years time. I tried to apply for a passport, but I was turned down and told I need to sort out my citizenship. That is when I became aware of this issue.”

Yet another former individual of Angolan descent affected is Nangura Jack who says she was born in Botswana during the drought years, estimated to be in the early 1940s.

The old woman who has since been reduced to a destitute status says her destitute benefits were cut and her pension stopped after government officials impounded her ID in 2014 when she tried to renew it.

“They told me I am not a Motswana and revoked my Omang. I was left in the lurch.” Jack stated.

Speaking at her home in Shashe ward in Maun, the old woman explained that before the revocation of her ID she received food baskets from government and pension.

“But when I went to the post office for pension, without a national ID they threw me out like a dog. I had to walk a long way back home because I was counting on that money for taxi fare,” she said.

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Immigration laws of Botswana qualify any person who was a citizen of this country before independence to apply for citizenship by settlement at a reasonable fee of P200.

Jack applied in November 2014 and she still carries the receipts and acknowledgement of her declaration but she is yet to get a response from the immigration office.

“My parents came to Botswana during the drought season and settled in Shakawe. My mother told me she was pregnant with me when they arrived in the country,” Jack explained.

Many years her parents tracked back to Angola leaving her behind with a relative who raised her.

“That is how I remained in Botswana to date,” Jack explained.

She says she was shocked when her Omang was impounded because all she ever knew is that she is a Motswana.

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“We never knew about these laws until our IDs were taken away from us. We have done the needful but still we are treated as outsiders, left out in the cold because without an ID’s there is nothing you can get in your name!”

LEFT TO STARVE: Nangura

Area Councillor, Kebonyemodisa Ramolapo of Thito –Bombadi ward stated that there are several cases of this nature in his ward and is of the view that government officers do not understand how difficult it is to live life without an ID.

“They cannot get employment, basically their lives are at a standstill,” He said.

Meanwhile North West District Council chairperson, Kebadiretse Ntsogotho has read a sinister political motive on the government side.

“Many of the people whose IDs were impounded by governmen are in opposition party strongholds. Many of them are inn Etsha village, especially around Etsha 7 to Etsha 13 Most of the IDs were impounded ahead of the 2014 general elections,” Ntsogotho stated.

However official records have indicated that ahead of the 2014 elections, Angolan refugees in Botswana were repatriated through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which declared cessation for the Angolan refugees in June 2012.

The repatriation was done from June 2013 until November 2013 with a total of 461 sent back.

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Botswana government in fact withdrew the Angolans refugee status in 2012 and the concerned refugees were given up to October 2013 to return home.

According to history, more than 40 years of armed conflict in Angola, which ended in 2002, displaced over four million Angolans within the country and forced another 600,000 into exile.

Most are said to have fled to neighbouring countries including Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia among others.

Some were however displaced by persistent drought, which ravaged the war torn country from the 1930s up until around 1969.

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