GABORONE — Botswana has accused Zimbabwean illegal immigrants of spreading crop and animal diseases such as foot and mouth, which is threatening the country’s beef industry.
An official from the Agriculture ministry Galeitsiwe Ramokapane was quoted by Mmegi newspaper saying illegal immigrants crossing into Botswana were to blame for disease outbreaks.
Ramokapane said his ministry was particularly worried by the huge influx of Zimbabweans. He also blamed the immigrants for the spread of the fruit fly disease.
Botswana shares a long border with Zimbabwe that stretches from Matabeleland North to South.
Ramokapane said animal and crop diseases had a huge impact on Botswana’s agricultural sector and threatened the country’s food security.
“We have a problem of continuous outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the north of Botswana, suspected to be fuelled by illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe,” he said.
To avoid this to happen with fruit fly disease, there is a need for us as a country to tighten our security along the border areas to stop unlawful entrance of people here.”
Ramokapane said some illegal immigrants smuggled fruits and vegetables that were not examined for possible diseases like fruit fly.
He said every visitor should have their goods inspected to avoid possible disease outbreaks in the country.
“The ministry has officers working at the country’s borders to inspect all the food that comes into the country and prohibits any entry of food suspected of any disease, but the problem is that some illegal immigrants cross into Botswana with such food,” Ramokapane said.
He said after the outbreak of fruit fly in Botswana, the country reached an agreement with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe under an association known as Bonazazi to control the pest.
“We are hopeful that the Bonazazi association will help control or eliminate the spread of animal and crop diseases amongst the countries because they are also equally concerned about the spread of the diseases across borders,” Ramokapane said.
A Chobe district plant protection officer Akosembe Mandevu also told a workshop last week that the country faced an influx of Zambian illegal immigrants who contributed to the spread of animal and crop diseases.
Thousands of Zimbabweans cross into Botswana illegally every year as they try to escape the mounting economic problems at home.
The neighbouring country also deports thousands of immigrants who quickly find their way back into Botswana.