GABORONE — Botswana is battling an influx of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, as Harare struggles to overcome a deep economic crisis.
Gaborone appears to be losing the battle, as those who are deported are soon back in the country.
Prosper Kandanhamo and Thomas Gundani left Zimbabwe and entered Botswana illegally because of the moribund economy in their homeland.
“I came to Botswana because back home in Zimbabwe, there are no job opportunities,” Kandanhamo said.
The two are among the many illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe who line the streets of Gaborone looking for odd jobs.
But they are an unwelcome sight for authorities and subject to frequent police raids.
The number of Zimbabweans arrested and deported in Botswana rose from 22,000 in 2015 to nearly 29,000 in 2018.
Kandanhamo, an accountant, said they are often caught.
“It’s better to be caught by the police,” he said. “At the (police) cells, they will give you food and transport to the border. They deport you, and you find
your way back (rather) than to go back to Zimbabwe.”
Gundani, a painter, said they would rather risk arrest than return to face hardship in Zimbabwe.
“We just have to come back,” he said. “The situation here is difficult for us, but compared to Zimbabwe, it’s worse.”
Botswana citizens like Moemedi Mokgachane say illegal immigrants contribute to rising crime and are demanding a solution.
“We take them back today, tomorrow they are here, because there is nothing to hide. There is nothing that can put them to stay where you are taking them. “They
will come back because they know there is a fruit here,” Mokgachane said.
Illegal immigration will persist as long as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is not addressed, says Gaborone-based analyst Lawrence Ookeditse.
Botswana spends about $100,000 a year deporting Zimbabwean illegal immigrants. — VOA