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Botswana’s confidential plan for Zimbabwe crisis

Publishing Date : 15 January, 2018


While the sudden takeover of power by the military had seemingly caused panic and anxiety amongst Zimbabweans, the Botswana government had secretly prepared for the possible crisis and put measures in place to deal with the situation.

A plan was hatched whose objective was to guide government agencies in responding comprehensively to the envisaged influx of immigrants from Zimbabwe. But things took a quick turn when soldiers and Zimbabwe clerics negotiated with former strong man, Robert Mugabe to step down and hand over to his disposed former deputy Emerson Mnangagwa. The army general who led the army to the capital Harare, General Constatine Chiwega has since been appointed Vice President.

According to a confidential report from the Office of the President labeled ‘Emergency Preparedness and response plan for the possible influx of immigrants in Botswana’, there was no plausible prospect of resolving the crises in the foreseeable future.

“The cumulative effect can be expected to reach a breaking point sooner or later, resulting in what could be a political melt-down. This eventually could lead to a sudden surge of immigrants into Botswana,” states the document. A total of 1500 soldiers were dispatched along the border front with Zimbabwe.

The document also narrates that as a country that would be immediately affected, Botswana had to make an emergency contingency plan that would address the situation and ensure she is not caught unaware. The groups of people that were catered for were the new Zimbabwean refugees; Zimbabwean refugees already in Botswana; persons who were refugees from third countries in Zimbabwe; third country nationalities, illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe residents in Botswana and Batswana living in Zimbabwe.

The document reveals that Botswana anticipated close to 5000people to enter Botswana during the crisis period, but there was a problem, “there are currently no facilities available to handle the envisaged 5000 immigrants,” noted the document which addressed the situation in Zimbabwe then.

Botswana had prepared to receive all refugees coming from Zimbabwe without exception. The report further states that the situation in Zimbabwe remains volatile until a lasting solution is achieved. The Botswana Police service had also deployed its personnel and resources to strategic points at the border area with Zimbabwe.

When there was an expected influx of refugees from Zimbabwe into Botswana in 2008 a multi-sectoral Contingency Plan was developed to guide the implementation of preparedness and emergency response. “The motivation at the time was informed by the controversial land appropriation by the Zimbabwe Government, the contentious general elections, worsening economic downturn and the resultant political instability.”

The Botswana Government had observed that since 2008, the problems have been mounting in Zimbabwe and this coupled with the political stabilization intervention by the military could culminate in the surge of people fleeing the country. Botswana as a neighboring country to Zimbabwe and sharing the border could face an influx of immigrants if the situation deteriorate. Therefore it is important to prepare to respond to any possible influx,” observed the strategists behind the latest plan.



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