Friday, July 1, 2022

Botswana cracks down on foreign activists?

Botswana will from now on bar some foreign activists from entering the country and will continue “to put on the visa list” dozens of foreign activists who are already in the country or kick them out, security sources said this week.

At least two foreign nationals, Basarwa lawyer Gordon Bennett and Public Service International Regional Secretary for Africa and Arab Countries, David Kwabla Dorkenoo, were denied entry into the country this week.

Kwabla was supposed to have been part of a delegation that is currently in the country inspecting the quality of accommodation facilities as the National Amalgamated Central, Local & Parastatal Manual Workers’ Union (NACL&PMWU) and other unions in the continent bid to host PSI conference in African countries scheduled for sometime this year.

Sunday Standard has turned up information that Dorkenoo landed at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport on Thursday and was detained for five hours before he was sent packing to South Africa.

“He arrived at the Airport around 11 O’clock in the morning. He was later told to board a plane that departed for South Africa around four o’clock in the afternoon. Before that he was detained where there was no water at one of the airports areas,” said a source. The source added that “his name was called before announcement was made to other passengers that they should get ready for departure. Security agents had confiscated his travelling documents and even when he boarded the plane they escorted him.”

It is understood that fearing that the matter could backfire, authorities rescinded their decision and granted Dorkenoo a visa, a copy of which has been seen by Sunday Standard. The copy bears the Department of Immigration stamp and it is dated 26 July 2013.

“The application was accepted today (Friday), the day after he was sent packing. The authorities did that deliberately. It was a calculated delaying tactic to ensure that the granted visa is academic,” said a source.

NACL&PMWU Secretary General Johnson Motshwarakgole confirmed the latest development and described it as unfortunate.

“He was supposed to be among the delegation that is currently in the country assessing if our hotels are up to standard as we have shown interest to host a PSI conference. NACL&PMWU is one of the oldest union but we have not hosted a conference of that magnitude and we believe that it is our turn to do so, he said.

Motshwarakgole revealed that they learnt about Dorkenoo’s detention at the airport late in the afternoon.

“The immigration authorities later apologised to us and explained that Kwabla’s application was submitted at short notice,” he said. He expressed shock as to why Kwabla was denied entry into the country saying “it was not the first time for him to visit Botswana.”

Permanent Secretary in Ministry of labour and Home Affairs Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi said Dorkenoo was denied entry because he was not in possession of a visa.

“He appeared at the airport without a Visa. By the time it was approved, he had already gone back,” said Bagopi adding that those who are of the view that government was clamping down on international activists were “attempting to paint a bad image of our country.”

Explaining that applying for a visa is a process, Bagopi warned that, “People should not invite foreign nationals to come to Botswana who require visas to come here without them. Let us submit application well in time.”

On Bennett, the government confirmed in a statement issued on Friday that “that the department of immigration has turned down a visa request submitted on short notice by Gordon Bennett who is citizen of the United Kingdom (UK).”

Bennett was scheduled to represent Basarwa from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) who are taking the government back to court in a case scheduled for 29 July.

The statement states that Bennett had approached our commission in London earlier this week submitting a visa application this week with demand that it be expedited and issued within two days. Officials at the High Commission however explained to him that this would not be possible given that the stipulated visa processing time is between seven to 10 days.

“Further to the above, as a sovereign we are not obliged to accept Mr Bennett (or anyone else) into the country under any circumstances, much less on short notice. By the same token we are not obliged to provide Mr Bennett with a place of extended employment,” states the statement.

The statement says that under international law, the entry of any individual into any country is always strictly at the discretion of the country concerned.

“This is equally true for countries waive Visa requirements for short term visitors. In this context it is also common for countries to maintain lists of individuals who are denied routine entry for various reasons,” reads the statement.

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