The number of tourists coming to Botswana is declining because of VISA restrictions and government officials are pointing an accusing finger at the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
The DISS is responsible for vetting VISA applications for foreigners visiting Botswana. The spy agency is also charged with vetting residence and work permits for investors and skilled workers wishing to set up businesses or work in Botswana. There has also been an outcry from the local business community that work and residence permits restrictions by the DISS were making it difficult to do business in Botswana.
It emerged last week when DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that government officials were also unhappy at the decline in tourist visits to Botswana due to VISA restrictions.
A member of the PAC, Samson Guma Moyo told the DISS Director General that the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism was crying foul over the decline in tourists who visit the country┬á because of the VISA restrictions.
Kgosi claimed that some foreigners masquerade as tourists and use tourism VISAs to enter Botswana “for a different issue.’ Kgosi did not elaborate on the “different issue.”
It also emerged that some of these “suspicious tourists” are sometimes granted tourist VISAs and then placed under survaillence by the DISS during the period of their stay in Botswana. “We allow them to come into the country and we put them under surveillance for as long as they stay in the country. We make sure that if they have applied to be in Botswana for ten days then they should be here for those ten days or for whatever number of days they have applied for. We only monitor these people to ensure that Batswana are safe,” he said.
Besides the decline in tourist visits to Botswana because of VISA restrictions, a number of local companies have either had to close down or run without qualified personnel because the company directors and skilled workers were denied work and residence permits. The DISS Director General on the other hand insisted that some of the people coming to Botswana claiming to be investors were involved in human trafficking.
“We have found out that some of the people who are coming into the country often termed as bringing FDIs are involved in human trafficking.” He told the PAC that these human traffickers claiming to be investors were the ones peddling reports that it is difficult to do business in Botswana because of work and residence permit strictures.
He cited a case in which┬á the government of Botswana is battling to repatriate a Motswana child stolen by foreign priests.
According to Kgosi a woman, (names withheld) recently went to one local church where she was accepted as member. After sometime the priests made arrangements to go with the woman abroad.
Kgosi said as time went by the so called priests of the said church made arrangement with the woman and went with her abroad.
“They got a VISA for her and she went abroad. While she was there she gave birth in that country”, explaining that he could not mention the country by name for diplomatic reasons.
┬á“After the baby was born the woman was told to come back to Botswana to collect all her belongings so that she could stay in that country for some time.”
The Priests promised that they would take care of the child while the woman came back to Botswana to collect some of her belongings.
“After the woman came to Botswana the VISA was cancelled and at the moment the question is what do we do as a country to help the woman,” said Kgosi adding that the government is currently fighting for the child to be brought to Botswana.