You would likely remember our 2015 story about an unusual Catch-22 situation that a Zimbabwean man found himself caught up in. After a severe beat-down by Maun police, Tinashe Bande’s face was so severely deformed that he was repeatedly turned back at the Ramokgwebana border gate when he tried to cross into Zimbabwe.
“This is not you,” one immigration officer told Bande with a vigorous shake of the head after numerous double takes at the photograph in the passport and the face of the man standing in front of him.
Bande went back to Maun, stayed there as an illegal immigrant and in the process, became a sitting target for periodic police operations to round up and deport illegal immigrants. Six years later and after ceaseless administration of traditional medicine from home, he is now able to clear immigration at any border gate with absolutely no hassle.
A 39-year old immigrant from Gweru, Bande was beaten blue and black by the police on May 14, 2010. In 2015 when we reported his case, evidence of such assault literally stuck out of his eye socket like a sore thumb. He became an object of ridicule and some kind of monstrosity that put the fear of God in some.
“Some people, especially children, run away when they encounter me in the street while others laugh at me,” he said.
The deepest cut though came from someone closest to him – his wife, who divorced him on grounds that she could not live with a “cripple.”
Two years after the beating and only upon the the intervention of a kind-hearted female officer at the Maun Immigration and Citizenship Office, did the police finally take Bande to Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital. The hospital referred him to Sekgoma Memorial Hospital in Serowe, which in turn referred him to Bokamoso Private Hospital in Gaborone for a surgical operation that cost P13 000 (money he didn’t have) to remove the orbit tumour in his eye. When Bande called the Zimbabwean Embassy, he was told to come to Gaborone. While he really did intend to do so, he had neither the bus fare for the return trip nor a place where he could stay while he was in town.
Officially, Bande was an illegal immigrant because his passport expired on December 23, 2012 but his case has immunised him against the treatment that such category of foreigners are ordinarily subjected to: detention and deportation. When Maun police carried out a raid in which they were looking for illegal immigrants, he went scot-free after recounting his plight, stressing the police’s culpability in it. It helped that the female immigration officer sympathised with him and had told him to stay in Botswana until the police had ensured that he got proper medical attention.
Giving up on the police and western medical science ever helping him, Bande procured decoctions of traditional (Shona) medicine from back home, that he applied directly to the eye. Gradually, the protrusion retracted, the eye cleared up and today he believes that he is fully healed. One added benefit of his healing is that immigration officers no longer have to make double takes at his face and the photograph in his passport when he crosses the border. If spiting is his thing, Bande can now lift the chorus line (“If you could see me now”) of a Joan Armatrading hit song and hit his ex-wife with it.