The perpetuated ill-treatment and abuse of Zimbabweans has resulted in some committing suicide while others have been left with scars of abuse.
The ill-treatment is a trend that pundits have likened to xenophobia.
International Organization for Migration spokesperson, Mukondi Mpeiwa says Botswana is among the SADC countries that have no clear policy on employment of unskilled migrants prompting┬ápeople to enter countries through ungazzeted points. The organisation is of the view that when there are clear structures like in South Africa, immigrants more especially with unskilled labour, will not be exposed to abuse and ill-treatment.
Mpeiwa says a policy is needed to allow unskilled labour to work even for a short period of time in a country like Botswana.
“This could also deter the influx of illegal immigrants that end becoming a burden to the country as millions of pula is used to deport them back to the native country,” said Mpeiwa.
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs ┬áis not convinced that Batswana have displayed xenophobic tendencies against Zimbabwean economic refugees while the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security fears that the absence of economic refugees in the community could trigger xenophobia, more specially when they take jobs that Batswana could be relying on amid unemployment in the country.
In one of the tragedies, an economic refugee who entered the country illegally at the height of the political instability in Zimbabwe was found hanging in what police suspect to be a committed suicide in Mokatse village in the periphery of Gaborone.
Joseph Milidzani (26) who was buried in Mokatse village after committing suicide is suspected to have been a victim of abuse.
Different speakers at his burial have singled out hatred among Batswana against Zimbabwean economic refugees.
A traditional leader in Mokatse, Kgosi Mmileng Molatlhegi, expressed sentiments that Ncube was offered a pauper’s burial.
Milidzani is among the economic refugees who entered the country at ungazzeted points in a bid to look for better opportunities.
According to the traditional leader, Milidzani was working for a known local man who had refused to pay him his dues for two months as a herd boy.
Molatlhegi says his attempts to get his money failed, according to his girlfriend, after his master threatened him that he would report him to the police if he continued to pester him because he is an illegal immigrant.
┬áAccording to the chief, the young man was later found hanging in the outskirts of the village, raising suspicion that he could have committed suicide since his master refused to pay him.
A pauper’s funeral was arranged for him because his parents felt it was a costly excise to repatriate his body back to his native country.
His girlfriend wept as she is held a toddler in her hands while her boyfriend’s coffin was lowered into the grave.
┬áShe looked at her boyfriend’s coffin and wept copious tears as the community sang the last song to bid him a last goodbye.
┬á“We have turned ourselves into evil creatures. We can’t love our African brothers and our neighbours,” said Molatlhegi.
He likened the treatment to the apartheid era in South Africa where white minorities were ill-treating blacks.
He called on Batswana to stop the hatred against their brothers. Milidzani’s story is one of the few cases that have surfaced so far.
In another shockingly bizarre incident, an illegal immigrant, Gift Ncube, was shot with a gun which resulted in his hands being amputated. Ncube was shot by his employer when he was demanding his dues. As a result, both his hands were amputated.
He received treatment at Mahalapye hospital and after his discharge, he was held at Botswana Centre for Illegal Immigrants in Francistown. ┬áThe double amputee┬áhas been residing illegally in Botswana.
After he was released from hospital, the Immigration Department tried to deport him. There was a furore from the media when the department tried to deport him and questioned the reason behind his deportation.
Gift is likely to see justice prevail after a human rights lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi┬á and Gabzfm morning show presenter, Reginald Richardson, came together to help raise money for him.┬á
The money that will be raised will be used to acquire prosthetic arms and improve his life. Ncube is currently staying with an unemployed Motswana woman.
Exploitation and abuse among those who are employing illegal immigrants has sparked concerns where some in the community fear that Batswana could be extending xenophobic tendency to immigrants.
International Organisation for Migration spokesperson, Mukondi Mpeiwa stated in an interview that they are possibilities that employed illegal immigrants are open for abuse and exploitation.
She said that there was a possibility that issues of xenophobia on illegal immigrants crops up every time.
She said that there is a need for government to put up structures where┬áirregular immigrants are allowed to come to legally in Botswana for a certain period of time. She said this could address the problem of exploitation that usually crops up.
Mpeiwa stated that there are situations where employers take advantage of immigrants where employers withhold illegal immigrants’ salaries and threaten that they would report them to the police since they are not in possession of proper documents.
She was concerned that most of SADC countries have no structures where illegal immigrants are given proper work documents.
Mpeiwa said that without proper structures to allow for unskilled labour in most of SADC countries, illegal immigrants enter the country regularly.
However Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Permanent Secretary, Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi denies that Batswana have expressed xenophobic tendencies towards Zimbabweans.
┬áBagopi explained that usually Batswana and Zimbabwean leave in peace together whether illegal immigrants or not.
Bagopi said that despite that it is illegal to employ an illegal immigrant and they would not condone a situation where illegal immigrants are exploited and abused.
He said that┬áthey had cases in the past where illegal immigrants were arrested in Botswana but prior to deportation they assisted them to collect their money from those who owed them.
┬á“We even transport their house hold belongings with them whenever we find that┬áthey have such,” said Bagopi.
Bagopi stated that though it was illegal to employ an illegal immigrant no one is allowed to exploit immigrants and fail to pay them.
Bagopi stated that he intends to call an Immigration Pitso to debate the issue surrounding immigrants.
┬á“We need to discuss this issue and come up with ideas that will address the issue of illegal immigrants. We are of the belief that people have different opinion when it comes to the issue of illegal immigrants even here in the government enclave,” added Bagopi.
Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse fears that allowing economic and political refugees to work in Botswana could trigger xenophobia and┬áviolence similar to that which happened in South African in 2008.
Seretse says allowing┬ápolitical and economic refugees to work could place their security at risk.
Seretse stated that they are exceptions where┬ásome refugees are allowed to work He said that Botswana is not obliged┬áto allow refugees to work. He said that by not allowing refugees means avoiding xenophobic incidents.