Government’s recent decision to hike the cost of replacing lost or stolen passports came under fire from some Batswana who fear that this will deny poor Batswana who lose their passports their Constitutional right to freedom of movement across the border.
Batswana are fuming after the recent government announcement that it will cost P1, 000 to replace a lost passport.
Amongst those who denounced the government, saying that it was a wrong thing to do and that it actually impinges on people’s right to freedom of movement, is Gaborone lawyer, Gabriel Kanjabanga.
Kanjabanga says that the right measure that should have been taken was to improve the security features on passports so as to make it difficult for those who steal passports to forge and use them illegally as is the case in other countries.
This, he says, is happening in many other countries, adding that they should have done that as well instead of punishing people, including those who might have lost them under genuine circumstances.
Besides that, Kanjabanga says that increasing the price of a passport will not in anyway stop those who have made it their business to sell passports, if there are any such people.
He said that all the criminals would do is to increase the price of the passports to whoever they sell them to.
“It is very disingenuous to think that increasing the passports will stop those who are selling them. All those people will do is to increase the passport price to whoever they sell them to,” he said.
A Gaborone Bus Station hawker, Clifford Motshidi, concurs with Kanjabanga that it is very wrong to increase the passport price as this would ultimately drive people like him, who make a living from buying and selling goods from across the boarder, out of business after losing passports to the notorious thieves of South Africa.
“In South Africa, people are robbed of their belongings on a daily basis,” he fumed.
Motshidi said that if that happened to him, it would take him a whole year to raise the money to enable him to buy another passport while remaining grounded at home.
Asked what he thinks could be done to stop the practice of selling passports, he said that he thinks the law enforcement officials in the country should work hard to crack down on the gangs involved in this practice and arrest them, instead of punishing innocent people.
“The guilty people should be arrested instead of punishing innocent people like me who are working hard to make a living,” he said.
Mariam Petso, a maid in Gaborone West, also disagrees with the government’s decision to increase the price of a passport for those who would have lost them saying that it was unfair.
“I earn way below P1 000 a month,” she said. “How long would it take me to save enough to pay for another passport?”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Segakweng Tsiane, recently issued a press release informing the nation that the government had come up with the decision to increase the price of obtaining a passport from P30 to P1000 because of the “security risks posed by illegal ownership of Botswana passports by non citizens of Botswana that the Ministry is continuously putting stringent measures in place to protect this important national document”.
“It is unfortunate and regrettable that such measures will inconvenience law abiding citizens,” she added.
Recently, the Botswana government was called on to explain the steps it was taking to ensure that its passports are not prone to forgery or else Botswana citizens traveling to the United Kingdom would face stringent entry conditions.