A Gaborone truck driver, Clifford Mase, says that he was a week ago harassed by some youths in the Zimbabwean town of Mutare. The youths accused him of being from South African, a country where recently their countrymen were beaten up and some killed because they were foreigners.
According to him, the “mob” of young men surrounded him after he had stopped at a fuel station on his way to deliver goods he was transporting to a warehouse in the town. He said they started shouting abusive words at him as he got out of the truck.
“I then tried to explain to them that I was not a South African but a Motswana from Botswana but they continued shouting at me saying that I was lying and insisted I was a South African.”
Mase said that a man, who works at the petrol station, confirmed to the youths that the truck’s number plates were those of Botswana but the young Zimbabweans allegedly insisted that he was a South African and that they should “punish him” for the sins of his countrymen who were beating and killing their people in South Africa.
On hearing confirmation that he was a Motswana, Mase said one of his accusers charged that Batswana were no better than the South Africans as they were also lashing Zimbabweans at their police stations (kgotlas).
Fortunately, Mase said, the owner of the petrol station, who was reported to be popular in the area, intervened on his behalf and they finally let him go but with a warning that he might not be lucky next time “if your people continue attacking our people in your country”.
Asked if he will still go to Zimbabwe, Mase said, “Well, what can I do? If my bosses want me to go there, I will go.”
Mase says that he has heard about few other similar incidents happening to other drivers in the country but mostly to those driving South African registered trucks and that he considers his case to be one of simply being unlucky as Batswana have never ill-treated foreigners .
“I think I was just unlucky that it had happened to me. I also think that my light skin is what made those youths to behave the way they did as they mistook me to be a South African,” he said.
Asked if the recent reports of political violence in Zimbabwe are true as reported in the media, Mase refused to comment saying, “I am not a politician.”
A local newspaper recently ran a similar story about a woman who was locked up in a bathroom in Malawi and threatened by some local women who were accusing her of being a South African.