Zimbabwean National Army deserters fearing for their lives have taken Botswana to the High Court challenging the legality of repatriating them.
The Attorney General is cited as the first respondent, the Minister of Defence Justice and Security Kagiso Mmusi as the second respondent while the Director of Refugees Welfare and management (Thobo Letlhage) is cited as the third respondent.
The Applicants are represented by Obonye Jonas of Jonas Attorneys. In his founding affidavit, the lead Applicant, Terence Charuma said he entered Botswana through an ungazetted point seeking political asylum in September 2004 and it was granted on 14 March 2005.
Other applicants are Bambanani Ndlovu who entered Botswana through an ungazettted point seeking asylum on 31 May 2004 and it was granted on 14 March 2005, Bronnie Nhokwara entered Botswana using his Zimbabwean passport through Ramokgwebana border post seeking political asylum in April 2004.
His application was granted in May 2005, Shingira Kademe entered Botswana through an ungazetted point seeking political asylum on 19 April 2003 and his application was grated on 04 July 2004 and Jeremiah Maemgamhuru entered Botswana using his Zimbabwean passport through Ramokgwebana border post seeking asylum in June 2003 and it was granted in June 2007.
Giving a background of what necessitated the legal action, Charuma states that in December 2019, the Government of Botswana undertook exercise to asses and determine whether or not the Applicants were eligible to be afforded protection as refugees. On 30 January 2020, the Minister of Defence Justice and Security, i.e the 2nd Respondent took a decision to withdraw recognition of the Applicants as refugees or internationally protected persons.
In December 2020, Charuma said, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees undertook a similar process and came to the same conclusion in February 2021.
“I and the balance of the Applicants did not lodge a review process against the Government of Botswana within 4 months as required by Order 61 Rule 8 of the Rules of the High Court as we were awaiting the outcome of the second assessment by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees so that a complete and holistic picture of the applicants’ case could be presented to court,” he said.
He said it would have been imprudent to approach Court in haste before the process had unfolded to its logical conclusion.
Charuma explained that the basis for challenging the decision of the Government of Botswana was prompted by the evidence on the ground in Zimbabwe.
He said Zimbabwe is still a competitive arena for political conflict and human rights violations and the victims are opposition activists and army deserters like the applicants.
“The applicants have it in good authority that returning refugees have been subjected to human rights violations in Zimbabwe and some are languishing in jails in that country,” he said.
Charuma said: “It must also be noted that Tereence Charuma, Shingirayi Kademeteme and Jeremiah Maengamuru deserted the Zimbabwe National Army in adverse dates in 2003 and are facing lengthy prison sentences when they return to Zimbabwe.”
He added:“In fact I’m aware that one Lesley Banda who is a deserter of the Zimbabwe National Army was later incarcerated by the authorities of Zimbabwe after he was repatriated to that country by the Government of Botswana.”
Charuma said the “above fact was confirmed to us by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner to Refugees and the Embassy of the United States of Amrecia. I have not been in a position to obtain confirmatory affidavits from these entities.”
All in all, the Applicants said, they have well-founded fear of persecution upon their retrun to Zimbabwe.