Rendered stateless

SHARE   |   Monday, 15 May 2017   |   By Shingirai Madondo
Rendered stateless

A 54-year-old woman has approached the Francistown High Court seeking to be repatriated back into the country after she was deported to the neighbouring Zimbabwe on suspicion she is Zimbabwean. Polite Matapa of Gerald Estates in Francistown, but currently residing at the border township of Plumtree in Zimbabwe following her deportation, is praying that she be allowed to remain in Botswana pending the review application. Matapa, a vegetable vendor at the Francistown bus rank, has applied for the reinstatement of her Botswana citizenship. Her identity card (Omang) and passport were revoked by Immigration officials towards the end of March this year and she was eventually deported to Zimbabwe. She filed a court application at the Francistown High Court on May 5 this year, citing the Attorney General (AG) as the representative of the Director of Immigration. Matapa insists that: “I am Motswana. I was born at Maitengwe village on 24th February 1963 and my parents are Mokgala Matapa and Phineas Matapa,” she submits, adding that she has lived all her life at Maitengwe as well as Francistown where she resided prior to her arrest and eventual deportation. Matapa adds that she has never lived in any other country except Botswana and neither is she a citizen of any other country except Botswana. She claims that she is a bonafide citizen of Botswana by registration in terms of the Citizenship Act. On March 23 2017 while preparing for her wedding to one Baatlhodi Gaogakwe, Matapa was arrested by police officers who were in the company of immigration officials and taken to Francistown Central Police station for interrogation.

The wedding was to be solemnised on March 24, 2017 at the District Commissioner’s offices in Tutume. At the police station, Matapa submitted that she was told that she was not a Motswana who obtained Botswana documents fraudulently. “Immigration officials claimed to have information to that effect,” says Matapa who was later taken to the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants pending deportation. Alongside other illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Matapa was repatriated to the neighbouring country and get ‘dumped at the Plumtree border post’ on March 27, 2017. Since she does not have relatives in Zimbabwe, she had to squat at Plumtree Police Station before a well-wisher came to her rescue. “I am feeling lost in Zimbabwe because she is foreign to me. I have been rendered a stateless person. In fact, my stay in Zimbabwe is illegal, as I do not have legal documents. It is against this backdrop that I have approached this honourable court,” she says. She maintains: “The decision to deport me stands to be reviewed and set aside for I am a Motswana citizen with a valid national identity card and passport. It was unlawful for the Department of Immigration to render me stateless in the manner they did.” Mishingo Jeremia of Jeremia Attorneys is representing the applicant. The AG is yet to respond to Matapa’s founding affidavit.