32-year-old Fortune from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, who fled to Botswana and settled at Dukwi Refugee Camp over a decade ago is now facing an agonizing choice in the coming months.
Fortune and a host of other refugees from Botswana northeastern neighbor must reintegrate into the country they fled in 2008 at the height political tension following a disputed election process.
Several joint meetings between Botswana government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has declared December 31, this year, as the deadline for Zimbabwean refugees to return home. This decision of declaring a cessation of Zimbabweans’ refugee status by the end of this year should have been a tripartite agreement between the governments of Botswana and Zimbabwe alongside the UNHCR.
However, the Zimbabwean government is not part of the agreement because it does not recognize its refugees. The then Robert Gabriel Mugabe led government aver that the political circumstances in Zimbabwe never warranted one to be declared a refugee.
Following the cessation of their refugee status, Zimbabwean nationals, currently holed at Dukwi Refugee Camp, are expected to return home to the same political party in ZANU PF and its violent theatrics they had run away from.
Despite the fact that the Zimbabwe held historic and hotly contested presidential elections on the 30th of July 2018 which president-elect Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa won by 50.8 percent of the vote against 44.3 percent for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa.
Orgy of political violence that swept Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the election process, leaving at least six people dead and dozens injured while some MDC Alliance principals were arrested, marked reminiscent of the 2008 post-election incidents.
For Fortune, repatriation back home means the end of his protection from marauding junta of the ruling ZANU PF. “It is difficult for me to go back (to Zimbabwe) and face the same political party that made me to flee my country of origin,” he said.
Returning to Zimbabwe in the absence of a change in government is not an option, said Fortune, who hopped the border illegally into Botswana to escape Mugabe’s disastrous policies and eventually sought refuge.
Another refugee who only identified himself as Brighton said going back to Zimbabwe is nearly as unpalatable. “If there is a crackdown on supporters and activists of those who did not runaway initially, what about us who will be returning. They will kill us,” he said.
Bhekimpilo Weza, the chairperson of the refugee committee could not be drawn into confirming or denying the predicament that the Zimbabwean refugee community is in ahead of their impending repatriation back to Zimbabwe.
Senior opposition figure, Tendai Biti, who tried in vain to seek asylum in Zambia appeared before Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo last Thursday evening on charges of inciting public violence.
Biti, who is also a former Finance Minister in the then government of national unity (GNU) between the late Morgan Tsvangirai and deposed Mugabe, was granted a P50 000 cash bail with strict conditions.