About 60 Zimbabwean refugees have been fighting to stay in neighboring Botswana but their appeal was denied. The host government rejected their demand against repatriation. According to the refugees, they refuse to return to Zimbabwe due to possible political persecution.
Most of the refugees escaped to Botswana following the violent 2008 presidential election in Zimbabwe.
Some of the opposition members were killed during that campaign, while others were assaulted and left homeless.
Botswana provided an asylum to the fleeing opposition supporters twelve years ago. However, in 2017, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) decided that the situation in Zimbabwe was safe for the refugees to return.
Some of the 700 Zimbabweans returned home in December, with at least 367 expected to return this month.
However, some of them had requested to stay in Botswana or be transported to a third country.
One of them, Standard Weza, says he cannot return to Zimbabwe because he fears for his life.
“They might claim that Zimbabwe has improved politically whatsoever, but where we come from, where we have been active doing these things [politics], where we were tortured, there is nothing that has improved. We do communicate with the UNHCR office in Harare and the government, but they do not go to the rural or urban centers, where we come from,” he said.
Another Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist, Wasu Chibi is also concerned about his safety at home.
“What we are saying is not a mystery but reality,” he said. “Those people who know ZANU-PF since 1980, they will believe what I am saying. ZANU-PF has made a lot of people disappear, ZANU-PF has killed a lot of people, so we are not an exception to that. Some of us are likely to face treason charges.”
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Botswana, Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, argues there is no reason to be scared.
“Yes, there are a lot of misconceptions when people are in Dukwi [refugee camp] because they have not been home for a long time,” he said. “There are fears that I have not been home for 10 years, will I be accepted back? Will I find people there? Maybe we will be incarcerated. Those with their crimes, feared that may be the law will immediately take its course.”