Botswana has tightened the noose on permit applications, leaving thousands of Zimbabweans in that country whose applications have been rejected with the prospect of being forced to return back home. Zimbabwe's western neighbour notified the Home Affairs Ministry last month that it would no longer accept the use of emergency travel documents (ETDs) for use at borders. In a statement, Botswana's government said travellers using ETDs would not be admitted into the country for routine visits. Only those travelling under circumstances of emergency would be admitted under the authority of an ETD. Immediately after the statement was released, a crackdown to flush out illegal immigrants started. The new regulation has frustrated Zimbabwean travellers who are still waiting for their passports to be processed, with immigration officials at the Plumtree Border Post saying they were turning away hundreds of ETD holders seeking to enter into Botswana each week.
Zimbabwean nationals living in Botswana suspect that the move could be meant to flush out Zimbabweans in that country and force them to return home to vote in the looming elections. They alleged that they were merely victims of a greater political turf war between Harare and Gaborone.
Botswana President Ian Khama is also engaged in a crackdown against Chinese in the country.
An official at the Immigration office in Gaborone said the high number of foreigners in Botswana was alarming. Statistics place foreigners in Botswana at nearly 500 000, against the country’s population of 1,8 million. The bulk of the foreign nationals living in Botswana are Chinese, Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Ghanaians and South Africans. Laws on marriage between Tswana women and foreigners have also been tweaked to ensure that foreigners do not marry for purposes of acquiring permits only.