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Thursday 12 December 2019

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Zimbabwean refugees leaving Dukwi Camp ...

Botswana has repatriated 135 Zimbabwean refugees, the majority who fled political persecution at the height of a violent and deadly 2008 presidential election. Some of the 700 refugees still remain in camp, reluctant to return home, citing fears of political persecution.

The refugees feel they are caught between a rock and hard place.

The Botswana government gave the refugees an ultimatum: Register for voluntary repatriation by Dec. 31, or face forced removals.

The refugees told the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) that conditions in Zimbabwe were not conducive for their safe return.

The UNHCR then offered the migrants $300 per person, food rations for three months and transport to the Zimbabwe border.

A 55-year-old returnee, who preferred anonymity for fear of victimization, says she and her cohorts now face a bleak future. Her homeland is in the middle of one of its worst economic crisis.

"I can go there (to Zimbabwe) but I don't have a home, I don't have money to eat, or to let my children to go to school. There is no water, no electricity and no food. It was better when we were this side, we were given everything, we were eating."

While some of the refugees are already planning a new life after years away from home, others like Bekimpilo Weza are not prepared to return.

An opposition supporter, Weza, who fled Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the bloody 2008 election, said it is not the right time to go home.

"People might think that Zimbabwe, maybe, after the change of government, it has changed,” Weza said. ”But the government that is ruling is still the same government, ZANU-PF. The system is still the same. So there is no change. "

Wasu Chibi, a staunch supporter of the opposition MDC party, feels the host government has let the refugees down by repatriating them.

Chibi said they will rather wait for forced removals.

"Botswana as a country is saying Zimbabwe is a free and safe zone,” Chibi said. “This is contrary to the Geneva Convention of 1951, whereby there should be an agreement with all the stakeholders in Zimbabwe. We are saying let it be clear with Botswana and UNHCR that there has been no cessation clause declared yet on Zimbabwe, and they are busy putting people's lives at risk."

The two countries' governments said they are satisfied the situation in Zimbabwe is conducive for the refugees' safe return.

The UNHCR has, in recent years, scaled down financial support to host governments.

This has triggered an increase in the repatriation of refugees. Nearly 800 Namibian refugees were recently deported from Botswana.

The country now hosts fewer than 2,000 refugees, from several countries across Africa.

Former president of Botswana Ian Khama.

Botswana's former President has hit back against corruption allegations, vowing to sue a lead investigator for defamation after he accused the ex-leader of syphoning-off billions in state funds.

After a decade in power, Khama, 66, dramatically resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in May -- which has held power since 1966 -- and backed a small splinter party, shaking up the politics of one of Africa's most stable democracies.

He has renounced his hand-picked successor Mokgweetsi Masisi and accused his former deputy of autocracy in a deepening conflict between the two men.

Just before an October 23 election won by Masisi's party, an anti-corruption official accused Khama and several close associates of embezzling 100 billion pula (8 billion euros).

Investigator Jako Hubona, with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime -- an intelligence unit that probes state graft -- accused Khama, former intelligence chief Isaac Kgosi and another senior intelligence officer, Weleminah Maswabi, of transferring some of the funds to HSBC Bank in Hong Kong and leading South African banks.

The rest was pumped into offshore accounts as well as South African bank accounts, he claimed in an affidavit deposed in a recent high profile court case against Maswabi.

So far, only Maswabi has been charged and is facing three counts of financing terrorism, possession of unexplained property and false declaration for passport.

She has since been granted bail and will make a court appearance in February next year.

No charges against Khama have been filed in the court.

Addressing a media briefing on Monday, Khama said the allegations made were false and "deliberately and maliciously fabricated" to tarnish his name.

"There is no doubt that the serious allegations by Hubona and his co-conspirators amount to criminal conduct and are extremely defamatory," Khama said.

"I have no offshore accounts and have maintained none during my Presidency," he said. "Neither have I ever received any money from any unlawfully created Bank of Botswana account, or offshore account or any other account."

The accusations are surfacing as Botswana's largest opposition has filed a legal challenge against the outcome of last month's parliamentary polls, which were overwhelmingly won by the ruling party.

The Botswana Patriotic Front, endorsed by Khama, got three seats in the poll.

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