Plans to repatriate hundreds of Gukurahundi survivors living in Botswana back to Zimbabwe have been shelved after they showed an unwillingness to return home.
About half of the 700 Zimbabwean refugees living at Dukwe Camp in Botswana were set to be repatriated in January but only four families are reported to have arrived.
The repatriation was stopped after the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which wanted to ascertain that the return was voluntary rather than forced.
The Minister of Labour and Welfare, Sekai Nzenza confirmed the development on Tuesday. She said:
It was temporarily stopped, but it’s work in progress. Let me check what really caused the stoppage and will come back to you and update you correctly.
An official at the Botswana embassy identified as Makomani spoke to the Newsday and had this to say;
It has been a sensitive issue which had to be done with a high level of proficiency and not done by the Botswana embassy only, but the UN office.
It’s not that you force people to go, but they have to apply and go voluntarily. No one is forced to take part in the exercise and we have to do it in consultation with our partners in Zimbabwe.
There’s no way we can refuse to repatriate them, we are friendly countries and we have to do it according to rules. The other issue is that those who were supposed to receive them were occupied with the Zanu PF conference and when they became ready, Botswana wasn’t ready.