Prosper Ndlovu Senior Reporter
THE Botswana government, which faced embarrassment when it tried to take back the 96-year-old man it had deported to Zimbabwe, has made an abrupt U-turn on the issue. This follows failed attempts by its officials on Thursday to take the man back to the neighbouring country after they were told that the matter had now turned into a diplomatic issue between the two countries.
Mr Alfred Khumalo, who is still admitted to Plumtree District Hospital, had lived in the neighbouring country for more than 70 years and is believed to be a Zimbabwean. He was deported on Heroes Day in what is suspected to be a politically motivated decision by the Botswana government following the outcome of the harmonised elections.
Questioned about the issue in the neighbouring country’s parliament on Thursday, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Mr Edwin Batshu, reportedly defended the decision by his officials, saying Mr Khumalo requested to be sent back to Zimbabwe.
Although Zimbabwean Immigration officials have said they did not sign any acceptance form to receive Mr Khumalo since he did not have any documentation to prove his citizenship, Mr Batshu insisted that he was a Zimbabwean and denied that the old man had stayed in that country for 70 years.
“Mr Alfred Khumalo has been deported to Zimbabwe. We do not have any record of his alleged 70 years stay in Botswana. His case was investigated by immigration officers and it was confirmed that he was a citizen of Zimbabwe.
“He had a clear mind of his birth place and lineage. He had no means of support and was sleeping rough and living hard. He also indicated his wish to be returned to his country of origin,” said Mr Batshu.
His fellow parliamentarians had reportedly asked him to explain the circumstances surrounding Mr Khumalo’s deportation and why it took so long for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to give him citizenship after his application; and where exactly he was deported to after staying in Botswana for 70 years.
Mr Batshu confirmed that his immigration officials found Mr Khumalo at a hospital in Selebi-Phikwe, where he was being treated.
He said Mr Khumalo did not have any relatives in the neighbouring country but had acquaintances who had no relationship with him.
“He was then facilitated to return to Zimbabwe and was handed to Zimbabwe immigration authorities at Plumtree on 12 August 2013 to facilitate his travel to his home village.
“There are no records of Mr Alfred Khumalo’s application for citizenship at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship,” said Mr Batshu.
Although comment could not be obtained from the Co-Minister of Home Affairs, Cde Kembo Mohadi, immigration officials at the Plumtree Border Post said Mr Khumalo was still in the country as efforts to investigate his case were yet to be concluded.
Mr Khumalo, who said he was born in 1917 in Mbembesi area, told Chronicle on Thursday that he did not understand why he was deported when he did not know anyone in the country. He said he was not comfortable staying in Zimbabwe as he did not have any place of residence and anyone to take care of him.
Botswana made headlines when it deported Mr Khumalo with one of its popular newspapers MmegiOnline reporting that the old man was being tortured for nothing by the merciless officials.
Botswana is the only country in the region that is siding with MDC-T in disputing the election outcome, which Zanu-PF won resoundingly.
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