Prosper Ndlovu in GABORONE, Botswana
THE Zimbabwean Embassy in Botswana has joined hands with the neighbouring country’s government to rollout a comprehensive documentation exercise for immigrants in order to regularise their stay and enhance their access to basic services and business opportunities.
The intervention is part of the positive fruits of the cordial bilateral relations between the two countries, which have led to the formation of the Bi-National Commission to tackle issues of mutual interest.
In August, President Mnangagwa announced that plans are underway to launch e-passport bio-enrolment centres in Botswana, Zambia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia and in the Middle East.
Already, work has started in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town as part of efforts by Government to assist citizens in the neighbouring country to acquire the documents.
The President launched the new secure electronic passport at Chiwashira Building in Harare in December last year. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in Africa producing e-passports.
The electronic passport is in line with the global shift towards biometric data-based identity and travel documents.
An e-passport contains an electronic chip, which holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page, which include the holder’s name, date of birth and other biographic information. In an interview on the sidelines of the on-going Botswana Global Expo here yesterday, a senior official at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Gaborone, Mr Witness Ngwenya, said regularising documentation of Zimbabwean immigrants is critical under the country’s economic diplomacy, engagement and re-engagement-focused foreign policy.
“We have a large number of Zimbabweans living in Botswana and the Botswana government has been very kind to let our people stay here with no xenophobia like we see in other destinations,” said Mr Ngwenya.
“So, the Botswana government has of late, working with Zimbabwe, started the documentation of unregularised Zimbabwean immigrants.
“Botswana has said in as much as people may enjoy staying in the neighbouring country, we need them to have legal documentation so that they could take their children to school and access other services.
With all the adequate paperwork, Mr Ngwenya said Zimbabwean immigrants stand a chance to tap into various business opportunities in Botswana including securing strategic synergies with their Botswana counterparts.
“So far in 2022 we have bad three phases of documentation. The first was in April and it covered areas like Francis Town, Palapye right up to Maun.
“The second phase was done in July and covered the central region and in October we just finished phase three where we covered the Western side of Botswana,” he said.
“In all the three phases we have helped quite a lot of Zimbabweans.”
Mr Ngwenya, however, could not reveal the exact figures but said the documentation process was ongoing.
“Every year from now we have decided to roll out these documentation phases,” he said.
“In the context of business our companies should take advantage of Zimbabweans living in Botswana who are the immediate export market extension and could act as vibrant intermediaries for marketing local products and services.”
Mr Ngwenya said the embassy was determined to assist all Zimbabweans secure proper documentation and linking them up with business and trade potential partners.
He said the documentation exercise done so far this year was a pilot intervention and noted that there was hesitation in some instances, as some initially felt the programme was some sort of a trap to arrest them.
He, however, said the success achieved so far has enhanced interest with many undocumented immigrants now keen to be assisted by the embassy.
In September, South Africa also extended by six months the period under which holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) may regularise their stay in the neighbouring country.
Initially, Pretoria had set the deadline on December 31 this year, but that has been extended to June 30 next year following wide consultations.
In December last year, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs outlined the road map to be followed by Zimbabweans who hold special dispensation permits in migrating to the mainstream permits in the next 12 months.
This followed a decision by Pretoria recently to discontinue the issuance of special permits for under 178 000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) which expired in September.
Under the new order, the Zimbabweans were allowed to migrate to other permits which suit their situation between January 1 and December 31 this year.
Article Source: The Chronicle