Botswana High Court postpones Dukwe refugees’ case

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Windhoek

The Botswana government has 15 days to respond to the matter in which the Namibian refugees at Dukwe approached the High Court to issue an order for them not to be deported to Namibia.

The relief order directing the government of Botswana not to revoke the refugee status of about 730 Namibians currently living at the Dukwe refugee camp was remanded to March 18, after it was brought before the Lobatse High Court in Botswana on Friday.

The planned deportation of about 730 Namibian refugees, who have been living at the camp since 1998 and 1999, has been put on hold in the interim, pending the outcome of the court hearing.

The two parties are heading to court following the Botswana government’s failure to invoke the cessation clause of December 31, 2015 in respect of Namibian refugees at Dukwe Refugee Camp. The calling into force of the cessation clause means the refugee status accorded to Namibian refugees in that country would have ceased to be in effect as from December 31, 2015.

On the eve of the invocation of the cessation clause about 732 refugees, led by Felix Kakula, filed an urgent application seeking a restraining order to stop the Botswana government from implementing the clause.

Their application was supported by an affidavit from the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, known as Ditshwanelo, which also provided assistance by securing legal representation for the group.

In the affidavit, the refugees argue that should they return to Namibia they would face prosecution for alleged political offences committed in Namibia prior to their seeking refuge in Botswana in 1999. The Ditshwanelo Centre further alleges that “there are instances of persecution”, noting that “on the 9th December 2015 some of the Botswana returnees were found guilty of treason, sedition and attempted murder, and sentenced to imprisonment”.

Speaking in the National Assembly last month Minister of Home Affairs Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana said Ditshwanelo and their press release published in the Botswanan press on January 21 cannot go unchallenged, as it lacked honesty and is devoid of truth.

“They alleged among others that there has been no evidence that the environment in Namibia, politically and otherwise, in relation to the applicants has been adjusted,” she noted, while countering that Namibia is a democratic country governed in terms of its Constitution and the rule of law.

She said separatism is a crime in almost every country, noting that those who participated in acts of violence would inevitably face prosecution. The majority of the 700 plus refugees in Botswana are young people who left Namibia either very young or were born there, the minister said.

“What crime have such innocent persons committed? Mr Kakula may know the crime he himself committed before fleeing to Botswana and [he] is, therefore, holding everybody else hostage for his own sake,” charged the minister of home affairs and immigration.

The Namibian refugees are in Botswana following the shortlived secessionist uprising of August 2, 1999. It was masterminded by disgruntled and currently exiled former member of parliament Mishake Muyongo, but was successfully suppressed by the Namibian Defence Force.

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