Caesar Zvayi deported from Botswana

Controversial self-confessed Robert Mugabe mouthpiece, Caesar Zvayi, who has been hiding in Botswana, was on Friday afternoon sent back home. He is known to be on the list of 137 people published by the European Union, who are being subjected to targeted sanctions for being part of Zimbabwe's ruling elite.

The former Herald political columnist was last month hired by the University of Botswana to lecture on print journalism. However, a barrage of criticism leveled against the government of Botswana and the University reined supreme, forcing President Ian Khama to act.

The latest pressure came from the University of Botswana students who wrote a memo to the University, informing management that the students will make life difficult for Zvayi, if the University continued to engage his services.

The timing of the action coincides with the SADC Summit, which is beginning in Pretoria, South Africa today (Monday). Coincidentally, Botswana is boycotting the summit because Zimbabwe President, Mugabe is attending as the president of Zimbabwe. Botswana has said it does not recognise Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe and has been the lone voice in propagating for the barring of Mugabe from the AU and SADC Summits.

The Monitor team got a tip-off about Zvayi’s deportation on Friday and rushed to the Moon Light Lodge, where the drama unfolded. The Monitor team witnessed Zvayi arriving at the lodge, at around 2:45pm in a police van. He was wearing a white t-shirt that revealed all his huge muscle definition. He was escorted into the lodge by mean looking plain clothed security personnel, who allowed him to hug three men who have been waiting for him at the reception of the Lodge.

Immediately thereafter, the security officers emerged from Zvayi’s room with luggage, and books, loading them in the van. When they were done with loading the language, the security men loaded Zvayi at the back, where they sat with him as the truck drove away. Zvayi’s words were short as the van drove away, " These guys are journalists?" He said as the Monitor photographer Onalenna Sekgwa snapped him at the back of the van.

At the scene, the Monitor team spotted two men who identified themselves only as Zimbabwean diplomats, although they refused to reveal their names. They avoided questions when Monitor team sought to interview them about Zvayi’s deportation. Instead they resorted to asking endless questions about the new media law, and what kind of qualification we have.

They were later joined by another Zimbabwean, a Monitor columnist. One of the two men looked very worried, although he denied being sad. He forced a grin to prove it. The other one proceeded with the security officers upstairs to Zvayi’s room, and was later seen helping the policemen load some of Zvayi’s luggage into the van.

An employee at the Moonlight lodge said since Thursday there has been a lot of movement at the lodge by immigration officers, policemen and soldiers all enquiring about Zvayi’s whereabouts.

Monitor understands that the security officers, after checking Zvayi at the lodge early Friday, managed to find Zvayi somewhere in town where they read him Section 7 of the Immigration Act, that declared him a prohibited immigrant in Botswana.

However, after they loaded Zvayi, with his belongings into the truck, the police appeared to dilly-dally with the Monitor team that afternoon, as the Monitor team followed them. Instead of heading straight to the airport, or to the Francistown border, the Police looked determined to lose the chasing Monitor team in the traffic jam before they proceeded with their duty.

The Monitor team followed the police van well from the Moonlight Lodge, as it drove towards Maximum Prison. But at the UB traffic lights they managed to dummy the Monitor team driver. They immediately turned into the University, while the Monitor team was forced to proceed forward and negotiate a u-turn after some 200m.

The police finally won the cat and mouse game, as they broke traffic laws and drove out of the UB. They drove recklessly over-taking a line of cars at the UB robots. The Monitor team was trapped in the traffic jam and gave up the chase.

The Monitor team later learnt that the police reported to the immigration office that they could not do their job properly at the Lodge because they found the Monitor team there (sic).

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs refused to answer questions about Zvayi’s deportation, although she confirmed meeting with the Chief Immigration Officer shortly after Zvayi was loaded in the government van.

She referred all questions to the Permanent Secretary responsible for security issues, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, who, however, said he was not well informed about the latest incident as he has not been in his office over the last two days due to other commitments.

Government spokesman, Dr Jeff Ramsay, on Saturday confirmed the deportation was done in relation to Section 7 of the Immigration Act, which gives the President powers to declare anyone a prohibited immigrant for security reasons. University of Botswana’s acting Public Affairs Manager, Raymond Mangope, also confirmed that their lecturer has been declared a prohibited immigrant and that he was deported on Friday. "I can only say that the rest you can talk to the office of the president, but we can confirm he is no longer with us," Mangope said.

Zvayi’s employment at an institution funded by the government has been a burning issue of late. It surprised many that Botswana, after announcing its tough stance on Mugabe’s government, seemed to tolerate the employment of Zvayi.

Zvayi, along with Zimbabwean Sunday Mail political editor, Munyaradzi Huni, are the first journalists to be added to the European Union’s smart sanctions list on Zimbabwe. They are accused of fueling violence through their writings in those papers.

Zimbabweans resident in Botswana have been vocal, writing letters in the newspapers urging the government to deport Zvayi. In one of the letters to the editor, for example, Chinono Chinengwe claimed that Zvayi was not a media professional.

"We want to appeal to the Botswana government to deport Caesar Zvayi for his contribution to the economic and political chaos in Zimbabwe. The Botswana government was allowing its students to be taught by an unfit person. He will create chaos in your country. We urge the Botswana government to respect the EU sanctions and to deport this guy immediately," he had written in the Mmegi newspaper.