Zimbabweans Caught in a Sealed Truck

Francistown — Tati Town police last Thursday fined four Zimbabweans after bumping into them in an unventilated freight truck along the Francistown-Maun Road near the Orapa turn off.

The driver of the Massyn Moves freight truck who was traveling from Zambia to South Africa, and his unlawful passengers were fined P1000.

Tati Town Police station Superintendent Tebogo Madisa confirmed that they charged and fined three women and a man for unlawfully remaining in Botswana.

The police also arrested 20 Zimbabwean illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile in South Africa, the number of Zimbabweans living in a De Doorns safety camp is growing rapidly, a situation the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has described as "concerning".

Monique Ekoko, from the UNHCR, says having too many people in the camp could result in further divisions and possible flare-ups among communities.

The camp was set up on a rugby field alongside the town’s main road in November after Zimbabweans were told by their South African neighbours to leave the informal settlements in De Doorns.

South African farmworkers in the area accused the Zimbabweans of stealing their jobs, an allegation that resulted in the displacement of more than 2 000 Zimbabweans.

Ekoko said the number of people living in the camp had been increasing daily, boosted by outsiders beginning to arrive.

"The main issue we have to be clear about is that the site was set up for the people who were affected by the violence, and we want to maintain it that way. This is not a site for Zimbabweans all over the Western Cape, or nationwide," said Ekoko.

Government officials and UNHCR workers have been providing relief at the camp in recent weeks.

Last Thursday, police and camp leaders had their hands full when a van of about 50 Zimbabweans from Malmesbury arrived with their possessions.

They arrived late in the afternoon and had expected to be housed there, said Shaun Minnies, a camp manager.

The authorities were forced to turn them away.

Minnies said they believed the van had taken the Malmesbury Zimbabweans to a farm in the area.

"The camp is only for those who were displaced and we cannot accommodate more people," he said.

De Doorns police station commissioner Superintendent Desmond van der Westhuizen confirmed that police were monitoring the camp and had been asked to intervene when the van arrived.

"Only the managers know who is supposed to be in the camp. We as police were asked to monitor the site and would need to step in when the managers are having problems," he said.

He said the group did not react violently to being denied entry.

Ekoko, however, echoed the camp managers’ concerns about overcrowding.

She said the the effects of the increasing numbers were evident in the distribution of the food rations, available tent space and toilets.

Overcrowding, she warned, could later affect health and other services.

Ekoko said there were also concerns that the South Africans who had forced the Zimbabweans out of their communities might believe that relief efforts favoured Zimbabweans. This could cause further tension.

"At this stage it might have an affect on reintegration efforts, and integration is key," she said.