"Zimbabweans deserve your sympathy" – Botswana Minister pleads

BOBONONG – Botswana's Minister of Defence Security and Justice Dikgakgamatso Seretse has pleaded with people of Babirwa to appreciate the plight of Zimbabwean nationals amid tensions rising due to rising crime.

Zimbabwe is presently is locked in a political crisis after the March 29 and June 27 disputed election results, forcing thousands of displaced Zimbabweans to flee to neighbouring countries like Botswana and South Africa.

Addressing a Kgotla meeting in Bobonong over the weekend, Minister Seretse acknowledged that some Zimbabweans are involved in criminal activities but said in most instances they are encouraged by Batswana.

"I feel for them but I encourage you to treat another person the way you would want him to treat you. They (Zimbabweans) were not like that during Smith’s era and they used to visit genuinely as social acquaintances. But today they are under pressure as a result of their economic situation in their country. As such they come here in desperate need of help." The minister said it is a pity that Batswana have changed their attitude towards Zimbabweans. He said sometimes Zimbabweans are employed and not paid nor given food, which is why they end up engaging in some anti-social activities. "That is how their criminal acts started. Let us collect ourselves first this side (of the border) then we will be able to address the problems the Zimbabweans are causing us. The government will try anyway."

Earlier, Babirwa chief Mmirwa Malema had called on the minister to rescue his people from the terror unleashed by Zimbabweans in the Bobirwa area. He said the way they are terrorising the people and even smuggling their livestock to Zimbabwe threatens to defeat the good agriculture programmes that the government has introduced in the area. "Zimbabweans are a major concern and disadvantage Babirwa and women have now abandoned their lands and cattle posts for their own security."

Malema urged the government to consider rounding up the Zimbabweans and keep them somewhere because they are a threat to security and deplete government funds by deporting them only for them to return the next day. He said the Zimbabweans’ situation in Bobirwa is a sore that they would have to live with for a long time.

Meanwhile, the minister carried out consultations on cluster policing in Bobirwa region. He said crime has now become rampant and the involvement of the community is necessary to address the problem because the security of the nation begins with every individual rather than leave the whole responsibility to the government alone.

He said under the new policing system, wards and villages will form clusters and police officers will be dispatched to each cluster. Each cluster will come up with its own crime prevention programme. Seretse urged the communities to use their own ideas to fight crime. "Through consultation you are going to do better as compared to the laws imposed by another person. Everyone in each cluster will know his responsibility."

There will be competitions among those clusters and the cluster which has reduced the level of crime in its area will be awarded a prize in the form of resources and services that would empower them in their efforts. Those who do not make it would be assisted in some way but those who fail because of laxity will not receive anything until their performance improves.

The minister noted that there will be satellite police stations around the cluster villages and wards to bring the police closer to the communities. He added that more special constables will be employed to keep an eye on villages especially those without police stations and a senior police officer will also be made available. "The police will become more visible to you but do not treat them to a situation that would compromise their efficiency."

Seretse indicated that in most cases people like to know how they will be paid for their efforts but said the overall reward will be the security of the communities they serve.

"Your objective should be to a safer and secure nation at the end of the day."

Residents applauded the new crime prevention initiative and hoped that once implemented it will go a long way in fighting crime, but feared that it sounds to be a long-term process that will take years to achieve. They also expressed concern about the number of livestock smuggled into Zimbabwe on a daily basis. They called on the minister to intensify Botswana Defence Force (BDF) patrols and for government to consider compensating those whose cattle has been illegally driven into Zimbabwe.

However, the minister said stock theft is a challenge of life hence cannot be compensated for. On intensified patrols, he said law enforcement officers have a lot of work in their respective workplaces but government is already considering what to do about the patrols in the Bobirwa area. He said patrols along the border would be done as a project in Bobirwa.  The minister consulted traditional leaders, the community and police officers. Source: Mmeg Online (Botswana)