Scramble for Botswana citizenship

Published: 7/Oct/2005
Source: Botswana Gazette

Most of Batswana – especially women – place too much trust in foreigners and end up in marriages undergone to acquire Botswana citizenship. The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Major General Moeng Pheto, says there is a growing trend of marriages undertaken between foreigners and Batswana to help the former to acquire Botswana citizenship.

Even though Moeng could not provide statistics he said, “the figures are frightening,” adding that most of the victims of such marriages are “our young women.”

Speaking in an interview with The Gazette, Pheto said they have been observing the situation over the years but after the Ministry of Education decided to localise the teaching profession, they saw a scramble for Botswana citizenship. He said the bulk of such applicants are teachers who lost their jobs after the teaching profession was localised.

“Out of 100 applications it is possible to have 70 people of one nationality, the majority being those that were employed as teachers,” he said. He said some of them people had been teaching in the country for a long time, had married Batswana but never applied for citizenship until the profession was localized, when they applied.

Pheto said as much as the law allows foreigners married to Batswana to apply for citizenship after being in the marriage for two and half years, abuse of the law is developing. He said foreigners take advantage of the loophole in the law to marry Batswana in order to facilitate their applications for Botswana citizenship.

“Most of our people, especially women over-trust foreigners and end up trapped in the ‘marriages’ meant to acquire Botswana citizenship,” he said.

He said some foreigners get residence permits if they are dependent on their spouses and he has handled a number of cases where people complained that foreigners used them to get citizenship and divorced them immediately after acquiring it.

Pheto also said some foreigners have swindled locals of their hard earned assets and money. He said some people who are married to foreigners had applied for loans from financial institutions together with their spouses and had gone into business with them like other married couples. He said some of these spouses had secretly transferred the money from the businesses into accounts in their countries of origin and left Batswana partners with huge debts to deal with.

Pheto said some foreigners had abandoned spouses with children and some had threatened them with death, while others stole their passports and skipped the country.

“These things are very painful because a lot of our people come here with complaints and in most cases it is always too late to assist. Some of them even want us to kick their spouses out of the country after realising that they have been used,” said Pheto.

Pheto would not commit himself on whether people who get into such marriages are aware that they are helping their partners to acquire citizenship, saying, “it is difficult to prove that money is involved, but it is a possibility.” He said he has already held a meeting with the Citizenship Committee to see how this trend can be addressed.

Pheto emphasised that they are not against marriages between Batswana and foreigners but all they want is for Batswana to be careful when dealing with such sensitive issues as marriage.

Themes: Naturalisation and Marriage
Regions: Botswana
Year: 2005