Thousands of Batswana become foreigners overnight

Published: 18/Nov/2011
Source: Mmegi (Gaborone)


Thousands of Batswana who have taken their citizenship for granted until now are reeling in shock after learning that they are foreigners; that is, they are not recognised as Batswana.

The problem is that many of them do not even know that they are citizens of the countries that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship says they belong to.

The people affected have a number of things in common: they all have the Botswana ID card, Omang, and are holders of Botswana passports. Many of them went through the country’s education system and were sponsored by government. Some of them are judges, doctors, heads of parastatals and government departments, teachers, police and army officers as well as secret agents. Suddenly they are being told that they are not recognised as Batswana because one of their parents was a foreigner.

Take the case of former My Star winner and R&B singer, Samantha Mogwe, who says she was shocked to learn that she was not a Motswana when she went to apply for her e-passport.

“My father is a Motswana and I was born here,” she says. “I also have my Omang and passport. But they say because my mum used to be Zambian, I am also Zambian.”

Mogwe says as a result, approval of her e-passport application has been put on hold until she has renounced her Zambian citizenship. To that end, she has had to fill in a late renunciation form, leaving her P200 poorer in order for her papers to be processed.

Another case involves a man who says his nationality never crossed his mind as a possible issue because his mother came to Botswana long before the Botswana constitution was drafted and he started primary school in the then Bechuanaland.

“I went to apply for my e-passport and was told that because I have written that my mother was born in South Africa, I must renounce my South African citizenship,” says the man, who prefers anonymity. “I have never been a South African. My mother has been here for more than 60 years and suddenly because she was born in South Africa, I am a South African?


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Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, ID Documents and Passports, Statelessness
Regions: Botswana
Year: 2011