'Over 500 Zimbabweans in Botswana jails'


A view of a cell in Alcatraz.

GABORONE – More than 500 Zimbabweans are serving time in Botswana prisons for various crimes committed in that country, a Zimbabwean government minister has revealed.

Addressing Plumtree villagers, who live near the border during a meeting aimed at discouraging cross-border crimes, Zimbabwe deputy minister of Agriculture, Paddy Zhanda, said there were only four Botswana nationals in his country’s jails.

“There are 502 Zimbabweans serving in Botswana jails and yet we have only four Botswana citizens in Zimbabwean jails. There is need for us to be disciplined as a nation and in so doing, we should also respect the laws of our neighbouring countries,” Zhanda was quoted as saying by a Zimbabwean daily newspaper, The Chronicle.

The newspaper reported that Zhanda made the remarks during an awareness meetingin which he also updated villagers and farmers in the area about a change in the foot and mouth disease (FMD) control policy in neighbouring Botswana.

The Botswana government has notified its Zimbabwe counterpart that, from the begining of June, any cattle that stray into their country will be killed.

The Botswana government, which has over the years provided Zimbabwe with free FMD vaccines, said efforts to eradicate the disease have failed. It blamed “untreated” Zimbabwean cattle, which it said stray over the border, where they “re-infect” Botswana herds at shared watering points in the Shashe and Ramogkwebane rivers.

Zhanda said stocktheft rings made up of nationals from both countries were behind the illegal mass movement of cattle across the largely porous boundary.

Zhanda said cross-border stocktheft and goods smuggling syndicates had vandalised border fences to create illegal crossing points.

He said the Botswana government and that country’s police repeatedly complain to Zimbabwe about the large numbers of Zimbabwean citizens crossing into their country illegally to commit crimes.

“I was shocked by the number of holes I saw while inspecting what is supposed to be the boundary fence between Zimbabwe and Botswana. These openings are created by criminals who use them as entry and exit points before and after committing crimes in Botswana,” said Zhanda.

Most of the Zimbabweans serving time in Botswana jails were arrested for stocktheft, house-breaking, theft and murder.

Zhanda said the Zimbabwean government could not stop the flogging of its citizens caught for offences in Botswana as the practice was legal in terms of that country’s traditional justice system.

Offenders convicted for minor crimes by Botswana’s traditional chiefs who preside over the country’s ‘Kgotla’ traditional court system can be sentenced up to 10 lashes of the cane instead of prison terms.

Most Zimbabweans have been caned for illegal immigration, pick-pocketing, theft from motor vehicles and house-breaking.

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