Wednesday, October 16, 2013

African Migrants Not Welcome In Africa

Entering Botswana from South Africa Wame Molefhe gets into conversation with a fellow Botswanian also on his way back home. The remaining narration is hers, taken from 'Letter from Botswana' in October's New Internationalist.

'I'm going home.' He would never live anywhere else, he adds. He is a true patriot, fiercely proud of the country he calls hom, he tells me. Like him, I am happy to be able to call Botswana my home, but I believe I would feel at home anywhere on African soil. But I have begun to question this idea of patriotism, when the phrase 'my people' is spoken in order to exclude. I belong to this nation not because of any achievement. I was simply born in Botswana. I know no other country as intimately. I do not feel foreign, but I know that there are those who visit Botswana who are made to feel foreign - from the minute they enter this country.
During the days of apartheid, Botswana provided a sanctuary for those fleeing the oppressive racist regime in South Africa. After the South African Defence Force raided Gaberone and killed 13 people in 1985, Botswana became somewhere to run through, rather than to. It was clear that it was no longer a place of safety, but Botswana was still lauded for having done her bit to stand up against apartheid.

Back in Gaberone city I take a walk down the road. There is a police vehicle rounding up foreigners. They are all black . . .African, I assume. And I think of the story I recently read in the newspapers, of a 96 year old man who arrived in Botswana in 1945 and has lived here since. The circumstances of his arrival I do not know. I see a picture of an old man, being wheeled out of hospital in a wheelchair. Another shows him being loaded into the back of a pick-up van, surrounded by men and women in nursing uniforms . . . the old man is being deported. I feel much shame in admitting that I am from Botswana.

(- - - - ) We continue to describe ourselves as a caring and compassionate people  but at the same time we are pulling the noose tighter around the necks of immigrants. We are smoking them out - some of them. In the same breath we call for foreign investors. I do not know who Botswana wants to embrace. It does not seem to be my fellow Africans.

A few days after the old man was expelled I learn from a news report that an ambulance was despatched to fetch him back from Zimbabwe. The reasons for this change are not known. Perhaps someone, somewhere, remembered that we are supposed to be a caring and compassionate people.

Africa, Europe, North America, Australia - what's the difference? It seems that no one wants them - except when they need them and then how are they treated?
Nationality is simply an accident of birth and patriotism a tool of ruling elites to keep sections of the populations divided in order to enhance control.

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