Botswana MPs Oppose Zimbabwe Passport-Free Travel Plan

December 17, 2023
Botswana President and Zimbabwe President | Report Focus News
Botswana President and Zimbabwe President

The recent proposal to eliminate passport requirements for travel between Botswana and Zimbabwe has sparked significant debate among Botswana’s parliamentarians. The proposal, announced by Zimbabwe President Emerson Mnangagwa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, would allow citizens of both countries to use national identity cards instead of passports at entry points.

Botswana has a similar agreement with Namibia, which faced no opposition and has been in effect since February. However, the proposition with Zimbabwe has met with resistance from Botswana’s legislators. Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Annah Mokgethi, faced backlash in the National Assembly, with Members of Parliament expressing their concerns and disagreements.

The leader of the opposition, Dithapelo Keorapetse, expressed surprise over the deal, questioning the representation and consultation process. Francistown MP Wynter Mmolotsi raised concerns about the impact on local areas, especially those near the border, citing an existing burden on the health system and illegal activities such as gold mining. He feared that easing border controls could exacerbate these issues.

Some MPs, like Unity Douw, questioned the practicality of using machine-readable identity cards, comparing it to the current passport system. Additionally, the high cost of obtaining a passport in Zimbabwe, which drives some to cross the border seeking better job opportunities, was highlighted as a factor in the debate.

Minister Mokgethi clarified in Parliament that no formal agreement has been signed yet and that the concept’s acceptance by the leadership does not imply immediate implementation. She emphasized that there are processes and procedures to be followed to ensure the validity of all travel requirements. A memorandum of agreement, including clauses for cancellation or exit in case of implementation concerns, would be necessary before any changes are implemented.

This debate reflects the complex considerations involved in cross-border agreements, balancing ease of travel with concerns about security, economic impact, and public services.