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Cablegate: Zimbabwe's Collapse a Mixed Economic Bag For

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL PGOV ZI BC
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE'S COLLAPSE A MIXED ECONOMIC BAG FOR
BOTSWANA

1. Summary: Zimbabwean migration has had both negative and
positive impact on neighboring Botswana. On the downside,
Zimbabweans are widely blamed for increased crime; they are
accused of taking jobs from Batswana; and the government has
been forced to spend its limited resources on both the
deportation of illegal aliens and care for legitimate
refugees. However, Botswana has also benefited from large
numbers of Zimbabwean professionals and skilled workers who
have settled here, while low-paid unskilled workers have been
a boon -- albeit an illegal one -- to the construction and
agriculture industries. Zimbabwean migrants' personal and
professional ties in Botswana grow as the crisis in their
homeland drags on. It is unclear whether they will choose to
return home even if Zimbabwe stabilizes, which could
jeopardize the potential for a Zimbabwean economic rebound in
a post-Mugabe dispensation. End summary.

-----------------------------------
JUST HOW MANY ZIMBABWEANS ARE HERE?
-----------------------------------

2. Zimbabwean migration to Botswana is nothing new; thousands
of Zimbabweans moved to Botswana after its 1966 independence
for political reasons or economic opportunities. However,
many returned home after Zimbabwe's 1980 independence.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Africa and Asia Director
Ambassador Zibane Nthakwana told Poloff that this
post-independence return was actually a blow to Botswana's
economy, as the Zimbabwean migrants filled many skilled
positions in the private and public sectors, particularly at
the nascent University of Botswana. Zimbabwe's political
crisis and economic collapse in the late 1990s started the
latest round of immigration. Many Zimbabweans have family
ties on both sides of the 600 kilometer shared border, and
these ties combined with Botswana's booming economy made
Botswana -- particularly the northern city of Francistown --
a natural destination for migrants.

3. In meetings with journalists, businessmen, and government
officials, Poloff repeatedly asked for estimates of how many
Zimbabwean -- legal and illegal -- are currently living inBotswana, but no one
could provide an official estimate.
Ntakhwana noted that the GOB is currently deporting about
3,000 illegal Zimbabweans a month, but that this probably
represents just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, he said
that Zimbabwean residents likely number in the hundreds of
thousands, but were impossible to count given the large
number of undocumented migrants.


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DOWNSIDES FOR BOTSWANA...
-------------------------

4. If you ask Batswana about the impact of Zimbabwean
immigration, the first thing most mention is crime.
Zimbabweans, they say, are responsible for a significant
increase in crime the country has seen in the past five
years, particularly stock theft and petty crimes like
housebreaking and theft. One Francistown journalist told
Poloff that violent crime in that town was "unheard of"
QPoloff that violent crime in that town was "unheard of"
before the influx of Zimbabweans, while another claimed that
up to 90 percent of sex workers around Francistown are
Zimbabwean. However, it is difficult to find statistics to
document these perceptions. Police statistics show that
crime has increased for several years, but it is not clear
whether Zimbabweans are to blame, as police contacts were
unable to provide statistics regarding the nationality of
arrested criminals. There are some cases in which
Zimbabweans are unfairly blamed for crime. For example,
Gadzani Mhotsha, Secretary General of the Botswana Federation
of Trade Unions, said that his family members on the border

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recently had cattle stolen, and after following the tracks,
they found that the rustlers had taken the cattle toward
Zimbabwe, but then crossed back into Botswana, attempting to
make it look like the rustlers were Zimbabwean.

5. Batswana also complain that Zimbabweans take jobs from
locals, particularly unskilled jobs. Mhotsha notes that
despite strict rules about hiring non-citizens, businesses --
particularly in the construction and agriculture sectors --
frequently hire Zimbabwean workers for far less than the law
would mandate a Motswana be paid. Skilled professions are
also effected. Some private schools hire Zimbabwean teachers
for about P2,500 (about $400) per month instead of the P6,000
(almost $1,000) per month a Motswana would demand. According
to Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry, and Manpower
(BOCCIM) Deputy Executive Director Norman Moleele, the lure
of cheap, skilled, and enthusiastic Zimbabwean labor is hard
to resist for many employers, particularly small businesses.

--------------------------------------------- --
...BUT SKILLS TRANSFER, TRADE BOLSTERS ECONOMY
--------------------------------------------- --

6. Though its economy performs well, Botswana is a small
country (less than 2 million citizens) with many capacity
constraints, and so despite the downsides of Zimbabwean
immigration, everyone interviewed by Poloff acknowledged that
the skills brought to Botswana by educated Zimbabwean
migrants are valuable. Maleele said Botswana's employers,
particularly in white collar industries, love employing
Zimbabweans -- they are generally highly educated and work
much harder than many young Batswana, whom Maleele described
as increasingly entitled and lazy.

7. Cross-border commerce also has boosted Botswana business
in recent years, particularly in Francistown, although the
stabilization of the Zimbabwean economy due to dollarization
has slowed this. According to local journalists, from about
2006-2008 Francistown was practically overrun by Zimbabwean
shoppers, leading to shortages and massive queues,
particularly during the holidays. The last year has seen a
sharp decline in shoppers coming to stock up on bulk food
items, although they now buy cheap, Chinese-made electronics
to resell in Zimbabwe.

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WILL THEY EVER GO HOME?
-----------------------

8. Should the political and economic situation improve in
Zimbabwe, the question remains whether Zimbabwean workers
will go home. Ntakhwana has his doubts, particularly about
educated workers who are likely to be very skeptical about
change and wary of leaving stable jobs. Batswana are
generally welcoming toward Zimbabweans, particularly skilled
professionals, and this may entice them to stay. Unskilled
workers may be less comfortable and more likely to return
home, but they are not nearly as crucial to Zimbabwe's
long-term economic recovery.

9. Shingirai Madondoe, a Zimbabwean journalist resident in
Francistown who is in his early 30s, also has his doubts.
QFrancistown who is in his early 30s, also has his doubts.
Asked if he will return, he told Poloff "no" flat out. He is
married to a Motswana, they have children, and he is eligible
for Botswana citizenship ( a foreigner who marries a Motswana
may become a citizen after two years). He noted that nearly
all of his friends from secondary school are in similar
circumstances -- living abroad; starting families; and
establishing themselves in careers. Why, he asked, would
educated professionals in their prime years want to disrupt
lives they've established and return home to an uncertain
future? It's a good question with no easy answers, but one

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that will have to be addressed for the sake of Zimbabwe's
future.
NOLAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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