Citizens of Botswana and her neighbour from the north, Zimbabwe will soon start using national identity cards (O mang) as a means of travel between the countries.
Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa affirmed this on Thursday while in Gaborone for the Kusi Ideas Festival.
Talks regarding opening up of borders through the use of O mang as a document of entry, especially between Botswana and Zimbabwe and by the nationals of both countries received mixed reactions with some fearing it will increase crime.
However this week, President Mnangagwa declared that his country was ready to open the borders for the seamless movement of people.
He noted that he reached an agreement with his counterpart President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“We have agreed that from now on we shall instruct our officials that there should be no questions on how to enter Botswana and how to enter Zimbabwe. We are Africans, we should just be able to walk into Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania and Zambia. Why should we restrict ourselves,” said Mnangagwa.
For his part, Masisi said Zimbabwe is welcome to open up borders for Botswana and Botswana will also do the same, adding that such development is key for economic development for the entire continent.
“Our steps towards facilitation of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have been given the impetus by policy actions taken by some sister nations like Kenya who have announced their intention to abolish VISA requirements from Africans travelling from Kenya,” Masisi said.
In addition, Masisi said Botswana has since April this year initiated an even easier movement between locals and Namibians through the use of the national identity card as a travel document.
“This has reduced the burden of acquisition of passports for travel to either country. We hope that with time this will become a feature of the Sub-Continent and eventually the continent at large.
Political analyst, Kitso Morekisi said the development is progressive in the sense that it makes movement seamless and transportation of goods, but regretted that there is no sufficient trade between the two states.
He noted that the biggest fear is that crime could increase more so that in the past Zimbabweans have been fingered on cattle rustling in Bobirwa district, adding that security should be tightened locally.
“Opening up borders on its own could plunge the country into crisis, especially crime. Both countries should ensure that security is not breached. Also, the free borders will lead to large scale immigration particularly from Zimbabwe side given its economic conditions and this could lead to scramble for limited jobs in Botswana. As a country we must carefully do situational analysis to weigh costs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe continues to thrive economically despite economic sanctions imposed on the country in the early 2000s by super powers such as America and Britain amongst others.
He said the country through the support of its African counterparts has managed to remain resilient, adding that Zimbabwe at the moment boast of strong mining sector and that would help develop it.
“Our mining sector needs global skills and technology. We have a huge mining sector that extends to coal, gold and platinum. Currently, the most exciting one is lithium and it has been established that we have substantial deposits and places it higher on the continent in terms of quantified lithium deposits in our country. Our view is that it has been there for ages and we want a raw deal from potential investors,” he said.
He also Zimbabwe has attained food security at the household and country levels due to its vast land resources.
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