- South Africa to terminate over 170 000 Zimbabwe Exempt Permits - Botswana still struggling with illegal immigrants, high unemployment - We will do what we can with our limited resources - President Masisi

Botswana might find herself battling with an influx of Zimbabwean nationals by the end of this year or early next year when South Africa deports over 100 000 of them.

Botswana and South Africa have for years remained preferred second homes by Zimbabweans who flee their country either for political or economic reasons. While Botswana has for years managed to house some of the Zimbabweans at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, the country is still battling with a high level of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe.

With South Africa, which houses thousands of Zimbabweans planning to terminate their exemption permits, Botswana is expected to be one of the countries where thousands of them are expected to flock in search of greener pastures.

Botswana is currently faced with a skyrocketing unemployment rate with little to show for job creation.

South African media has reported that about 178 000 Zimbabweans are at risk of deportation when the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) ends in December this year.

The country’s home affairs department last week announced it was forging ahead with its plan to terminate the exemption permit and has told South African employers of Zimbabwean immigrants to start preparing before the deportations.

The ZEPs were granted to Zimbabweans who moved to the country before 2009. The temporary measure, according to reports was meant to regularise Zimbabweans' presence in the country and allow them access to services such as banking.

In court papers the department filed at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, it said only 6 000 of the 178 000 permit holders responded to home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi's calls last year for Zimbabweans to state their case before the dispensation lapses.

The department was responding to an affidavit by the Helen Suzman Foundation to take the government to court over its decision to not extend the exemption permit.

“In the six-month period since the minister's decision to extend the ZEPs for 12 months was announced, only 6 000 of the approximately 178 000 ZEP holders have taken the opportunity to make representations to the minister,” home affairs director-general Livhuwani Tommy Makhode is reported to have said. Makhode said it had always been made clear that the ZEP was temporary.

President Mokgweetsi Mokgweetsi Masisi has indicated that as a sovereign country, South Africa is entitled to do what it finds appropriate to do. Responding to Botswana Guardian inquiries on Botswana’s readiness to deal with the situation, Masisi explained that his country remains ready.

“This is an issue of a sovereign state. We always know that it can happen. So as a country we will be ready. But being ready does not mean that we will manage. We will do our level best as a country to try and manage the situation. This will all be about the ability to deal with the situation,” Masisi said.

According to the President, it is also a matter of availability of resources that have to be put in place to deal with the situation. He explained that Botswana also has her own challenges to deal with under the constrained resources but she will do what she can to assist as a sovereign state.