Zim-Botswana to scrap passports for travellers
Darlington Musarurwa in GABORONE, Botswana
GOVERNMENT departments will be directed to begin working on modalities to scrap passport requirements between Zimbabwe and Botswana to pave the way for seamless movement of people and goods, President Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking to Zimbabwean journalists after attending the Kusi Ideas Festival here yesterday, the President said the envisioned dispensation — agreed with his Botswana counterpart President Mokgweetsi Masisi — would mean travellers only require their respective national identity documents to travel between the two countries.
“We impose constraints on ourselves which are more colonial than they are patriotic, so we agreed that he (President Masisi) himself on his side and myself on my side are going to instruct the relevant departments to ease these constraints of movement of people between our two countries,” said President Mnangagwa.
“It should be enough for someone having an identity card to cross into Zimbabwe or cross into Botswana, so this is what we are going to do. He has undertaken to talk to his ministers to facilitate that; I will do the same in Zimbabwe to make sure we facilitate the movement of Zimbabweans and Batswana between the two countries without any constraints except one’s ID (identity document).”
In an earlier presidential panel discussion at the festival, which is being co-hosted by the Nation Media Group of Kenya and the Government of Botswana, President Mnangagwa indicated that officials in the two countries will begin initiating the process of regularising the undertaking in terms of the law.
“We have agreed that from now on we will instruct our officials that there would be no question of how to enter Zimbabwe; how to enter Botswana — that should be cleared. The two of us have agreed because we are African. We should be able to walk into Botswana, walk into Zambia, walk into Kenya . . . Why should we restrict ourselves?”
In April this year, Botswana and Namibia became the first countries in the Southern African Development Community to abolish the use of passports between Gaborone and Windhoek.
In his keynote address at the Kusi Ideas Festival, President Masisi said he hoped that Zimbabwe would be the second country to have such an agreement with his country.
“Our steps towards facilitation of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area are being given impetus by policy action taken by some sister nations like Kenya, who have announced the intention to abolish visa requirements from Africans travelling to Kenya,” he said.
“I guess speaking for ourselves, President Mnangagwa, the ball is in your court and mine. We shall talk.
“We, on our part, have since April this year initiated an even easier movement between ourselves and neighbouring Namibia, by which citizens of both nations are able to travel between the two countries using only their national identity cards as a travel document.
“This has clearly reduced the burden of acquisition of passports for travel to either country. It is our hope that with time this will become a feature of the subcontinent and eventually the continent as a whole.
“And yes, once again, President Mnangagwa, I am happy to tell you that I have begun consultations on my side; I wish you begin on yours so that next after Namibia will be a Zimbabwean ID holder travelling seamlessly to Botswana, and a Botswana citizen . . . travelling seamlessly to Zimbabwe.”
Kenya recently unveiled plans to eliminate visa requirements for travellers and tourists by year-end.
Rwanda has since followed suit.
The free movement of people and goods is one of the flagship programmes that are encapsulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which was the subject of discussion at yesterday’s event.
The blueprint was adopted by African leaders in 2013 as a master plan to create a peaceful, stable and prosperous continent by 2063.
The Nation Media Group launched the annual Kusi Ideas Festival in 2019 as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.
The platform was created as an “ideas transaction market” for Heads of State, experts and leaders of various interest groups to interrogate issues that could help Africa become a global powerhouse in the 21st century.
The inaugural event was held in Rwanda and attracted over 1 600 delegates.
Kenya hosted last year’s event.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa returned home yesterday evening from Botswana where he had attended the annual Kusi Ideas Festival, which was co-hosted by the Nation Media Group of Kenya and the Government of Botswana.
He was welcomed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Martin Rushwaya, Service Chiefs and senior Government officials.