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Botswana Today (2:55) Excerpt from film "Border Jumpers" July 2005
The sharp contrast between conditions in Botswana and Zimbabwe is one factor fueling immigration.

Country: Botswana
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    Guiding Questions
    1. What conditions in Zimbabwe attract refugees from other countries?

    2. How is Botswana, "...vulnerable to a mass influx of refugees from across the border?"

    3. How is the government of Botswana dealing with what it sees as the problem of refugees?

    4. Would it be in the interest of Botswana to assist in rebuilding the economy of Zimbabwe?

    Background Essay
    While Botswana has thrived since its independence from Britain, Zimbabwe has floundered. The extreme contrast in conditions has lead to massive migration by Zimbabweans to Botswana, wearing thin the Botswanan security forces' capabilities.

    Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership. Some of the worst examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe — countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 percent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades. Such leaders - whether military autocrats, corrupt embezzlers, or puffed-up posturers - use power as an end in itself, rather than for the public good. These regimes have contributed greatly to the instability of the African subcontinent in recent history.

    Under the stewardship of these leaders, infrastructure in many African countries has fallen into disrepair, currencies have fallen in value, and real prices have inflated dramatically, while job availability, health care, education standards, and life expectancy have declined. Ordinary life has become increasingly difficult: general security has deteriorated, crime and corruption have increased, much-needed public funds have flowed into hidden bank accounts, and officially sanctioned ethnic discrimination — sometimes resulting in civil war — has become prevalent. This has lead to many nationals fleeing to other countries, prosperous countries with good leadership and economic possibilities.

    One of the best examples of good leadership in Africa is Botswana, which neighbors despotic Zimbabwe. Long before diamonds were discovered there, this former desert protectorate demonstrated a knack for participatory democracy, integrity, tolerance, entrepreneurship, and the rule of law. The country has remained democratic in spirit as well as form continuously since its independence from Britain in 1966 — an unmatched record in Africa. It has also defended human rights, encouraged civil liberties, and actively promoted its citizens' social and economic development.

    The sharp contrast between the political and economic situations in Botswana and Zimbabwe has led many Zimbabweans to migrate to Botswana for work or political asylum. The Wide Angle film BORDER JUMPERS illustrates the conflicts that have arisen as a result of this immigration. An influx of migrant workers into any economy leads to uncertainty for domestic workers. These situations are seen throughout the world, and cause great strain on the economy of the thriving nations. BORDER JUMPERS exemplifies the threat and the security efforts taken by Botswana, and many countries throughout the world, to control such immigration.

    There's a sharp contrast between Zimbabwe today and its more affluent neighbor.

    Forty years ago, the roles were reversed.

    But since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana has come to be called the gem of Africa.

    By maintaining free elections, free markets, and the rule of law, Botswana is an African success story.

    It's not in our nature to boast, but if you would permit me to break with the tradition and say that, you know, fortunately our economy has consistently done extremely well over the years, and therefore the standard of living in this part of Southern Africa, indeed as in other places around, is much better than in any other places.

    Today, Botswana has the fastest growing economy in the world, fueled by diamond mines, a cattle export industry and thriving tourism that exploits the natural assets of an underpopulated country.

    Yet it's not immune to the hazards facing many African nations. Despite its clean cities and well-stocked stores, Botswana has over 23 percent unemployment and more than one third of its population is infected with HIV.

    So the relative stability of Botswana is vulnerable to a mass influx of refugees from across the border.

    We are a population of l.7 million people and we are surrounded by millions of inhabitants of the countries that surround us and if we were to allow, you know, open up our borders and allow people to come in, in no time we'll be swamped up.

    We cannot just suddenly wake up one morning and find that some 200,000 have been injected into our societies. There would be absolute chaos.

    In 2003, Botswana's president vowed to crackdown on illegal migration and his defence forces have acted.

    Soldiers fan out to intercept border jumpers in the long stretches of empty land near the border fence.

    Patrols are constantly in action.

    At night, raiding patrols regularly sweep through the streets of Francistown, the city closest to the border.

    Dealing with illegal immigrants is straining Botswana's security forces.

    On one weekend alone, 4000 of them were swept up in a series of raids.

    With a total capacity of fewer than 3500 inmates, Botswana's prison system all but collapsed under the weight.

    Related Links
    Border Jumpers on PBS.org

    ATLANTIC MONTHLY "Security Fences: The List"

    Official Web site for the Republic of Botswana

    CIA The World Factbook: Botswana

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