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Detainees (1:49) Excerpt from film "Border Jumpers" July 2005
Detainees in Botswana describe conditions in Zimbabwe.

Country: Botswana
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    Guiding Questions
    1. What conditions in Zimbabwe do border jumpers claim push them out of their own country?

    2. The narrator mentions that some detainees are seeking "political asylum." What does he mean by this term, and why might Zimbabweans be eligible to seek it?

    Background Essay
    Detainees in Botswana, hoping for political asylum, describe the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. The lack of free and fair elections and the harsh realities of President Robert Mugabe's regime have forced political oppositionists to flee the country in fear of their lives.

    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.

    You see these border jumpers who are here.

    They are just here for saving their lives.

    Life there in Zimbabwe is very tough.

    The leading opposition party in Zimbabwe is the Movement for Democratic Change -- or MDC.

    Movement Democratic Change!

    Some of the detainees are seeking political asylum in Botswana.

    In Zimbabwe, political opponents and critics of President Mugabe are frequently harassed and even jailed for spreading "false information."

    I am a journalist and I ran away from Zimbabwe because of what I was saying. Just those few innocent words get you in trouble. A lot of things are happening in Zimbabwe, but there is no one to chronicle that.

    All you foreign journalists were kicked out of Zimbabwe because they don't want all that information to leave the country, and a lot of bad things are happening in that country.

    Coming here is a cry for help! We are saying to Botswana, please look! Do something! We want to go -- All of us want to go back home.

    Like many of the people here, Solomon is discontented about politics in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's party swept the last two elections despite widespread opposition.

    International observers regard both elections as rigged.

    Solomon is not his real name.

    To me it was not free and fair elections.

    Because where we lived, we used to be beaten by soldiers.

    When you were a group of four or five young people, you were being tortured.

    You were not allowed to put on a t-shirt of your party which you support.

    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

    CIA The World Factbook: Zimbabwe

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