Botswana, Zimbabwe leaders ‘agree’ passport-free travel: Mnangagwa

GABORONE, Botswana – Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said he had “agreed” with his Botswana counterpart President Mokgweetsi Masisi to open up their borders for passport-free travel by their citizens.

Mnangagwa said the terms of the agreement will be be hammered out by officials from both countries.

“I have been talking to my brother here (Masisi) after he was making a statement here and we have agreed, I can announce, that from now on we shall instruct our officials that there shall be no question of how to enter Zimbabwe, how to enter Botswana,” Mnangagwa said to cheers during the fifth edition of the annual Kusi Ideas Festival in Gaborone.

He went on: “That should be cleared. The two of us have agreed, realising that we are Africans. We should be able to walk into Botswana, walk into Zambia and walk into Kenya. We agreed when we were sitting there that why should we restrict ourselves?

“Somebody said in the past we were all living together, then the global north came and made boundaries, where the family’s kitchen became on the other side of the border, the bedroom on the other side of the border. So why should we continue to respect this? Let us open the borders among ourselves and move freely.”

While Botswana, with a population of 2.5 million, is one of Africa’s most stable countries with a GDP of US$ 17.61 billion in 2021, according to the World Bank, Zimbabwe has lurched from political crisis to economic crisis over the last two decades.

Like other prosperous regional countries including South Africa, Botswana is already hosting a sizeable Zimbabwean migrant community and deports thousands of Zimbabweans annually for immigration offences.

It remains to be seen how the free movement of people will be implemented given the economic imbalance between the two countries.

Botswana already inked a similar arrangement with Namibia. Starting on February 24, 2023, Namibia and Botswana are accepting each other’s national identity cards for use in cross-border business and tourism travel for stays of up to 90 days. Nationals of each country can present this card to enter the other country without a passport.


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