Zim, Botswana forge ahead with eliminating passport requirement

ZIMBABWE and Botswana are forging ahead with eliminating passport requirements for citizens travelling between the two countries with the Government already working on fine-tuning the modalities and operational framework to allow people to use identity documents to cross the border.

The agreement between President Mnangagwa and President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, which is in line with regional and continental aspirations of facilitating the free movement of people across borders, is already being implemented in East Africa and Europe.

Within the broader East African Community, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya allow cross-border travel without passports. Botswana and Namibia in April last year signed a similar agreement. They became the first countries in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to abolish the use of passports.

The Council of European Union (EU) governments recently announced that from March 31, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, which are both EU member states, will no longer need a passport to travel by air or sea to most other EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland.

The decision extends the EU’s passport-free travel zone, called the Schengen area, to 25 of the 27 EU countries. The Schengen area also includes Norway and Switzerland, which are not part of the EU but does not include EU members Ireland and Cyprus.

In a recent media briefing after the Fourth Session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission Summit in Botswana, Presidents Mnangagwa and Masisi reaffirmed their commitment to facilitating seamless movement of people and goods across shared borders to boost economic activity and strengthen regional integration.

It is envisaged that once passport requirements have been removed, travellers would only require their respective national identity documents to travel between the two countries.

This initiative aligns with broader efforts within the Southern African Development Community and the African Union (AU) to promote the free movement of people on the continent.

In an interview yesterday, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said everything is in place to do away with the passport requirements with the Government now finalising the modalities.

“The President and his counterpart spoke and agreed on the issue and we are forging ahead as planned. We are ready to implement what both Heads of State agreed on, based on their good relationship,” he said.

“This will be an extraordinary thing and we are excited as a country to be part of this phenomenon.”

President Mnangagwa recently said the history of both countries showed that there was no need for the use of passports to move from one country to another.

He said passport requirements were vestiges of a fraught colonial past that was no longer fit for purpose in a fast-integrating region.

President Masisi said the scrapping of passport requirements between the countries will forge great partnerships between the two nations, while also attracting investment opportunities.

In a video shared on various social media platforms, the Botswana leader told Parliamentarians in that country that people from both countries, especially those living on the peripheries of the borders have relatives on opposite sides of the border and needed to attend family gatherings without having to undergo the tedious exercise of going through the border.

“So, when such relatives want to visit their kin, given the expensive fee of the passport, let alone the prices of food, why deny them entry using an ID? Because they have to attend family events like weddings, parties, and funerals, why do you say they should be denied entry at the border posts using their IDs?” he asked.

President Masisi said he will be implementing the AU and Sadc instruments, which he is a signatory to in respect to easier migration.

“I don’t condone your segregation attitude. When we did that with Namibia you didn’t object, but now because it is Zimbabwe you are looking down upon them, segregating them, adopting xenophobic tendencies,” he said.

“You hate people, but I want to assure you, dare you even, if we were to check your phone contacts many of you have illegal Zimbabweans’ phone numbers because you are using them for all kinds of duties. I want to make sure there is legitimate entry.”

President Masisi added: “We will make sure to collect their full data at the border posts to create databases. We are trying to make them law-abiding. It’s good neighbourliness.”

Botswana and Namibia removed passport requirements for their citizens early last year, making the two the first countries in Southern Africa to implement such a system.

Zimbabwe and Botswana have enjoyed cordial bilateral ties since pre-independence times, which have been amplified under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa.

Herald

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