The Botswana government on Thursday defended its decision to deport an ailing 96-year-old Zimbabwean man who is believed to have lived in the country for seven decades.
Facing public outcry over the deportation, Labour and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Batshu told parliament that illegal immigrant Alfred Khumalo had asked to be sent home because he was “sleeping rough”.
Immigration officials found Khumalo earlier this month at a hospital in Botswana’s central region, where he was receiving treatment, reportedly for a stroke.
The minister said the nonagenarian told officials that he was from Kevi village in Zimbabwe and had relatives in Botswana.
“He had a clear mind of his birth place and lineage. He had no means of support and was sleeping rough and living hard,” said Batshu.
But eyewitnesses told local media that the frail old man put up resistance as he was bundled into a deportation van.
The authorities said they had no evidence how long Khumalo had been in the country and that there were no records of any application for citizenship.
Diamond-rich Botswana has seen an influx of immigrants, most recently in the wake of Zimbabwe’s political crisis, which began a decade ago.
Botswana has some of the strictest immigration regulations in southern Africa.