- Affected special constables were unaware of their dual citizenship status
- Told by their superiors they cannot work for the forces as foreigners
Scores of special constables have reportedly been fired from Botswana Police Service (BPS) after they failed to renounce their foreign citizenships, The Botswana Gazette has established. The irony of the situation is that some of them were not aware of their dual citizenship status until they were informed of it and fired afterwards.
The fate of the affected special constables fell upon them against the backdrop of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship calling on people with dual citizenships to renounce one of them.
The Citizenship Act with this aspect came into operation in 1998. According to the law, any person with dual citizenship shall, upon the attainment of the age of 21 years, cease to be a citizen of Botswana unless such a person has immediately before attainment of the age of 21 years renounced the citizenship of the other country, taken the oath of allegiance to Botswana and made such declaration of intention concerning residence as may be prescribed.
This week five more sources told The Botswana Gazette that scores of special constables had lost their jobs while more continue to do so because of the issue of dual citizenship. The sources said most of the affected special constables were unaware of their dual citizenship status until the unexpected fate befell them.
One of the special constables told this publication that while she was aware to the law, she did not know that she had dual citizenship. “I got to know about my dual citizenship when my parents tried to change my birth certificate at the Department of Immigration in Francistown,” the former special constable said. “I was told that by virtue of my mother being a child of parents holding two different citizenships, one for Zimbabwe and the other for Botswana, I automatically had dual citizenship, and therefore needed to renounce one of them. My identity card was consequently taken away.”
Another former special constable said her shock of being fired from BPS came as she expected help from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. She was stationed at Kutlwano police station in Francistown when she and some of her colleagues were fired on grounds of being foreigners.
“My superiors just told me that their investigations had found out that I was a foreigner and therefore could work for a disciplined force,” she said. “A few months later, some of my colleagues had the same experience. Since my ID was confiscated in 2017, I am using a residence permit that expires in 2025.”
Yet another former special constable said he found out about his dual citizenship status after his passport expired. “While trying to obtain a new one, curiously my bosses told me that I could no longer continue working for BPS because I was a foreigner,” he said. “I was shocked because I knew my citizenship. I tried to explain but my bosses told me that they had just found out that I had not renounced my Zambian citizenship. I was in the dark about it.”
At the time of going to press, BPS spokesperson Selinah Omphile was yet to respond to The Botswana Gazette enquiries that she had requested.
This happens despite a recent ruling by the Gaborone High Court that condemned the Citizenship Act of 1998 that deals with dual nationality and called for its repeal. The High Court made the ruling in a case where a Motswana woman, married to a Norwegian man, challenged the legality of compelling her two children to choose between the citizenship of their father and that of their mother.
Following Sithabile Mathe’s successful application, the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs stated that it was engaging in consultative processes with relevant stakeholders, such as the Attorney General, to review Botswana’s citizenship policy.