In the struggle for power in southern Africa, guerrilla warfare and political manoeuvres dominate the headlines while the human tragedy of refugees is usually ignored.
In the struggle for power in southern Africa, guerrilla warfare and political manoeuvres dominate the headlines while the human tragedy of refugees is usually ignored. But the problem is enormous. Thousand of people who've fled the white minority regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia have poured into neighbouring countries, where they've strained facilities to breaking point. One of them, Botswana, has about four-and-a-half thousand refugees, three thousand of them from Rhodesia.
SYNOPSIS: They come on foot through the countryside, carrying with them whatever they can, hoping for a new start. But it's a false hope, because Botswana is too small and has too few resources to allow permanent settlement. It's estimated that more than 80-thousand people have left Rhodesia since the fighting began, and a number of them have ended up here at this overcrowded transit camp at Francistown.
The camp, which is near the capital, Gaborone, has in the past provided very basic but reasonably adequate accommodation for a small flow of newcomers. But that flow has turned into a flood. The camp was considered overcrowded with 600 refugees, yet at times there have been as many as two-thousand. A proper bed with a mattress is a luxury, and for many it's just a case of sleeping on the ground.
Food rations are provided by the United Nations, and although they're filling they're unappetising and lack variety.
For the lucky ones, the stay isn't long and they move on to a hastily constructed new camp which has been put up over the last few months.
The refugees who are left behind celebrate the departure, because they know, or rather they hope, that they'll be going soon too.
Their new home at Selebe Pikwe is more comfortable, though with its forbidding fences and basic accommodation, it's still far from ideal. The need for more and better facilities has dramatically increased, not just in Botswana, but also in the other countries helping out with the refugee problem -- like Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
The refugees try to keep in touch with outside events -- many are young single people, a lot of them students, and they need to be able to continue their studies.
Facilities like these at the United Nations Institute in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, are the sort that are required, and a new 16-million dollar U.N. appeal has been launched which aims to provide educational resources.
Meanwhile, at camps like this in Botswana, the refugees wait and hope and sing about the Rhodesia they'd like to see -- Zimbabwe.