Thirty nine Ethiopians vanish into thin air

Kabelo Dipholo
INTERCEPTED: The 40 Ethiopians in a cargo truck...but where are they now?

39 of the 40 Ethiopians who were being kept at a social protection unit in Francistown have disappeared – and no one seems to know, or care, where they are.

In a suspected case of human trafficking, Botswana Police intercepted a cargo truck at Ngwasha Gate, on the outskirts of Nata last August, carrying 40 male Ethiopians, aged between 10 and 35.

Travelling from Zambia, the truck had entered the country at Kazangula Border Post and was seemingly heading for South Africa.

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In a story broken by this publication, a video of the sweaty, half-naked, visibly frightened ‘cargo’ squashed into the back of an unventilated truck quickly gained international attention as the news spread on social media.

While the driver of the truck and two other men were arrested and questioned by the police, the 40 ‘passengers’ were taken to an undisclosed shelter in the second city.

In a previous interview, Assistant Minister of Local Government, Mabuse Pule told The Voice the 40 Ethiopians were probably sold a lie and promised employment and a life of lavish in South Africa.

The Assistant Minister explained most human trafficking victims sell whatever assets they have to finance such treacherous trips hoping for a better life.

“One of the victims sold his property worth US$ 70, 000, which is well over P900, 000,” Pule revealed.

The Ethiopians, however, made it crystal clear they did not want to stay in Botswana.

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The victims repeatedly demanded to go home, with two even embarking on a four-day hunger strike.

There were also several attempts to escape from the shelter.

In one such break out in October, 13 Ethiopians managed to flee; only six were recaptured.

The Assistant Minister warned at the time that while the government pitied them, there was a process that needs to be followed, and that can only happen after completion of the court case.

Now, with the matter rumbling on before Nata Magistrates, only one Ethiopian remains, transferred to a shelter in Gaborone.

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The rest have vanished, believed to have skipped the country into South Africa.

“They’ve disappeared,” confirmed Senior Superintendent, Near Bagali in a short interview with The Voice on Wednesday.

The Police Spokesperson would not get into details on how the East Africans eluded the usually sharp eyes of the men in blue or when they went missing.

There’s a general concern over the safety of migrants in Africa.

In a report released in 2022, the International Organization for Migration (IMO), states that 14 percent of migrants’ deaths are linked to hazardous transportation.

It further notes that in the same year, 171 migrants died in Southern Africa from accidents and hazardous transportation. Migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accounted for almost half the fatalities, followed by migrants from Ethiopia and Comoros.

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