Immigration Puts Batswana and Zimbabweans at Risk as it Dumps MDR TB Patient at Plumtree Border

8 September 2008:
Immigration Puts Batswana and Zimbabweans at Risk as it Dumps MDR TB Patient at Plumtree Border

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) is deeply aggrieved by reports that Mthandazo Sibanda who has multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) was dumped at Plumtree Border by the Botswana Immigration department on Friday the 5th of September 2008 to find his way home.

Whilst BONELA appreciates government’s efforts to put Mr. Sibanda on treatment, the organization is concerned that no arrangements were made to ensure that Sibanda’s deportation was handled in a manner that does not expose other people to MDR TB. On the contrary, Sibanda was left at the border without a mask, to make his way to Bulawayo which is about 100 kilometers from Plumtree.

In a telephone interview Sibanda says that the trip was terrible. He was picked up from Prison’s Clinic around 8am only to get to Plumtree around 9pm. This is because the deportation was poorly managed. Prior arrangements had not been made to sort out his passport so after arriving in Mahalapye, his passport had to be sent back to Gaborone, then back to Mahalapye. Immigration officers also apparently ‘forgot’ to stamp his passport at the Botswana side and had to take it back. All this is a cause for concern given Sibanda’s health status.

This sad development comes in the wake of calls by BONELA over the past few weeks for government to make considerations for public health in handling Sibanda’s deportation. Cindy Kelemi BONELA Treatment Literacy Coordinator said “The case has once again revealed that a comprehensive response to TB in the country should not only focus on provision of treatment but ensure adequate and effective infection control measures”.

Kelemi said that issues of trans-boundary infection control which are paramount in determining the success of any country’s TB prevention and control programme were clearly not considered or put in place in this matter. Whilst Sibanda and his wife were declared prohibited immigrants, concessions should have been made in his deportation arrangements for the safety of Zimbabweans who are still our brothers and sisters, and for the inhabitants of Botswana. The fact that TB is a communicable disease and that there is high mobility between the two countries means the poor handling of Sibanda’s deportation has put a great health risk to both Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Sibanda has not been referred to or put in touch with any institutions for support and to ensure infection control. Even if he goes to seek medication, none is available and the doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are on strike.