The Big LAND fights......

20 Aug 2018

In South Africa, the country’s deputy President David Mabuza seems to be in the hot seat given the land reform that the neighbouring country has recently initiated. The same cannot be said about his Botswana counterpart – Slumber Tsogwane.

In fact Tsogwane is likely to be worried more about retaining his Boteti East constituency in the coming general elections in 2019 than land allocation to some of his prospective voters.

While Mabuza’s party – the African National Congress (ANC) recently amended the South African constitution to make it more explicit about land expropriation without compensation, Tsogwane’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), seems to have turned a blind eye on the shortage of serviced land in the country.

The South African, the President, Cyril Ramaphosa recently appointed Mabuza, who is his deputy, to chair an inter-ministerial committee on land reform, tasked with political oversight and implementing cabinet decision on land reform and anti poverty measures. While the impact of the amendment of section 25 on economy of South Africa remains unknown, there is however a series of events and debate relating to the government’s intention to allocate land to the landless South Africans.

In Botswana, despite the outcry by Batswana regarding the desperate need for land, its allocation seems to be slower than desired. For instance, during the financial year 2016/17, the government has been able to allocate only 344 residential plots in urban areas. This number includes 13 in Gaborone, 67 in Lobatse, 131 in Francistown, 31 in Selebi Phikwe, 2 in Kasane.

To date, the rate of allocation at both tribal and state administration level remains slower than the snail pace, with no minimal prospect for improvement. Just this week, (August 2018) Mochudi Sub Land Board published names of applicants going as far as 1986. The applicants are to undergo interviews by end of this month and there is no assurance that they will be allocated land before the end of the year.

Up north, in Francistown, City Councillors there recently called for the summoning of the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila to explain Tati Company’s land rights. The intention is to resolve the issue of land allocations in the second city possibly through the same style that South Africa is looking into – reposing land from Tati Company.

Tati Company - a controversial British company which is believed to own huge chunks of land particularly in Francistown and the North East District is currently at loggerheads with councillors as they believe that it simply stealing the land that belongs to the residents. 
A number of authorities and residents believe the company acquired the land from the natives during the colonial era under duress and unscrupulous means. They also feel that the company is continuing to take land belonging to the residents and has failed to present any tangible evidence to prove ownership of such land.

In early July 2018, after a presentation by the Director of Lands, Segomotso Maroba on issues of land in Francistown, the councillors expressed their discontentment with Tati Company accusing the company of trampling on the land rights of the residents at free will.

The burning issue of land in Francistown includes among others, over 2 000 serviced commercial and residential plots in Gerald Estates which have not been allocated since 2012 by the ministry. The councillors are unhappy that the situation is retarding developments in the second city and impoverishing residents.

While in Francistown councillors are battling Tati Company, in Maun, the paramount Chief of the Batawana – Kgosi Tawana Moremi and his tribe are fighting against the government for certain pieces of land in Ngamiland district. Kgosi Moremi, who also doubles as the outgoing area Member of Parliament for Maun West is challenging the government for transferring ownership of Moremi Game Reserve as well as Maun Education Park from the local communities to the state.

At core of Moremi’s message in his 2015 State of the Nation (SONA) response was the decision by government to take over ownership of Moremi Game Reserve, Maun Education Park, Lake Ngami and Qwihaba caves. The battle for ownership of these prime tourism areas has driven a wedge between Ngamiland district dwellers and the government. In November 2015, Dikgang Makgalemele – then a junior minister at the Office of the President said that the repossession of prime tourism land in Ngamiland and Okavango by government does not amount to hatred of residents but is merely part of government’s plan and national approach to management of “common assets”.

TACKLING THE BACKLOG

To date, Mogoditshane, - a peri-urban village located on the western side of the capital Gaborone is also reported to have a record backlog. By the last count in 2017, the village is reported to have had over 140, 000 applicants dating back to 1994.

At the same time, an estimated 30 percent plus of the country’s employable population is on the street job searching. In total, atleast 870,096 Batswana are waiting to be allocated a piece of land. This is close to half of the country based on the 2011 census which perked Botswana’s population at 2.2 million.

While the Sunday Standard has not be able to interview the new minister of Land, Mzwinila, his predecessor Prince Maele last year maintained that, “Availing land to support the national economic development programmes and meet the socio-economic needs continues to be a challenge due to the competing demands and the high costs of land servicing”.

Maele said that the land delivery process is lengthy and costly and in some cases results in perceived or real delay in allocation of plots to Batswana.

Meanwhile in August 2012, the Botswana Parliament adopted the first draft of the Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) Policy. Amongst its key guidelines are a) ownership of land and property by citizenship as well as d) reduction in unemployment by citizenship. To date, just like job creation, land allocation seems to be one of Botswana’s songs that refuse to sell. It remains to be seen, how the government intends to tackle the backlog given the imminent general elections.