Just like SA, Botswana need to revisit the land expropriation debate.…but this time around there should be action

04 Mar 2018

“Action without words is useless “– so says an unknown wise man. When it comes to the issue relating to land allocation or redistribution, we have been very successful to talk about it, but acting has been nothing but disappointment to the natives of this county.

This past week, one of our neighbours (South Africa) reminded us that talk is cheap. Just like us they had long identified the problem of lack of land amongst a majority of them, and just like us they have been just talking until last week when Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) put up a motion calling for land expropriation. We do not necessarily need to follow their style of doing things but we too need to STOP talking and start acting.

Perhaps that is why some few weeks back, much as we appreciated that the Tati East Member of Parliament (MP) Moyo Guma touch based on the land issue during his budget speed debate, we were not entirely excited about such because that is what we have always been up to as a nation. We have been talking way too long about the need to avail land to the owners but little has been done to ensure that such happen.

Across the border south, as a result of the motion, South Africa is now in motion and is set to amend its Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. That is what perhaps Honourable Guma or any other concerned legislature should do. They should put up a motion that will see thousands of landless Batswana getting what is theirs.

Of course we cannot copy everything that South Africa did over the past week. As a neighbour to Zimbabwe, Botswana is better placed to know the consequences of a badly instigated land acquisition policy. So when we finally decide to take back the land, we should apply our minds very well. That does not mean more delays though. The people of this country have been patient enough to be given land.

This has been so partially because the current government does not treat land like the commodity it is.

It is hard to tell whether it’s by mistake or design that the government seems to realise that apart from labour and capital, land is another most important factor in production and creation of wealth.

We however need to remind the government, more especially the President in waiting – Mokgweetsi Masisi that going forward, we should treat land as a commodity, which can be beneficiated for wealth creation, sustainable economic growth and economic empowerment of the citizenry.

Masisi and his new administration should be aware that for land to be an enabler of orderly development, citizen empowerment and investment, new approaches to land acquisition dispensations in terms of land rights, tenure and access and delivery processes by government and tribal authorities have to be adopted.

It is quite clear that from all these years, land holding systems commonly known as land tenures with respect to rights they confer on their holders have been at the heart of our problems. In our view, the current and tenure systems were imposed on Botswana by the coloniser with intent to hinder usage of land for wealth creation.

That is why we find it fit to recommend to the new administration to consider restarting a debate relating to land redistribution but this time around with concrete plan on how to finally transfer land back to its owners. This includes a huge chunk of land in the North Eastern Botswana that Honourable Guma recently spoke about.

North East land aside, and back to southern part of the country, we are alive to the fact that the government several years ago expropriated land from the residents of Ledumadumane for the expansion of Gaborone. But the very same government has been reluctant to do so when it comes to wealthy individuals who own freehold that the government desperately needs. This is where we need honourable Guma or any caring legislature.

The truth of the matter is that government could be sitting on a ticking time bomb which may see land issue becoming a security threat to this country. This warning, just like the ones done about joblessness should not be taken lightly. This commentary is made in reference of the problems faced by our neighbours in addressing the land issue and we do not want the same here. We can avert going that direction if we act proactively and address the land issue holistically.

There is really no way out – For Botswana to be internationally competitive, it would have to shed some of the vestiges of the colonial land management systems. That we need to do right way without second thought.

It is a fact that efficient allocation of land for residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial use is vital to realizing our development goals. As such the #Bottomline is that we need to repossess the land from the high flying businessmen and give it to other landless citizens. We do not need to hunt for them, we know where they are since some of them wine and done with our civic and political leaders.