Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Acute land crisis rocks Botswana

The number of Batswana on the land allocation waiting list is more than the population of Botswana the government would have to spend more than the total national budget to allocate land to the citizens on the waiting list. The situation is not helped by the country’s cash crunch – more or less sum up the country’s land crisis.

Accounting officer in the Ministry of Lands and Housing Thato Raphaka told Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday that the list of Batswana who are waiting to be allocated land has surpassed the population of the country. The population of Botswana currently stand at 2, 1 million. Raphaka told PAC that his Ministry is very much aware that there is a long waiting list that is even more than the population of the country itself.

Raphaka was responding to a question from Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse who asked the accounting officer whether he was aware of the long list of Batswana who are still not allocated plots. “What we have to understand is that these long lists are primarily long because people have applied in various land boards, one name can appear in other ten land boards and you may believe that we have a long waiting list. Yes we have a long waiting list but it is not a true waiting list,” Raphaka said. He emphasised that the waiting list is currently more than the population of the country.

“Can you blame the people for applying in different areas? When you do not allocate me a plot in a certain area for ten years I have to try my luck in another area,” Keorapetse charged further. “I cannot blame Batswana for applying for land anywhere anyhow; the law allows them to do that, let us not use the loopholes in the law to just apply for land anywhere, anyhow,” said Raphaka. MP for Tati East Guma Moyo asked Raphaka why his Ministry is still allocating un-serviced land and expects Batswana to have developed their plots within a period of five years.

“I am aware that at times we do allocate land before we service it. It is a general problem around the country. Land servicing is a very expensive activity, as we speak right now we only have one project ongoing in Palapye and that project alone is costing us about 330 million pula,” said Raphaka. He said they had another project which unfortunately has been delayed by litigation. The project was to service the Metsimotlhabe area and its total estimated cost is around 480 million pula.

“If we were to service other areas around the country we will need a huge amount of money to be able to reach out other areas,” Raphaka said. Moyo said the cost element will be more expensive if the Ministry allocate land and service it after people already built on it, “You are failing to put at least basic things like water and access roads.

The cost now is cheaper than the cost in the future,” said Moyo. Raphaka said for only two projects he mentioned he is already talking close to a billion pula “We are talking about only two projects in Palapye and Metsimotlhabe and we are already talking about a billion pula. If we were to service the whole country quite honestly we are going to need the whole budget which is currently allocated to all government Departments and Ministries to be able to provide land servicing The budget allocated to ministries and government departments currently stand at P55.38 billion. “Just recently we have been making calculations on the amount of land that we have already provided with land servicing before allocation of land and we realised that it is amounting to 14 percent and it is nothing, it’s more like a drop in the ocean,” said Raphaka.

Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolatlhe also wanted to know whether the Ministry have targets over a period of time around how many households or area of land they are looking at to be serviced. “The targets are there, we have about three areas where we have already made designs and studies in readiness for going into construction but we have been halted by funding.

As we speak we are primarily designing nine areas but then again waiting for funding whenever funding will be available that is when we will go into construction,” Raphaka. The allocation of un-serviced land by the ministry makes it hard for Batswana to afford Botswana Housing Cooperation houses. This is so because houses are expensive due to the fact that land was allocated to BHC un-serviced; BHC had to service land themselves adding costs incurred to the prices of the houses.

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