Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Backlash over new land fees: Batswana react to Government’s policy shift

The Government’s efforts aimed at discouraging thousands of Batswana from selling land to foreigners have resulted in a backlash. Information reaching this publication indicates that Batswana have not taken kindly to a decision by the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs to adjust land-related fees following the implementation of the Revised Tribal Land Act Regulations of 2022. Businesses are also jittery over the new land-related fees.

It is understood that the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs has informed its stakeholders that it “has been inundated with an influx of queries concerning the Revised Tribal Land Act Regulations 2022 Fee Schedule.” Business Botswana has already engaged its members by sending out a document seeking their input and comments, with consultations by land boards underway across the country with a view to reviewing the contentious fees. At the time of going to press, the Ministry had not responded to The Telegraph queries.

In a document aimed at explaining why a number of Batswana are unhappy with the results brought about by the Revised Tribal Land Act, the Ministry indicated that the complaints relate to the issues pertaining to the exorbitant charges, while some charges were not clear on their implementation. According to the Ministry, it then engaged the Land Boards in this regard to seek their input in order to come up with fees that will be favorable to all.

The Ministry revealed that it is very pivotal that in consideration of these fees, it should also consider the following: instituting different rates depending on locality (Prime Areas versus Rural Areas) e.g., similar to property valuation concepts. The Ministry said that a standing committee to review rates on an annual basis, adding that inflationary adjustments and policy objectives for that year (e.g., discouraging transfers of land to foreigners).

“In light of the foregoing, the Proposed Fee Schedule is forwarded to you for input,” the Ministry said, adding that “It is advisable that your comments are noted accordingly and clearly outlined with reasons thereof.” Some of the land-related fees that Batswana and other stakeholders are worried about are in relation to survey fees.

“There is a need for consideration in terms of the use of the plot to be surveyed Residential, Industrial, Commercial, Civic Community – It is currently P1,650, and the proposal is P2,000,” the Ministry said. The Ministry said a 2% discount will be considered as per the increase in the number of plots. The Ministry proposed that surveying and Agricultural (Less than 20 hectares (ha) should cost P3,000 and P5,000 (between 20.1 – 40ha) P10,000 (between 40.1 – 60ha) P20,000 (60.1 -100ha) P25,000 (Between 100.1 – 250ha). It also proposes that Agricultural land beyond 250.1 hectares be surveyed at (P30,000 + Distance/KM + Subsistence per day) Boreholes proposal (P3,000 + Distance/KM + Subsistence per day).

Regarding Beacon Identification Agric holding and plowing field, the Ministry said the service would be offered for the second time; the requirement is that they should be assisted within ten working days. According to the Ministry, this used to cost P200 for un-surveyed and it has been reduced to P100.00 following the new regulations. But the Ministry said it involves a lot of work to identify the beacons. Beacon re-identification refers to showing the allottee the corners for his or her plot which the Land Board had shown the allottee in the past.

Since this involves a lot of work, the Ministry said it proposed to increase the plowing fields and agricultural holdings to P1,000/visit. It said this is to cater to the distance that is normally traveled and the amount of work involved; for masimo, this may involve picking up the coordinates for surveyed plots. For ranches (base rate + Distance /km subsistence), which used to be P2,500 + Distance/KM + Subsistence per day and following the new regulations it now costs P3,500 + Distance/KM + Subsistence per day). “This is intended to encourage allottees to put permanent beacons and also utilize the ranches,” the Ministry explained.

Regarding land rental for commercial plots, the Ministry said that the old fee was 0.25/m2/annum and now the new fee is P1.00/m2/annum. The ministry said there is a need to increase the fees to augment Government coffers. Rental for industrial plots old fee was P0.10/m2/annum and the new fee is P0.50/m2 /annum. There is a need to increase the fees to augment Government coffers, the Ministry said. With regard to rental for undeveloped small Agric holdings (dairy, Horticulture, Small Stock Farm, Piggery, Garden, Integrated Farm), the Ministry indicated that the increment should be adjusted in order to cater for adjustments of inflationary costs and alignment with the markets. The old lease fee used to range from P0.70HA, P0.25/M2, P0.04/M2, and following the new regulations it now costs P1,000.00 +P1.00/Ha/Annum. The new regulations resulted in rental fees for developed small Agric holdings (dairy, Horticulture, Small Stock Farm, Piggery, Garden, Integrated Farm held under common lease) being adjusted. The Ministry said the increment is being adjusted in order to cater for adjustments of inflationary costs and alignment with the markets. It said by virtue of introducing any development on land, this creates value addition in the form of infrastructure or physical structure. 

The existing developments will be valued and the value included in the lease rental divided across the lease period,” the Ministry said. Old rental fees used to range from P0.70HA, P0.25/M2, P0.04/M2, and after the implementation of the new regulations they are now P1,000.00 +P1, 50/Ha/Annum. Surface rights lease rental (Sand/Gravel) used to be P0.08/M2 / month, now new rental fees are P1.00/m2/month. According to the Ministry, the extraction of building aggregates being river sand, gravel, and pit sand differ in terms of market value. Extraction of minerals and precious stones should be reflected in the rates it said adding that allottees pay monthly rental fees as opposed to annual rentals. 

“In most cases they are temporary leases which are aligned to the projects that the Lessee is supplying with aggregates,” it said. The result is that the ministry came up with proposals. The first proposal is to reduce them to P0.15/m2 /month which is a 300% increase as opposed to the 1150 %. The second option is the standardization of the fee does not reflect the scarcity of the commodity across the land authority jurisdictions. Giving an example, the Ministry said in Tutume area, river sand is cheap while in the Kweneng area it is very expensive. Moreover, the environmental sensitivity of the areas differ and hence the rehabilitations that are supposed to be undertaken post the extraction period.

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