Saturday, July 11, 2020

BDP’s 2019 Land Promises: “Empty”, “Half-full” or “worthy celebrating”?

BY VICTOR BAATWENG

There is so much to learn from the presidency of the former President – Ian Khama. Infact, if there is anything that we can thank President Khama for – with certainty and wholeheartedly, is the fact that even in his retirement he continues to give us key life lessons. It is up to us, as a nation to decide on how we intend to turn such life lessons to economic benefit.

Dear landless reader, you will remember that towards his last days in office, President Khama ÔÇô without even knowing or realising it reminded this country of the power of “collective effort”.

It was during the farewell tours that Khama made in his last few months in office that we were reminded of the ability to organise ourselves and collectively contribute towards a good course. At the time the nation “collectively” made contributions towards Khama’s retirement presents. Some gave goats, cattle, money, and even guns. This was nothing but fruits of a collective effort that ensured that a retiring president doesn’t not become poor a day after leaving office.

Fast forward to May 2019, many people of the people who gave their last pence to Khama remain jobless, moneyless and sadly LANDLESS. If it’s not them, it’s their neighbour or close relative. Please bear in mind that we are not in a way suggesting that it was wrong to give to Khama. We are simply stating facts as they are NOW. From where we stand, our people can or should use the same energy to empower themselves economically.  It is only through collective efforts that we can start accumulating wealth first for ourselves and most importantly for the next generation.

Dear Landless Reader, the collective effort that we speak about starts first with electing right people for right offices. We are in an elections year and our guess is that already politicians have started knocking at your doors to seek for a vote. Already the ruling party ÔÇô Botswana Democratic Party has made its Land pledge known through the manifesto. While there are many things to applaud the BDP for in this section of the manifesto, there are other basics which have been omitted. One has to state upfront that there is nowhere we can speak about wealth creation for the locals without proper land distribution. We cannot speak about empowering the people economically when they do not have rights to a primary factor of production ÔÇô Land. The Botswana Democratic Party 2019 manifesto is silent on land allocation to the landless. One wonders what message is the party sending to thousands land seekers out there?

Just across the border in the south, the ruling party – African National Congress (ANC) in 2018 amended the South African constitution to make it more explicit about land expropriation without compensation. ANC’s counterpart here – the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) on the other hand seems to have turned a blind eye on the shortage of serviced land in the country ÔÇô atleast judging them on their manifesto and the national budget which is controlled by them.

Despite an 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 a few months ago, (August 2018) Mochudi Sub Land Board published names of applicants going as far as 1986. This point to long waiting lists across land boards which unfortunately are not getting any shorter.

Secondly the BDP manifesto promises reforms to land tenure – It’s commendable that the party promises to make reforms that will ensure that Batswana who are lucky to have ploughing fields can utilise the land on other uses such as tourism & commercial pursuits. What is missing on the promise though is the time frame in which the party intends to undertake this reform and ultimately have it put into practice.

Another omission by the manifesto relates to affordable housing. A large population of Batswana who stay and work in urban places are facing growing rental costs (vs. stagnant wages). One would have thought there would be some sort of promise (even if it’s empty) to get people think it has crossed the BDP think-tanks’ minds that it is getting costly to rent out. – Once again what is the party saying about this populace that looks forward to own a house for the first time?

So here is a suggestion to the landless and houseless populace; Use your voting powers to demand for what you’re rightfully deserve.  Remember the essence of collective efforts is to mobilise like-minded individuals towards achieving financial and social goals. In your case it the intention is to get leaders who would in turn ensure that you get what belongs to you ÔÇô LAND & affordable housing.

Another suggestion ÔÇô this time to the BDP: If returned to power after the general elections, consider a citizen-building approach to issues facing this nation. Citizen building involves providing people with the required skills to gather, understand and analyse evidence about the contexts and institutions that affect their lives ÔÇô particularly their economical lives. It is quite evident that the citizens of this country need knowledge, support, services and opportunities in order to thrive economically. Most importantly sets targets for any undertaking – be it job creation, land allocation or business financing. The #Bottomline is that land remains a primary factor of production in economics and there is no how we can claim to create wealth for the locals without giving them land and empowering them to use it productively.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.