Tuesday, October 27, 2020

DCEC drills land board members on conduct

An authority from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has urged newly appointed Tawana Land board (TLB) board members to be squeaky clean in their discharge of duties.

Regional Director at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Oteng Seemule said at the week-long orientation of members in Maun that DCEC will also be watching them with a hawk’s eye to see if they adhere to what is stipulated in their mandate.

They have also been advised to do everything by the book as there will be people from outside who will not only be watching their immediate change in lifestyle patterns, but will also be patiently waiting for them to derail and deliberately cause them to break the law.

Working alongside other law enforcement organs, Seemule said they will spot all anomalies and ensure that perpetrators account for their actions, regardless of whatever positions they hold in the board. He stated that because of the long arm of the law and the presence of law enforcers on the ground, a lot of criminal acts have been unearthed, most of which were shocking discoveries as they learnt how some people trusted with availing services have been operating behind the scenes. He gave as an example, a syndicate in which officials from various departments had connived to claim in some instances sell land using technicalities which the DCEC never imagined existed.

‘This syndicate was made up of officials from sections of records management, technical, registry as well as board members and had external members even from the private sector, all of who made it a point that the whole process looked indisputable and that no step was missed in these organized crimes. A lot of people benefited from this syndicate as they would present false police affidavits claiming to have owned land or in some instances coming up with all sorts of stories as justification that indeed there’s need for them to be allocated or re-allocated land”.

Through their investigations, he said it has also emerged that the most common crime across all land authorities is obtaining by false pretences, a crime which usually involves staff and board members alike because through their syndicates, they also go as far as forging certificates and taking them through all processes to make them look genuine. He said it is very wrong for senior officials and staff not to declare a conflict of interest whenever the need arises, only for them to participate in crimes, influence quick land allocations and accumulate wealth along the process. Oteng noted that most often than not, these syndicates succeed in facilitating  these crimes because of the continued lack of checks and balances as well as too much reluctance on the part of relevant authorities, adding that because of laxity people now have easy accesses to privileged information and are free to share it as and when they so wish.

“These things happen under the noses of people who should be discouraging them. We have learnt that even surbonidate staff at various government departments have access to official stamps because they lay idle in offices. They also have access to computers and can easily access very important information for their own use”.

 In the case of Maun he said these syndicates target river front plots as they are the most preferred and profitable seeing that buyers always opt for a change of land use and later build nice guest houses or hotels overlooking rivers. Furthermore he advised new members never to allow themselves to be used by people who are already in the game and conflicted because although law enforcers target principal offenders, they always come back for the accomplice. “You have the ability to see issues which raise suspicion and report them as and when they happen because by so doing you will be distancing yourselves from the temptation of doing wrong. But if you turn a blank eye you might find yourself caught up in crimes which you might not have benefited from”, he said.

Also speaking at the training was Batawana Chief’s representative Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo who decried that some people at Sedie and Shashe wards have long been classified as squatters even though as the tribal leadership they have enough evidence and had advised accordingly as land overseers then that those people have been there even before the establishment of the Tawana Land board. He said it is wrong for the land board to undermine the authority of tribal leaders, only for them to mistreat and threaten people with evictions from time to time.  “I plead with the new board to look into this matter differently. The previous board has failed us and has overlooked and embarrassed those people. All they need is assurance so that they may start developing their homes and build permanent structures without fear of being thrown out at a later stage.

Principal Land Adjudication officer Goweditswe Mhapha called for joined efforts to discourage squatting in Maun and surrounding areas as it has proven to be a setback as it leads to delays in the acquisition of land for development and also contribute to land use conflicts.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.