Monday, September 28, 2020

Francistown councillors join the “land dispossession” chorus

FRANCISTOWN – Councillors in the city of Francistown this week called for the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila to be summoned to the city council so that he can explain Tati Company’s land rights and resolve the issue of land allocations in the second city.  
Tati Company, a controversial British company which is believed to own huge chunks of land particularly in Francistown and the North East District is currently at loggerheads with councillors as they believe that it simply stealing the land that belongs to the residents. 
A number of authorities and residents believe the company acquired the land from the natives during the colonial era under duress and unscrupulous means. They also feel that the company is continuing to take land belonging to the residents and has failed to present any tangible evidence to prove ownership of such land.
After a presentation by the Director of Lands, Segomotso Maroba on issues of land in Francistown during a special full council meeting which was convened last week, the councilors expressed their discontentment with Tati Company accusing the company of trampling on the land rights of the residents at free will. 
First to raise his concern was Itekeng Ward councilor Lesego Kwambala, who asked the Director at Lands when the people of Francistown will be allowed to repossess their land from Tati Company.
“When are the people of Francistown repossessing their land from Tati Company? To be honest I think we need audience with the Minister because this is a serious burning issue in Francistown which has been overlooked for years. The minister needs to be summoned here to come and explain to us what is happening with Tati Company’s land rights as the company seems to take the people’s land as it pleases,” said the youthful councillor.
The councillor also accused the Ministry’s Land Department office in Francistown for poor service delivery by failing to address the burning issues of land in Francistown. He said the officers hardly attend council sessions even when they are required to so.
The burning issue of land in Francistown includes among others, over 2 000 serviced commercial and residential plots in Gerald Estates which have not been allocated since 2012 by the ministry. The councillors are unhappy that the situation is retarding developments in the second city and impoverishing residents.
Another councillor Gaethuse Ramolotsana of Tatitown said Tati Company is giving them sleepless nights. He said the company has since fenced most of the land in Francistown and has failed to give satisfactory evidence on its land rights.
“The minister should be called to explain on this issue. We feel that the company is simply taking the land that belongs to Batswana and this has been happening for a long time,” he said.
In her presentation to the city council, the Director of Land, Maroba had said that the reason why there is delay in land allocation was that there are processes and policies that are followed. Maroba who seemed to be grappling with the answers admitted to the councilors that she was called to attend the session at short notice and was not fully prepared.
“Allocation of plots is done through a computerized process hence there is more often a delay. To be honest I attended this session at short notice. I understand this problem and I am equally disappointed. But what I can assure you is that you will definitely see progress in addressing the land allocation issue in Francistown between now and September,” she said.
Maroba further explained processes and policies that the ministry have to follow in allocating land. She also expressed concern over the mushrooming of church squatters and failure by plot owners to develop them as per requirement.
The councilors could not take any of her explanations saying that she should go back to Gaborone as she came unprepared to answer to their land problems.
“Our relationship with this ministry has not been friendly for a long time. We wrote a number of letters to your office concerning land issues but nothing is ever done. I think the people of Francistown are often taken for granted. The director is not helping us but telling us processes and policies which we know. What we want is the answers to problems of land allocations in Francistown by the Ministry. We need the minister to come here and explain. You are unprepared to talk to us madam about this issue. Just go back to Gaborone and next time come prepared with the minister,” said Councilor Gunda
On the issue of illegal church squatters, one of the councilors Ephraim Maiketso said that the reason why there is such a problem is because the Ministry has often failed to engage them on the matter despite their plea.
Another councilor, Reuben Ketlhoilwe of Moselewapula ward in Francistown warned that the issue of land in Francistown should not be taken for granted as land has caused wars and bloodshed in other countries.
“Can you imagine, one applies for land in 1989 and are only availed the land in 2019. This is a heartbreaking scenario and this is what is happening in Francistown. I think this is a deliberate move to sabotage the people of Francistown. Land is very important and it can lead to blood -shed and wars,” he cautioned.
In conclusion the seemingly helpless Lands Director said she will take their concerns back to the Ministry.

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