Sometimes early this year the local media published stories which stated that Tawana Landboard through its outgoing chairperson – Emmanuel Dube announced plans to allocate 13 plots to land seekers in that tourism town. The target, as announced by Dube at a press conference came as a shock to many land seekers in the country given the fact that over 30 000 Batswana have since applied for residential plots in that town. The justification for this small number has always been that there is shortage of serviced land. However, we have never been given a convincing reason why there is no budget dedicated to service land — not just in Maun but throughout the country given land allocation waiting lists across in all land authorities.
The fact that our government has over the years failed to provide serviced land to thousands of its people should leave those in power filled with guilt — and shame. We have said it before and for a dozen times, that elsewhere, land ownership is the key milestone towards economic opportunity and mobility that has provided returns for citizens.
Just this past week we shockingly read a Press Statement from the Department of Lands announcing that five (5) lucky citizens have been allocated land in the capital Gaborone. What a shame! One wonders who in their right mind gets pleasure from announcing that 5 out of possibly over 100 000 people have been allocated land? If this is the new norm then I have no option but to apologise on behalf of the many citizens who expressed shock at Tawana Landboard’s target of 13. If five plots is the new norm in Gaborone then Tawana Landboard’s plan to allocate 13 plots was surely too ambitious and they deserve an apology from us who expressed dismal shock at their 2020/21 target. We have a new record maker in the mould of department of Lands in Gaborone.
But then again as one hands over the “championship” from Tawana Landboard to “Dept of Lands”, one wonders how far, in terms of economic independence, we will go as a nation if at all we are to normalise the allocation of land to five or 13 people per year.
I do not know how many times one should say this, but land ownership provides not only secure access to food and income; it is a gateway to insurance and savings tool. We cannot be talking about citizen economic empowerment and not say anything about speeding up our processes of allocating land to the thousands middle class indigenous citizens of this country. Surely one does not need to remind those leading the “we will empower the citizens economically” chorus that while more than 30 percent of our country’s employable population is on the streets looking for jobs, over 870 000 Batswana are waiting to be allocated a piece of land. This is close to half of the country’s inhabitants based on the 2011 census which perked Botswana’s populace at 2.2 million. This is surely a huge number of economically disempowered indigenous citizens – both the poor and middle class. The CEE Chorus lead singers surely should be aware that our middle class here in Botswana include the professionals who are in desperate search for land to build their first house but currently have no option but to rent out. Apart from the working middle class, there are also other thousands of land seekers whom our government continue to ignore despite constant reminders that land ownership is the single most powerful pathway to opportunity.
Failure to provide serviced land to our people amongst other things continues to contribute to the enormous wealth disparities that are turning our country into the equivalent of a 3rd-world nation.
It has been clear over the years that our government land policies undermine the power of land to lift our people out of poverty. The lack of good land policies and land governance have prevented hundreds of families in our country from accessing land or getting ownership rights to the land they do use. This continues to block our people’s best potential pathway to the so-called upper class and hampers broad-based economic growth. If you ask how or why most of our people tend to be stagnant at the middle-class level, our finger will certainly point at the government enclave or entities like Tawana, Ngwato, Kgatleng, Kweneng Landboards.
The snail pace at which all these land authorities do their statutory mandates appears to me like they are raising the middle finger to the thousands land seekers in this country. Many, if not all the land authorities in this country have over the years chose to shut the door on the faces of many land seekers. The rate of land allocation at both tribal and state administration level remains slower than the snail pace, with no minimal prospect for improvement.
Just this week another Press Statement from the same ministry – LAND, announced the government decision to nullify the appointment of certain unnamed individuals to various landboards across the country. The decision on face-value appears like a noble one but it raises so many questions more especially when we are being told that the selection process will be started from scratch. If we are pressed with time and resources like one want to believe that we are, would it not be wise to select the “rightful” candidates from those who had already applied instead of making a new call for application? Unless of course the powers that be intends to squeeze in some of their representatives at targeted land boards. This may sound petty but one needs a good reason why the government decided to make a fresh call for application instead of using the data base of applicants to select new “qualified” land boards members. The issue of landboards members aside, It is a fact that efficient allocation of land for residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial use to indigenous citizens remains vital to realising our economic development goals. That is why the #Bottomline remains: speedily give Caesar what belongs to Caesar.