The Director of Lands under the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs Odirile Mabaila has come to the defence of Tati Company on accusations that it stole land from the natives through fraudulent means during the colonial era.
This comes on the backdrop of a constant barrage of accusations from some politicians, local authorities, residents of Francistown and the North East District pointing a blaming finger at the company for having taken huge chunks of land during the colonial days from the natives, a situation which has led to shortage of land in those areas. Tati Land Board has also since decried shortage of land in the North East District which negates on land allocation.
The company has also been accused of not developing the land as some of it is lying idle and under- utilized.
Mabaila was answering questions from the media during a press conference held by the Ministry in Francistown, Thapama hotel on Thursday last week.
“Tati Company holds freehold land rights. I have to indicate that freehold land in Botswana occupies only three percent, while state land is 26 percent and tribal land is 71 percent. Freehold land is a colonial legacy which we have to address in a very sensitive way because when we took over independence as a country we enshrined in our constitution protection of property rights. For us to acquire any freehold land there must be compensation to those who hold those land rights,” he said.
He also said Tati Company surrendered most of its land rights to the Botswana government after the country attained its independence from the British in 1966. On complaints that Tati Company land is not being developed and is lying idle, Mabaila said freehold land belongs to the owners therefore government does not have restrictive covenants that it can bring to the company’s attention in that it has failed to develop the land. He however said the government has over the years engaged with Tati Company where there have been some concessions when there was need for land through a “give and take” relationship between the two parties.
Tati Company Limited is a controversial British company which is owned by the Bennet Glazer Will Trust, incorporated in South Africa. Formerly known as Tati Concession Limited, Tati Company was initially owned by the European businessman Cecil John Rhodes and the company’s main interest was to explore for gold. European businessman Bennet Glazer bought the company from Rhodes in 1954 when it was liquidated.
Mabaila said it is important to note that in Francistown government acquired 5 000 hectares of land at Gerald Estates and has not been used. He emphasized that they still have much land in Francistown. He said where there is need for acquisition of land due process has to be followed.
Updating the media on issues of land allocation concerning state land, he said the waiting list for urban areas currently stands at 73 046 as of July 2022. He said this dates back to 1990 when there was a call for Batswana to apply for residential plots in urban areas under the accelerated land servicing programme.
“The waiting list is according to plot categories being; High Income Large(HIL), High Income Medium(HIM), High Income Small(HIS), Middle Income Upper(MIU) and SHHA,” he said.
Mabaila said in 2004 the Department of Lands ceased receiving requests for applications for residential plots on account of their non-availability as opposed to the waiting list. He said applications were later re-opened for Sowatown, Selibe Phikwe and Ghanzi in 2010 only. Explaining the plot allocation process he said when plots are available, the applicants who are on the waiting list are given provisional offers which indicates the plot size, development covenant and location. He said the applicants are notified by mail, Facebook page, Sms notifications for those who have updated their contact details and even printing in the Daily News newspaper.
“Once an applicant accepts the provisional offer, a formal offer is issued to those who qualify to be allocated plots. Every Motswana who has not been allocated a plot in any of the urban areas either by the Department of Lands or an Urban Council qualifies for allocation under the Revised Botswana Land Policy of 2019,” he explained.
Giving a further update on plot allocations status in urban areas he said there are currently 632 plots available for allocation in Francistown Gerald Estates. He said these plots are being offered to applicants from other urban areas since the priority waiting list for Francistown upper income categories have been exhausted. Mabaila said applicants whom they intend to offer plots in Francistown have been written letters and their names published in the Ministry Facebook page.
“In addition, 260 plots are at provisional offer stage and the allocation process is expected to be completed by end of October 2022,” he said.
In Gaborone he said 167 plots were allocated over the last five years. He said 10 plots were provisionally allocated on the 11th of July 2022 and were realized through withdrawals either due to non-acceptance of provisional offers or failure to comply with the development covenant. In addition he said there are 11 High Income Large (HIL) and High Density Unit plots that have been realized in Tsholofelo Extension.
“The government has also acquired 5 000 hectares of land in Kweneng Tribal Authority to augment land shortage in the capital city. The planning of this area is at a procurement stage,” Mabaila added.
Amongst other urban areas he said in Selibe Phikwe there are currently 420 plots, in Mekoro area which are ready for allocation. He said the department will be issuing provisional offers beginning September 2022. In addition to these, he said there are 172 plots which are at provisional offer stage and the formal offers will be issued in September 2022. “These 172 plots were realized from 398 plots offered in 2021. There are due to non-acceptance of the offers,” he said.