Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Is Phakalane still Botswana’s premier address?

I recently listened to Phakalane Managing Director, Lesang Magang’s impassionate radio talk show on property development and commercial real estate in Phakalane especially. The talk show was a revelation. Buoyed by the illustrious transformation of the Magang family farm into an attractive self-contained residential and commercial development, the feisty Lesang was undoubtedly upbeat about the forward-looking, dynamic business case the family has made out of Phakalane.

About three decades ago, the family patriarch, David, and his wife, Dorcus, conceived a plan to sell seventh heaven suburbia to a fledgling Gaborone middle class who sought luxurious, tranquil, safe and secure abodes for raising their brood and retirement homes in Phakalane farm north of Gaborone.

“Without a doubt the bold initiative has yielded fabulous dividends and today Phakalane has blossomed into a world-class residential enclosure with the envious status of Botswana’s luxurious and elegant premier address,” proclaimed the younger Magang.

I was intrigued by Lesang’s erudite, articulate and refined sales pitch. He was in his element, waxing lyrical about the growing demand for Phakalane’s property development, golf estate, holiday resort, commercial and industrial parks including the latest addition, a private cemetery.

“Buying into Phakalane is buying a lifestyle and the whole shebang, secure investment in a very appealing estate with tremendous facilities on offer,” he stated emphatically.

The consummate businessman he is, Lesang proceeded to annunciate, “Phakalane Estate boasts of imposing double-storied structures of exotic architectural designs and mansions that are worth millions of Pula on the property market; a golf estate with waterfront island residential mixed use development. A five-star hotel with panoramic view of the golf course and a luxury retirement village that recaptures that environment of tranquility are also in the offing.”

With such impeccable attributes, demand for property on the estate remains very high with a robustly buoyant rental market ensuring very good returns for property owners.

It was on the strength of projections of these exalting facts and figures that my husband and I were persuaded to invest in property in Phakalane Estate when the Magang’s opened shop. We count ourselves among the pioneer families that settled in the initial phases of the up market estate.

However, since moving into our dream house a couple of years ago, I have come to the sobering realization that Lesang is big in hyped talk and painfully scant on delivery. If one listens carefully to Lesang’s tune, they would realize that they’ve heard the song before. The same lofty concept of a ‘secure’ Thobo Hamlet and ‘esteemed’ Golf Estate that is being sold to prospective clients were sold to the pioneer families of the initial phases of Phakalane.

In his zeal to sell Thobo Hamlet and the Golf Estate, Lesang has relegated the interests of the pioneer property owners to the back burner. Forgotten the residents of the ‘Old Phakalane’ (If I may call it so) have been overlooked in infrastructure development and service delivery. Sadly, this lapse is fast becoming an unsightly blotch in the allure of Botswana’s primer address.

Today, Old Phakalane is referred to as ‘Little Harare’ for all the wrong reasons. The once magnificent estate is a safe haven for unemployed, illegal Zimbabwean immigrants who roam the streets and have taken residence in the countless semi-complete buildings scattered across the estate.

Ironically, property owners in Phakalane were given time bound leases within which to complete construction of their properties but there is obviously no monitoring here. Many properties have remained incomplete for decades and now provide shelter for squatters and ideal hideouts for criminal elements.

Most of these hidey-holes are without running water and sanitation. The absence of ablution facilities and the attended health risk is a massive challenge that calls for immediate attention. Such horrific conditions also erode the value of the estates properties.

Makeshift tuck-shop’s (semausu’s) and illegal Chibuku depots have sprung up indiscriminately in many of the half-finished properties that are spread across Old Phakalane. Bootlegging in the area has resulted in ghastly sights of marauding drunkards who roam the estates streets.

I am one of those that have a flower patch in front of my yard that these shameless sots use as a urine pit during their nocturnal binge escapades. My parameter wall and rose patch now reek of stale urine and whatever other ordure is deposited there.

Old Phakalane is certainly not safe. The suburb was the opening scene of the recent unfortunate drama that ended in the tragic death of one John Kalafatis. Whether the young man was responsible for the crime that ultimately cost him his life will remain the subject of speculation but the fact is that there had been a burglary at Allan West’s Phakalane residence.

In the recent past, the media has been awash with stories of how the Asian and European Mafia and drug lords have set up shop in Phakalane. Despite the estates resurgent market value, this is a terrible blemish on the suburbs appeal.

Service delivery in Old Phakalane also leaves much to be desired. The roads are riddled with potholes which take ages to repair; there is poor street lighting; erratic collection of refuse; indiscriminate dumping of rubble and garden waste; cattle roaming the streets; maverick taxi drivers with raucous music blaring from their car stereos and overgrown bushes in the neighbourhood.

Morning traffic in Phakalane is a nightmare. While suburbs the world over are notorious for poor public transport systems, morning traffic congestion and long travelling times at Phakalane’s notorious single entry and exit intersection is mind boggling. Such preposterously inadequate street grids were the preserve of South Africa’s Apartheid era where the Group Areas Act encouraged township enclosures for ease of containment during native revolts.

The cost of congestion and the sorry sight of stressed and frustrated single occupant drivers in Phakalane roundabout’s heavy traffic flow every morning is not only unsightly but also wasteful and an explosive breeding ground for road rage. Little wonder why the Director of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi, has taken it upon himself to regulate traffic at this notorious chokepoint.

I am reliably informed that properties in the Golf Estate’s are being installed with helicopter pads as a measure to avoid Phakalane’s ruthlessly throttling morning traffic. That is all good for the affluent residents of the estate, but what is it going to take for us mere mortals to get relief from this nightmare?

On a parting note, I’d like to congratulate Member of Parliament for Gaborone North Hon. Keletso Rakhudu for retaining his parliamentary seat at the just ended general elections. I urge the MP to take a leaf from his Gaborone West South counterpart MP Botsalo Ntuane who pledged to establish a Rate Payers Association for his constituency. Phakalane needs such a platform to discuss the issues I have raised here.

I believe I speak for a majority of Old Phakalane residents when I say the fact that Phakalane Estate has earned the envious accolade of ‘Botswana’s premier address’ is not enough. Lesang cannot rest on his laurels. The foregoing lapse on Lesang’s part needs to be brought to his attention for him to take immediate remedial action and stem the decay that is fast encroaching into our neighbourhood.

We demand a safe and secure neighbourhood, immaculate open spaces, street lighting, pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths. We demand world class infrastructure and service. We demand excellence and nothing less and we expect Lesang to deliver.

Yours faithfully,
Myra Gillette
Concerned Pioneer Resident


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