Chobe Land Board is battling a criminal trend by some culprits who masquerade as its officials and swindle its customer’s money on the pretence that they will allocate them plots or speed up processes.These criminals would then demand payments through e-wallet for these false services. The revelation was made by Chobe Land Board Chairperson, Nelson Masule during a press conference in Francistown last week.
“These people usually demand our innocent customers to e-wallet them certain amounts of money for them to be shown their beacons or speed up land allocation processes. Since January 2014 up to now, we have had a number of cases reported to Kasane Police Station in which our customers were called by these criminals requesting them to e-wallet some money to speed up their land transactions,” Masule said. He said the police were still investigating the cases and no one has been arrested yet. He also said it was possible that some of these criminals connive with land board officers to commit these crimes as these criminals seem to have gathered inside information. He warned the public not to engage with individuals purporting to be representing Chobe Land Board or to e-wallet them money.
“All our transactions are all paid at the Land Board, treasury department and our customers are given receipts as proof of payment and no-ewallet transactions are allowed,” he warned.
On a different note, Masule said that the scarcity of land in the district calls for effective use of land to allow for sustainable development. He said land was highly valued by all sectors of the society and these various social groups have different and often polarized or conflicting demands and with diverse environmental impacts.
“For this reason among others, land management had in the past and continues to be a priority consideration in Botswana and globally. This is based on the premise that communal and free access to land has been an important driver of livelihood and stability in human history. There is growing concern about shortage of land particularly for residential land use in the district and hence reduction of plot size becomes an imperative to accommodate the growing population,” he said.
Chobe District which is a high tourist attraction area has 74 percent of land for forest reserves and 26 percent reserved for human settlement.
On Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) he said although the project has been undertaken some of the challenges that they have at Chobe Land Board include, duplicate plot claims requiring further investigations, unreliable records and some files missing critical information. LAPCAS was started by government for excellence in land management, identifying opportunities and facilitating the economy. Masule further appealed to plot owners who have not yet registered their plots to do so immediately as the LAPCAS project will be coming to an end in September this year.
“Recently our ministry has come with an initiative to declare each Land Board and subordinate Land Board registration centre, meaning that our customers can register their plots at the nearest land board without any hassle,” he said.
He also said that they have a land bank initiative to reserve land for investors. He revealed that currently Chobe Land Board has reserved a total of 39.1 hectares as land bank.
He however said that this land banking project faces challenges particularly land shortage.
“There is also conflict as the reserved land remains idle for many years, social groups have different and often polarized or conflicting demands and this causes community institutional challenges,” he said.
On a positive note he said they have the Pandamatenga Infrastructure Development Project which aims to develop appropriate water control system and access road network in Pandamatenga which comprises of Infrastructure development, Agricultural production improvement and project coordination. He said the project will support construction of drainage and road infrastructure within 27 574 hectares.
Touching on their waiting list for plots allocation in Chobe District he said the total currently stands at 15 310. He said Kazungula has 8 288, Lesoma 4 016, Pandamatenga 1 618, Kachikau 583, Mabele 372, Kavimba 200, Parakarungu 146 and Satau 87 applications.
“As of now the board has managed to publish the initial waiting list in all public notice boards at different kgotla, however the board is still to verify and vet all the applicants on the waiting list and allocate the deserving applicants plots when available,” he said.
Among other important issues, Masule bemoaned the rise of illegal squatters in the district. He said recently Chobe District Physical planning unit and other stakeholders identified 20 churches in Kasane on an area marked for residential purposes. He said to mitigate this challenge, Chobe Land Board will be implementing a Squatting Management Strategy and guidelines to curb squatting this financial year.
“There is a serious challenge of land for human settlement because of the large gazetted portion of land which is reserved for conservation such as the Chobe National Park, Wildlife Corridors and Forest Reserves,” he added.
He however said they have interventions in place. He said Chobe District plans to develop an Integrated Land Use Plan by end of 2016/ 2017 through the assistance of Bio Chobe Project.
Masule said this will encourage enforcement of controls and land policy implementation and will also lead to all in one set of tool for management and sustainable use of natural resources including land.