Sunday, September 20, 2020

Land shortage around Gaborone has become a time bomb

That there is need for more innovative ways of finding a lasting solution to land shortage in Gaborone is no longer in dispute.

Land shortage in Gaborone has created a litany of problems.

It has created all sorts of chancers who pass for investors and business people while in actual fact they are literally robbing the unsuspecting and desperate public who need a small plot on which to build a shelter over their heads.

Of course, in the meantime, the shortage of land, which some people have argued is deliberate and man-made, has produced a lot of millionaires, some of them cabinet members who have innovatively harnessed the need to make quick bucks.
We salute the efforts by Minister of Lands, Ndelu Seretse, to negotiate with tribal formations in the vicinity of Gaborone to release portions of their land.

But we think that beyond troubling the tribesmen surrounding Gaborone by requests for land, requests that have since degenerated into bullying tactics, government should seriously consider buying large chunks of freehold farms that literally quarantine Gaborone from every side.

Buying such private land would allow for more effective planning and decent land use than the current disparate ownership that places selfish and sectional interests ahead of those of the country.
Nearer to Tlokweng, closer to the dam there are chunks of land, privately owned that government could start purchasing for further expansion of the city.

Along the Francistown Road to the north, there are many unused small holdings at Gaborone North, which could be bought and amalgamated for more cost effective land use planning.

What is clear is that because the owners of those plots are in the business of speculation, further delay to take such land from them will only artificially increase land prices.

Botswana still has long way to go on good corporate governance

Given the fast increasing incidents of white collar crime in the country, it is surprising that Botswana still does not have strong control mechanisms to fight the growing scourge.

Elsewhere, independent non executive directors are taken to task, including by way of being prosecuted for not sufficiently safeguarding the interests of the shareholders they are supposed to represent on the boards.

While in other countries board memberships have become extensive and time consuming exploits, in Botswana people, do not take memberships and appointments to the boards seriously.
In fact, too many such appointments are only a stepping stone to fame rather than an opportunity for one to showcase their business acumen.

In other countries, to be a non-executive director requires intellectual commitments and honesty. In Botswana, those memberships are used to spread one’s influence and hubris.

There is little doubt that corporate governance compliance in Botswana is not an issue which is why a few people are all too happy to juggle their day jobs with ten other directorships, if only to get allowance and have their bossy influences felt around.

That is why we still have a small circle of friends gladly sitting on every parastatal board.

Where do such people get time to effectively assist the companies on whose boards they sit?

One other thing that has to be revisited is the issue of having one person acting as a Chief Executive and Chairperson of the Board.

The situation becomes even more horrendous when such a person also sits on the internal committees of the organizations they lead.

Yet that is exactly what we see happening with some parastatals in Botswana, especially those led by people who maintain unsavoury links to the country’s powerful political leadership.
It is time we tightened up not just by way of who is appointed to our boards, but also set up a kind of a directors’ regulator to ensure that standards are met and that people who agree to serve as directors actually commit their time and brains to the companies they are supposed to give strategic direction.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.