In August 2012, Parliament adopted the first draft of the Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) Policy. Amongst its key guidelines are ownership of land and property by citizenship as well as reduction in unemployment by citizenship. To date, just like job creation, land allocation seems to be one of Botswana’s songs that refuses to sell, write SUNDAY STANDARD Business editor VICTOR BAATWENG
More than 30 percent of the country’s employable population is on the streets looking for jobs. At the same time, at least 870 096 Batswana are waiting to be allocated a piece of land.
This is close to half of the country based on the 2011 census which perked Botswana’s population at 2.2 million.
This is based on the statistics shared recently by the minister responsible for lands, Prince Maele, during the financial year 2016/17.
He says the government has been able to allocate only 344 residential plots in urban areas. This number includes 13 in Gaborone, 67 in Lobatse, 131 in Francistown, 31 in Selebi Phikwe and two in Kasane.
Proposed allocation of an additional 214 in Lobatse and Selebi Phikwe is in progress. On tribal land, 4 902 plots have been allocated.
Despite the outcry by Batswana regarding the need for land, and the admission by Maele that land as a factor of production and a commodity is central to the socio- economic development of the society and the economy, the allocation of, it seems to be slower than desired.
To date, the rate of allocation at both tribal and state administration level remains slower than the snail’s pace, with no minimal prospect for improvement.
“Availing land to support the national economic development programmes and meet the socio-economic needs continues to be a challenge due to the competing demands and the high costs of land servicing,” admits Maele.
In his admission, Maele on Friday begged Parliament to give his ministry money which he would use to service and allocate more land.
“As Parliament you have the powers to give me more money to service the much needed land. If you do, then I will be able to allocate many of the people out there land,” Maele said on Friday.
He maintains that he cannot allocate un-serviced land to the land seekers as it usually results in repossession due to failure to develop it by those who have been allocated.
While he could not answer how much land he could allocate had it not been for budget constraints, as asked by Gaborone Bonnington South MP Ndaba Gaolathe, Maele said the other solution he has is to have Batswana build structures.
“We can save a lot of land if we stop the mentality of seeking to own land; we can start building and sharing flats,” Maele said.
The property market in Botswana continues to experience a surge in prices due to the imbalance between property supplied by the market and its existing demand. Supply treads is below the demand, he said.
In the meantime, Maele says 37 minimal land servicing projects were started during the end of 2015/16 financial year through to 2016/2017 financial year under the Economic Stimulus Programme and so far 13 have been completed.