Monday, October 18, 2021

Minister misled parliament about ownership of Ledumang plot

A vast tract of land in Ledumang that is supposed to have been owned by government three months ago is now in the hands of a private developer who is tearing it up with heavy construction machinery.

In the last session of parliament, the Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, asked the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services about the ownership of seven plots in Ledumang. The MP wanted to know how the open spaces ÔÇô which have existed for over 30 years, were allocated; where they were advertised and how many stakeholders participated; and whether the minister was aware that the open spaces were to be allocated to Batswana and if he was, what had changed the original plan. Most importantly, Nkaigwa wanted to know “who initially fenced the open spaces and with whose authority” as the land parcel “has been fenced for over 30 years.”  

The response came not from the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Prince Maele, but his assistant, Itumeleng Moipisi who was standing in for the latter. In his response, Moipisi stated in unequivocal terms that except for one plot (Lot 54409) which is registered under the Gaborone City Council (GCC) and is situated in the Gaborone CBD, all the stated plots were “owned by government.” The assistant minister said that only Lot 54409 had been allocated to GCC by the Minister of Lands and Housing (as he then was) in 2005 without having been advertised but through direct allocation.

“The other plots have not been allocated and still belong to government. The open space that has been allocated to Gaborone City Council, together with other open spaces elsewhere in the city, is open for development and management in partnership with either the community or the private sector for the benefit of the community. The initial plan to allocate the plots to Batswana has not changed,” Moipisi told parliament.

In actual fact, that plan has changed. A month after Nkaigwa’s question, a private sector company conducted an EIA in the area and is now walling off the entire 320 000 square metre area. This suggests that the company owns all six open spaces that the MP asked about. At this stage, the construction of the wall on the southern border is almost complete. When Sunday Standard visited the site on Friday morning, the builders were not at work but two small construction vehicles were busy depositing stacks of bricks at separate points along a foundation-laid trench. The hoarding is not up yet but a construction camp is taking shape. Outside the entrance of the camp enclosure, a knot of job hopefuls (all young men) was congregated, making small talk with each other.

The fence that Nkaigwa mentioned in his question is being taken down and pedestrians use the vast plot as a thoroughfare. That will end soon when the plot is completely enclosed within a high brick-and-mortar wall. What the plot owner will no longer tolerate though is dumping. Four huge signs (two each along the eastern and western sides) read: “No Dumping. By Order.”

Whose order? We will know soon enough.

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