The anxiety of the Marang/Tsholofelo East Ward councillor is such that he will raise the issue of a controversially-acquired plot in his area with whoever looks like he can help. Last week, Councillor Meshack Kebeileng complained to the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi, about a vast tract of land in Ledumang that is bordered by Motswedi Junior Secondary School on the northern end and a row of houses on the southern end. Both the Gaborone City Council and a company called Zimmal Reliance own neighbouring parcels of land on that plot which have been lying fallow for years. Zimmal was allocated this land in 2000 with the understanding that it would construct affordable housing.
Four months ago, the company started building a wall fence that should have been confined to its own land but ended up enclosing Council-owned land that members of the public use as a thoroughfare. Kebeileng says that he grew suspicious about the ownership of the plot when there would be some sudden development on the plot that would then stop abruptly. He alerted the area MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, about such goings-on. The result was a parliamentary question that yielded a false answer from the Assistant Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Itumeleng Moipisi
Nkaigwa had asked whom the plot belonged to and Moipisi’s answer was that it belonged to the government. The answer has yet to be corrected. Soon thereafter, Zimmal contacted the area’s political and tribal leadership asking it to facilitate a public environmental impact assessment meeting at the kgotla. “My powers as a councillor don’t extend to parliament and so I’m waiting for the MP to give me a response,” Kebeileng told Sunday Standard. There is not much of a response at this point because the follow-up question has yet to reach the floor of parliament and that might be when the parliamentary year begins late this month.
Even as he waits for Nkaigwa’s feedback, the councillor is willing to pour out his grievances to any authority figure who will listen. The name of Molefhi’s ministry sounds like it might be relevant to the issue at hand and so when the minister stopped by the GCC chamber to address councillors, Kebeileng raised the issue. In response, Molefhi could only say that he was not the appropriate authority. The councillor says that what he finds most worrisome is that it is extremely difficult for them as councillors to get information about unoccupied plots ÔÇô which are commonly referred to as “open spaces” ÔÇô in their wards.
“Land that is supposedly reserved for public use disappears right in front of our eyes and we are helpless about it. I don’t know who the owners of unoccupied plots in my ward and it is not easy to get such information from the Department of Physical Planning. There is never a satisfactory explanation for why companies get land very easily when there is a long waiting list for residential plots,” Kebeileng says.
With Nkaigwa’s question not having been answered, a lot about the plot is still shrouded in mystery. Three months ago, GCC’s Physical Planning Committee ordered Zimmal to demolish sections of the wall that were built on neighbouring Council land. This came after the Committee had rejected an application by the company to be given land that it had encroached on. However, the wall is still standing and Sunday Standard learns that the company has resubmitted the incorporation application.
The Committee is made up of two councillors and six outsiders and is advised by council staff.