Monday, May 27, 2024

The Oodi Land Stampede ÔÇô BCP Insists on a Comprehensive Land Audit

The Oodi land stampede where thousands of Batswana thronged the Land Board premise to apply for plots is a clear testimony of the crisis of land administration and access in Botswana. The stampedethat left some people injured and Government property destroyed should not be viewed in isolation as similar scenes obtain in the urban and peri-urban areas whenever plots are advertised. Many Batswana are without land for shelter. Many have been queuing for land for over 20 years. Rentals have become unaffordable for many and overcrowding in small dwelling units has become the norm.

Amidst this pathetic state of affairs, a few individuals who appear to have connections to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, enjoyunlimited access to land resources.In one case, an individual wassaid to own hundreds of plots according to the Lesetedi Commission. This cannot be right. Botswana has massive land resources and a small population. Access to serviced land should not be a challenge and can only point to incompetence bythe current BDP regime to accord Batswana access to dignified shelter. At Botswana Congress Party, we have always insisted that there is need to address the problem of Batswana’s access to land.

We have staged land protest marchesin Gaborone and Francistown and have tabled a motion in Parliament calling for a comprehensive land audit. This need was further reiterated loud and clear, in our 2014 election manifesto that called for a comprehensive land auditto inform land policy and programs. The chaotic scenes at Oodi Land Board and similar ones in the peri-urban centres are bound to continue unless a robust program of action to address land ownership and access in Botswana is embarked upon.

In our view, a comprehensive land audit shall answer the following questions: Who owns how much land? Where? And how did they acquire it? How are they using it? How many foreign citizens own land in Botswana and how did they acquire it? How many Batswana are landless in their country? What are their challenges in accessing land?But more importantly a land audit will determine the ‘real’ demand so that government interventions could be more targeted to those in genuine need. The audit will also assist in determining which land is unused in Botswana and the reasons for such. A piece-meal approach such as the Land Administration Procedures Capacity and Systems(LAPCAS) will never get to the bottom of our land problems. LAPCAS is simply a land inventory system that does not investigate challenges to ownership and access to land. Given the desire to provide efficient administration of land by computerizing, we do appreciate that information generated by LAPCAS will be useful in carrying out a land audit.

The Oodi land stampede has presented the Government of President Ian Khama and in particular the new Minister of Lands and Housing an opportunity to introspect and embark on durable interventions to address the land problems in Botswana. In that respect, we reiterate and urge the Government to do the following: 1) institute a comprehensive land audit as a matter of urgency to inform any future policy development 2) embark on major land servicing programme in all major centres and settlements to facilitate land access to Batswana as a matter of priority, 3) engage all entities that own idle or speculative land in the periphery of major centres and settlement with a view to compulsorily acquire such land for public and community use 4) recover all land in which there is proof of illicit, illegal and corrupt acquisition and make it available to the state for redistribution 5) pass a Land Registry Law that shall provide for a repository of information on land ownership as opposed to retrospective interventions such as LAPCAS 6) pass a law that will impose tax on undeveloped land and 7) reform the Land Boards and State Land machinery to establish a system of land administration that is fair, efficient, decentralised, transparent and accountable to the people they are meant to serve.

The time to act on our land problems is now. Our people are desperate. They are not asking for much. They just want a share of their birth right to land. The government of the day has a duty to act as continued failure to address the land problem will lead to heightened frustration and national strife. As the BCP we have offered our proposals and we believe that they shall be considered favorably by those who currently occupy the seat of Government for the good of our people and for posterity.

Taolo Lucas
BCP Information and Publicity Secretary

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper