Sunday, September 20, 2020

There’s a growing land shortage in Botswana’s vast expanse

The increasing demand for land for a relatively small population of Botswana at two million people with a vast expanse of land shouldn’t occur.

Yet there are growing concerns, justifiably so, regarding the acute shortage of land for a population which bears more domestic and wild animals than its people.

It is considered imperative that the country should have taken advantage of the just ended International conference on land and Poverty as a benchmark for the best in terms of practice and governance.

Land being an asset whose manner of governance and handling is paramount in that it always carries a potential to bring conflict and strife if not carefully and duly governed, in a transparent way for that matter remains a thorny issue in Botswana.

This position was expressed by the Botswana Centre for Public Integrity, a civil society organization focusing on advocating transparent and prudent use of the country’s land and economic resources, and their equitable distribution as well.

Pusetso Morapedi, executive Director of BCPI, qualified, “We live in days where people are self actualizing and would like to go back to their roots (realistic or not), some do want to repossess the lands of their forefathers, land bought or occupied by their ancestors, ke boswa jwa bone.”

This is delicate, says Morapedi, adding that the issue when approached and at times by the relevant national policies tend to leave sections of the population out of the equation thereby entrenching poverty and inequalities – a vicious cycle.

The BCPI official argued that both Government, with its support, civil society organization would have been best served attending the just ended international  “20th Annual Conference on Land and Poverty, 2019-Catalyzing innovation”, which took place from 25 -29 March 2019 in Washington D.C. It brought more than 1500 delegates and observers from governments and civil society organizations, as well as academics and private sector players from around the globe.

The Minister of Lands, Sanitation and Water Management, Ofentse Mzwinila, approached to say whether government has sent representatives, directed The Sunday Standard to the Ministry’s Public Relations Unit, to no avail.

“It is always good to take advantage of opportunities such as the stated World conference, go and learn from others how they deal with issues and come back and contextualize, not copy, but adjust to our context applying the best practices possible, taking always people’s needs into account,” posited Morapedi.

In support of the BCPI’s argument, Kgosi Rebecca Banika, who presides over part of Chobe and of the Pandamatenga Region, Morapedi’s view point, that land is increasingly becoming a very sensitive issue in light of degenerating standards of life, as people begin to demand what rightfully belongs to them.

“Those charged with the responsibility of dispensing with this resource would therefore be better advised to marvel at its sensitivity to prevent what other countries are already going through, by exercising due diligence and where appropriate consult the affected to enlist their consensus in legislating for more equitable arrangements,” Banika corroborated.

Currently there is a general feeling that civil society is probably not organized enough, ignorant of the prevailing issues and consequently failing in raising awareness about land value and to engage government in new ways of land tenure, capture and analysis for ultimate benefit of the poor, hence, even more reason to always set out and learn from others.

It is generally expected that topics discussed from global forums such as the one held this past week be trickled down to the level national discourse for introspection to inform possible substantive land reforms.

Relevant national dialogue on the land question is long overdue to push for parliament to amend, and enact necessary laws that would ensure Batswana equitably benefit from land as a valuable resource and asset. A motion calling for a national audit of all land was recently tabled against this background.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

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