FROM MOUTH OF MPS PARLIAMENT DEBATE 30 YEAR-OLD LAND APPLICATION WAITING LIST
Land distribution and plot allocation is a burning issue in Botswana. Last week acting minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation, Mabuse Pule was grilled by other members of Parliament last week to explain why many Batswana are in land application lists for more than 30 years.
Gaborone Bonnington South legislator, Christian Greeff especially put his party member on the spot regarding alleged land corruption around Gaborone and surrounding areas. FRANCINAH BAAITSE captured the debate.
GREEFF: Kindly state the number of pending applications for land allocation in Gaborone?
PULE: The number of pending applications in Gaborone is 31 449. This is inclusive of 21 125 Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) plots applications.
The plot type for these applications are State land high income large is 1 411, high income medium is 3 759, high income small is 2 490, and middle income upper is 2 664.
As for SHHA, low income is 14 548 and then the middle income is 6 577; Giving a total that I mentioned earlier of 31 449.
GREEFF: How many of such applications have been pending for more than 20 years, and why?
PULE: All the 31 449 have been in a waiting list for more than 20 years, as we are still dealing with applications from as far as 1990.
Currently, there are no plots for allocation due to land shortage as Gaborone is surrounded by tribal lands such as Tlokweng and Kweneng, and freehold land in Kgale, Phakalane and Gaborone North.
GREEFF: When do you intend to clear the backlog taking into consideration the outcry by people who have long applied for plots?
PULE: To address the issue of land shortage in Gaborone, several planning initiatives are being explored with the hope of unlocking puzzles of land for development purposes.
The National Special Plan (NSP) has at strategic level, addressed the land shortage in Gaborone.
Among key strategies direct for redevelopment are infill, decertification and encouragement of mixed land use from its core outwards specifically the Central Business District (CBD), Main mall, African mall, other malls, office parks, industrial and other activity centres using transit oriented development where suitable.
In order to address these, the following initiatives are currently taking place, the preparation of Gaborone City Development Plan led by aspirations of NSP; this is at evaluation stage, and it is envisaged to be awarded before the end of December 2021.
The preparation for Gaborone Expansion Master Plan which comprises approximately 5000 hectares of land, and it is situated north of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport used to be Kgaphamadi lands.
That was expropriated from the Kweneng tribal territory in 2011. Invitation to tender (ITT), for the Master Plan is under development.
The delay in execution of the project was occasioned initially by protracted consultations and compensation negotiations with affected land owners, and subsequently procurement challenges.
This project entails the preparation of Master Plan for the planning and development of 5000 hectares which has been acquired for the expansion of the city of Gaborone.
GREEFF: Since we do acknowledge that applicants have been in the waiting list for more than 30 years when should we expect the allocations to commence?
The second question Minister is, do you see this as a right thing; for Batswana to wait for land allocation for more than 30 years yet we see companies such as Universal Estate and companies which we can’t even tell whether they belong to Batswana or not being given huge chunks of land in Block 6, Maruapula and Mogoditshane?
In a single piece of land given to such an individual, so many plots are subdivided from there. Is that the right way of managing land?
PULE: On when we will complete the project and allocate the said plots I cannot give a definite date, but I can assure the honourable member that this project is going to be expedited but the speed will also depend on all those involved in the project.
Just to quickly go through this, the long waiting is not only a unique problem to Gaborone but a country wide issue which is of great concern to us.
Again it will be wrong if there are some individuals who are made to jump the queue and allocated land while Batswana have been waiting for so long.
If you know of any such case, I encourage you to bring them forth so we can investigate how they got the land.
GREEFF: But I told the Minister that we have been witnessing a particular company; Universal Estate, being given land. It was allocated land in Block 6 and a large piece of land in Maruapula.
They were given the land just recently so the question is what is the minister’s response to that? Will they (government) come to Batswana with an apology and say they have awarded more than 300 plots to an individual while Batswana were in the waiting list for more than 30 years?
VOICE FROM THE FLOOR: I told you to follow me to the other side and you said o salela ntlwana (you’ll stay home).
PULE: I hear what the honourable MP is saying, but this is not an easy matter because he is making allegations.
If he has evidence it is advisable that he brings it to the office so that we can investigate how that individual was given the said land.
I do not have such record in the office. But it is worth noting that sometimes an individual can purchase land from other people and watching from a distance one can make an assumption that they were allocated that land by government.
I promise if he brings that evidence that I asked for, the Ministry will investigate this allegation.
WYNTER MMOLOTSI: If people have been waiting for more than 30 years to get land, then does the minister realize that some of them could have lost their sources of income, some having lost their jobs, some retired and some even dead, do you realize then than many people may fail to develop their plots by the time they are allocated to them?
If you do acknowledge that will your development covenant continue to be two years or you will consider an extension?
Those who lost their lives while waiting for allocation could have left their children without any land, don’t you think it is about time that children are allowed to inherit applications of their parents?
PULE: An issue of development covenant can be brought to the table and reviewed but at the current moment I cannot promise whether or not there can be an extension, it will depend on our development strategies as we move forth and make reviews.
The issue regarding inheritance of land application has been clarified many times in the same House.
You were in this house honourable Mmolotsi when it was clarified that the current existing laws of the land does not provide for anyone to inherit land application.
MANGWEGAPE HEALY: What are your thoughts on expropriation of land without compensation?
I am asking because our two cities Francistown and Gaborone are surrounded by freehold farms that were awarded for free by government during the colonial era and these farms are impeding development of our cities and our country as a whole and now our people cannot have land in their own country!
PULE: That one is a very hot potato of which I believe even you Honourable Healy cannot touch that simply.
You want to know my individual opinion on that, so what I can tell you is that, such decisions cannot be made without changing the existing laws.
You have to understand that the concerned land owners acquired it legally so if at all as a country we see the need to expropriate then negotiations have to be done because we are a democratic country.