Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) is preparing to evict defiant squatters in a certain piece of land in Block 5, Gaborone following a lengthy consultation process that has not borne fruits, WeekendPost has learnt. The contested land is located behind Grand Palm hotel, and extends to the border which separates Block 5 and Mogoditshane.
BDC Head of Corporate Affairs and Strategy Boitshwarelo Lebang, has affirmed that the land belongs to BDC and that it is owned by a 100 percent BDC subsidiary, Residential Holdings (Pty) Ltd. She indicated that the corporation has supporting documents as proof of ownership. Lebang said the land, which measures 92.59 hectares in area was acquired was acquired in 2003 from the state.
BDC spokesperson stated that there was a compensation offered to those who voluntarily agreed to vacate the land but refused to disclose the kind of compensation offered to the affected people. “The illegal occupants were consulted and given enough time to relocate the property. Some occupants vacated while others remained,” said Lebang.
“The Corporation has had a series of engagement sessions with the remaining occupants to vacate the land as some developments were planned to take place on the land. These developments have now commenced.” Lebang revealed that mixed use of developments are planned for the area and already a boundary wall construction has commenced. Some residents who spoke to this publication claim to live in fear as demolition of their property could leave them homeless anytime.
Some hopes that the matter will at least in the end be resolved in consideration of their welfare. There is however a contrasting view on the ownership of the land from those who occupy it. Some claim the piece of land used to be a privately owned farm. The occupants also indicate that they have occupied the disputed land in 1990, 13 years before BDC came into picture. In an interview with one of the occupants, Eba Sethole, she indicated that certain Mr Sefodi, who have since died used to own the land and sold part of the land to them.
“It is unfortunate that we bought the land back then when documentation wasn’t so popular, that is why only the initial owners can attest on our behalf,” she said. She further stated that when they first started residing in the land it was just a bush. Today the land is now a settlement with houses built in corrugated iron sheets and few houses built in modern structures. The 63 year-old Sethole stated that she is one of the first residents to dwell in the land, mentioning that their case with BDC emerged in 2003, when eviction threats started being thrown at them.
“We remained unshaken because we knew we own the land, court cases were piled on us but they just never bore any fruit; we are still here today,” said the defiant Sethole. Sethole said after BDC started threatening them, some residents moved to seek shelter elsewhere. Initially, according to Sethole, there were 49 occupants back then but now 41 remains, hoping for a positive outcome.
According to Sethole, BDC keeps calling meetings between them, their Councillor, Rhoda Sekgororwane and council representative’s and in all the meetings, BDC still insist the land is theirs. “Our councillor [Sekgororwane] has been on her toes since this case materialised, we are constantly slapped with warnings that we have 14 days to evict the place,” she said. She said the last warning summoning them to evict the place was last year November which denoted that they had seven days to leave the place.
In her capacity as the sitting councillor for Block 5, Sekgororwane told this publication that, her concern is for BDC to resolve the matter considering how their eviction could impact the occupants. She stated that if the eviction is to materialise, the least BDC can do is to allocate land to the residents somewhere lawfully. “We have been going back and forth with this case; we have met with BDC head of corporate affairs and strategy officer Boitshwarelo Lebang and their lawyer Tebogo Sebego to try to find resolution to this matter,” Sekgororwane said.
Sekgororwane, who is a member of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) stated that the last time she talked to Lebang and Sebego they requested the number of residents staying within the area, and their full particulars. She said she pleaded with them to remember to be a considerate and caring nation as per the national vision. The Councillor told this publication that the dispute is known by various stakeholder including Ministry of Lands, Local Government and some of the Head chiefs.
Rhoda said some chiefs are even willing to find land within their areas to allocate to the affected residents but only limited by lack of authority. The area which used to be known as Ko-Motseng does not have water supply and residents depend on buying water for survival.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.