President Mokgweetsi Masisi is facing an ultimatum with regard to controversial land disputes in the country especially in Gaborone peripherals.
Masisi, who has been in the highest office in the land for just over three months has been warned that he will lose in the next crucial 2019 General Elections should he not resolve the explosive land issues. “We appeal to the President Mokgweetsi Masisi as the last resort and the only option left now, to settle down these disputes before the next elections,” Gabane/Mmankgodi residents together with their area legislator Pius Mokgware said this week in a politically charged constituency press briefing.
He continued to point out that “it is in his (Masisi) interest or else he will lose the next elections as a leader of the ruling party and may lose state presidency,” Mokgware pointed out. Mokgware and residents said this after approaching the then Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Prince Maele to establish a land committee to address the issue.
At the centre of disputes is the “ridiculously low compensation” for those whom their land has been possessed by land boards which continues to give them money around “P35 000 while they demand another allocation instead.” The residents asserted therefore that they demand a fair compensation or else Masisi will see dust in the impending Elections.
“If you are given that P35 000 as compensation in accordance with the current Land Policy then what are going to do with it? Masisi’s government needs to change or review this Land policy as this compensation is ridiculously low. Every Motswana should be compensated accordingly,” Mokgware pointed out. The lawmaker continued to highlight that “they should look at the existing Land policy to see to it that people are allocated accordingly.”
“In addition there are more than 150 complaints at Kweneng Land board which has exposed the land board’s record system and its undesirable state.” Furthermore the land board has failed to properly demarcate the land as “there are no commercial, industrial, residential designated portions in our constituency,” fumed Mokgware who was interchangeably backed by residents. The land issue has become a hot potato issue in the country for years now especially during the 1994 era of the controversial Kgabo Commission report.
The report implicated the then Vice President Peter Mmusi and cabinet Minister Daniel Kwelagobe for their part in unconventional dealings in the land problems in Mogoditshane, Tsolamosese and other areas. Since some of the issues still remain unresolved to date, in 2016, a taskforce team was established between residents in Gabane/Mmankgodi constituency and officials from Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services especially Kweneng Land board and Mogoditshane sub land board.
The taskforce was set up to investigate further the land matters in the area and recommend appropriate remedial measures between government and residents. However the area Member of Parliament (MP) Pius Mokgware revealed that the committee has not achieved its mandate because the government (land boards) is not forthcoming to resolve the stranded residents land disputes. “We have yet not received a favourable response from government.”
The residents of the disputed areas, especially Tsolamosese and Mogoditshane, were requested to pay the Land boards not more than P10 000 and undertake substantive ownership of the land equipped with land title certificates and this, to many, did not effect as promised. In addition Kgabo commission report liberated many of the residents, for any misdemeanor but the land boards set aside the recommendations and demolished their homesteads.
Therefore the failed taskforce was to look into, among others, the Kgabo Commission and the Presidential Pardon as declared on illegal squatters. According to the confidential terms of reference, the taskforce was also to investigate all plots allocated by Bogosi and establish if all such plot owners have been issued with certificates.â€¨ “If findings indicate that some of those allocations are still without certificates, the committee shall identify why the land board is delaying such allocations.”
In addition, the taskforce was to establish how many people have long applied to regularize their plots and land they obtained through inheritance, and why the landboard is delaying action on their application. Furthermore, the probe team was also to establish why the land board acquired land without consulting and compensating farmers in some cases, for example, in Nkoyaphiri Industrial and Ledumadumane. The new-fangled commission was also to find out the number of people who had made agreements with the landboard to allocate their children plots when their ploughing fields were acquired.
Investigators specifically wanted to know as “to why in some cases the landboard failed to honour the agreement of allocating such children or some of them, and also, and why some children were denied allocation of plots on their obtained parents fields only because they got married or were married to land right holders”. Moreover, the taskforce was also to determine why the landboard is inconsistent in its land compensation as some farmers are compensated with plots why others the land board insists on monetary compensation.
“We were also to establish why in some cases the land board refused to regularize mekgoro (homesteads) of those whose farms were acquired; establish what the land board intends to do with cases where a farmer was compensated and refused to regularize homestead for the acquired ploughing field,” they assert in the official document. All in all it is anticipated that the taskforce will help bring the contentious land issue, which has been raging for over a long period of time, to a mutually acceptable conclusion.
On Opposition unity
Meanwhile, apart from the controversial land issues, when asked a question by this reporter on how the Gabane/Mmankgodi lawmaker will contest in the next elections following his defection from Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to Alliance for progressives (AP) he said they will work together. “I believe in opposition unity, and AP also believes that, I can assure you that we will be together going into the next elections on whatever form or arrangement,” Mokgware stated.
He asserted that they currently have a good working relationship with the sitting councilors and believes they can still defeat the BDP together at the next polls. “I have a very good working relationship with councilors in my area and we believe we can triumph together if we continue to work together. My biggest objective is to see that the BDP doesn’t win the constituency,” he insisted.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.