Some four hundred and twelve residents of Gaphatshwa village will become the latest casualty in the land crisis bedeviling the country, as the Kweneng District Council plans to demolish 54 households at the village, soon to be renamed Metsimotlhabe Block 4.
WeekendPost has established that some residents in the area have already been served with letters this week by Kweneng Land Board summoning them to have vacated their long time households in 30 days while others who resisted the evacuation have been subpoenaed to appear before court.
This publication has gathered that the residents have been instructed to move so as to make way for impeding developments.
According to confidential minutes between the Landboard members and some Gaphatshwa residents seen by this publication, the inhabitants – who are not even squatters -are being pushed out as there is new layout that has to be put up in the area (to be named Metsimotlhabe Block 4) and all properties in that area will have to be relocated.
The Landboard is believed to have initially thought that some properties could be realigned to the new layout, but that thinking has since been abandoned and KDC now wants the residents to evacuate.
“Experts have advised that the existing structures may not meet the current development standards, the structures may be affected during construction by vibrations caused by construction machinery, safety and health issues and the whole environment of the residents will be affected during construction by noise pollution, dust hence the need for relocation,” Landboard officials stated as per the minutes of a meeting held on 9 February and on 21, 27, 28 April 2016.
According to the minutes some residents who were told to evacuate and resisted were informed that the layout is not yet serviced and there is no way they can remain within the plots in question. The landboard officials stated that “land right holders were consulted at kgotla meetings after that there were individual consultations. They were informed that their mokgoro will be assessed and compensated for in monetary terms for the developments made and be allocated an alternative standard size residential plot and be compensated for loss of right if any in monetary terms. They were also informed that the ploughing field and mokgoro has been assessed and cheques prepared.”
For their part, some residents indicated in the meeting that they were willing to give their ploughing fields and mokgoro to the Landboard but they have some demands as they had been using that land for their livelihood for a very long time. The residents argued that they were never consulted and only met with the assessment team who assessed their properties. They further posited that the value of a residential plot in that area is over P 200 000.00.
Furthermore, they stated that the money stated as compensation was not enough for them to develop the new plots. They insisted they “will want to be compensated with land for their ploughing fields instead of monetary terms”. They also state that they want reasonable hectares as compensation for the ploughing fields and therefore won’t relocate if their demands are not met.
The other alternative, they maintained, is that they can be given the number of residential plots that can be accommodated within their mokgoro, and also want to be compensated with land just like other land right holders who have been compensated with land recently.
Some area dwellers were however informed that they had been granted the right to use the land in question which is tribal and was not the right one. Landboard officials explained that “when tribal land is acquired, compensation is done in monetary terms as per compensation guidelines for acquiring tribal land. Practice of mpeelabana was long brought to an end in 2005. If there was an agreement with landboard before the practice was brought to an end that ploughing field owner will be allocated residential plots as part of compensation and that agreement has to be honoured.
The minutes indicate that the board resolved to apply for compulsory acquisition of the ploughing fields and the mokgoro in question as the allottee’s representative demands to be compensated in land is not in line with compensation guidelines for acquiring tribal land as per the Tribal Land Act.
According to the minutes, Land board Chairman M. Babitseng and his Vice J.O Matlhabaphiri together with six other board members being S.O Otukile, E. Kepaletswe, K. Mosinkie, O. Dube, D. Molatlhegi, U. Obotseng were present at the meeting. In addition Kweneng Landboard attorney A. Baikakedi, Principal Land Registration officer D. Rabai, Land adjudication officer I. Ditlogolo and board clerk M. Godirilwe also graced the meeting that was between landboard officials and some residents.
The Gaphatshwa residents also had a succeeding kgotla meeting on Wednesday this week addressed by the area Member of Parliament Pius Mokgware – during which they aired their land grievances, fears and qualms. Their worst fear, they revealed is seeing the yellow monster ravaging their buildings. Some even vowed they would rather die than see their structures being demolished.
The residents further told the MP that they will only surrender the land provided they are properly re-allocated plots, along with their children. Also, they highlighted, they don’t agree with the government/landboard compensation which is not in the form of adequate land.
According to the area dwellers the landboard wants to give some P25 000 for a few hectares which they protest is very low. Some were promised P9 600 for 3 hectares – which they out rightly rejected. For 10 hectares of land they insisted they want 4 hectares and for 4 hectares they argued 1 hectare would be sufficient in the compensation.
For his part, the Mmankgodi/Manyana law maker stressed that government has spelled out its intention to eradicate poverty and therefore its actions should speak out for that stance and not against it. Mokgware submitted that in an ideal world the developments should go to the people and not the people moving out for developments. “The tradition and land policy from way back is that if there are developments anywhere, people’s structures found there should be left alone and developments should find them there.”
He said he will establish a committee comprising of some residents that will meet Minister of Lands and Housing Prince Maele in a span of time. The committee will request the minister to intervene and order the landboard to refrain from writing area dwellers letters instructing them to vacate the area until they resolve the agreeable compensation.
They also want Maele to order the landboard to recognize the existing residents’ structures and not demolish them but instead incorporate them into future plans for the new Metsimotlhabe Block 4.
It is understood that the residents particularly in Gaphatshwa have been having unsettled land issues as far back as 2001, and some even applied to the land tribunal but still could not be assisted satisfactorily.
WeekendPost made efforts to contact Mogoditshane Sub landboard Secretary Anthony Bashingi, in which the area falls under, and he said he was not invited to the MP’s kgotla meeting and he further referred this publication to his superiors at Kweneng Landboard. Acting Kweneng Landboard Secretary Vincent Sekano was said to be out of the office on an official assignment.
However Principal Public Relations Officer Prudence Lekhupile said in terms of compensation which the residents strongly dispute, there is a standard reward put forth by the Ministry of Lands and Housing.
“If they disagree they are allowed to go back to the drawing board to negotiate the compensation fee. There is an established complaint procedure to follow,” she pointed out.She also said there is a certain percentage of land to be given to children whose parents’ land is being possessed.
According to the spokesperson they also compensate in monetary terms commensurate with the materials used at the ploughing field or land being possessed.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.