The enormous land adjacent to Motswedi Community Junior Secondary School (CJSS) and the suburban Tapologo Estates in Gaborone North, which was owned by government, is currently at the center of dispute following its mysterious allocation to a company to build houses and later sell to Batswana.
Weekend Post has established that the controversial wide-ranging land, spanning in approximately more than 10 hectares with 6 open spaces was awarded to Zimmal Reliance Botswana (Pty) Ltd under questionable circumstances. The company is believed to be owned by foreign nationals alleged to be of Indian/Chinese origin. The company is already developing a screen wall along the plot claiming to own it.
Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Malele may also have misled parliament through answering a question from area legislator, Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa on the proprietors of the land. The company and government were said to have got into a partnership under the Public, Private, Partnership (PPP) arrangement. Under the agreement, the open spacious land was allotted the company with the intention to construct accommodation encompassing between 400 and 600 housing units.
The irony of the matter though is how and why Batswana were left out of the equation as they were not allocated the land from the onset so as to build the houses for themselves. The land allocation in Gaborone for beneficiaries who applied in 1989 was done in 2011. In Gaborone alone, around 35 000 people are on the waiting list as the city is overwhelmed with shortage of the land and accommodation. Information has emerged that the controversial land, originally belonged to the state but was later allocated to Zimmal Reliance Botswana in September 2002.
Investigations by this publication into the Directorship of the Company at Registrar of Companies and Intellectual properties Botswana in order to ascertain their ownership and, contact them for a comment, were in vain. However officials at Registrar of Companies said in a conversation with this reporter that the company in question is amongst a batch of companies registered before the advent of computerised network system. Therefore, in the system, the shareholders of the company could not appear and as such, the only option was to go through the loads of files in search for the Directors.
Following many years after the company failed to develop the land in question, the government until this year threatened to re-possess the land through a letter to the company, the move which the Minister verified. This publication has further established that the threat to the company came as a result of the area legislator Nkaigwa who had asked a question on parliament floor in the last sitting of parliament regarding the disputed land.
The question posed on 22 March 2017 by the MP stated: “to ask the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services as to who owns plot 56018, 56147, 54409, 56273, 56128, 56086, and 55841 next to Motswedi CJSS, Botlhale Primary School, Tapologo Estates and Ledumang Senior Secondary School.” He further questioned how the open spaces which have been there for over 30 years were allocated; including, whether they were advertised and how many stakeholders participated.
“If he is aware that the open spaces were for plot allocation to Batswana; if so; what changed their initial plan and; who initially fenced the open spaces and with whose authority as it has been fenced for over 30 years,” Gaborone North law maker, where the dubious land deal occurred, asked the minister. In his response at the time, Minister responsible for Land Management, Maele confirmed that the plots questioned were mere open spaces and they are “owned by government.”
“They are all owned by government except plot 54409 Gaborone which is registered under Gaborone City Council (GCC). This plot, unlike others in question is not within the locality stated but it is situated in the Gaborone Central Business District (CBD),” he told parliament then. Maele also stated that plot 54409 Gaborone is the one which has been allocated and it was allocated to GCC by the Minister in 2005.
He further said that plot 54409 Gaborone was not advertised but was allocated through direct allocation to GCC, while adding that the other plots have not been allocated and still belong to government. “The open space that has been allocated to GCC, together with other open spaces elsewhere in the city, is open for development and management in partnership with either the community or the private sector for the benefit of the community.” He added then that “the initial plan to allocate the plots to Batswana has not changed.”
The minister for Land Management also told parliament that the stated open spaces are not fenced but what is fenced is a block of residential plots within which the open spaces are located to protect the area from dumping. However, two months down the line since answering the question on the disputed land, it appears Minister Maele has inexplicably rescinded on his earlier position that the land belongs to government. Speaking to Weekend Post this week Minister Maele stressed that the land belongs to Zimmal Reliance Botswana (Pty) Ltd (and not government as per his earlier position).
“I can speak on authority that the company (Zimmal Reliance Botswana) was allocated the land on 6 September 2002,” he told this publication on Wednesday. Gaborone encompasses the state land, such as the dubious land, which is managed by the Ministry of Land Management, Water and sanitation Services and they allocate the land through Gaborone City Council (GCC) which does spade works like inspections, Environment Impact Assessments (EIS’s).
A reliable source closer to the development has stated that the company did EIA’s in March and April and that there is no way such may have been approved. “So they have started the constructions with the approvals,” he said. According to Maele, upon inquiry, he could not establish whether the tender was a direct allocation to the company engaged or not. He said the journey all started way back in 1999 until the final allocation of the land to the company in 2002. He therefore advised that he will need more time to revisit the files of the contract agreement.
He however clarified that upon allocation of the land by the company under PPP the initial and preceding plan is to develop the land by erecting housing units that would in turn later be sold to Batswana to enable them to incur their costs through profits made out of the sales.
“We talked about a construction of around 400 housing units and this of course still stands.” He continued to state that it is not correct that a state of the art mall will be built on that land as that is not the agreement and the land is not for that purpose. He said so far, the mounting of a screen wall that is currently going on at the site illustrates their commitment to develop the land. Although the land was allocated many years back, Minister was at pains in explaining why the land has not been repossessed from the company after 15 years as a white elephant.
“Yes it is unfortunate that those people did not develop the land for many years now, we realized last year. This year we wrote to them to show course why the land cannot be repossessed by government. They then replied and I am very satisfied about their response and/or reasons therein.” Although area MP Nkaigwa could not be immediately reached for a comment on the matter, it is suspected that he may return the question again in parliament July sitting particularly as construction has ensued at the site under unclear directorship.
At parliament, they have been told that the land belongs to government when he asked the question earlier this year. After rescinding, an impeccable source highlighted “these are clear signs of corruption trying to legitimize something that was allocated dubiously.” Meanwhile pundits say some officials in government may be having their hands “greased” on the sudden departure of proprietorship by government from the land or as a result of conflicting positions on the matter.
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.