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.
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.