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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.