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Allocation of G-North vast land raises eyebrows

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.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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