Former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Deputy Commander Major General Pius Mokgware has warned government not to fall in the trap of other foreign countries where civil wars originated from land disputes as a result of failure to distribute land equally to all citizens.
Mokgware, who is a Member of Parliament for Gabane-Mankgodi said consistent failure by government to give citizens land for residential and commercial use may result in frustrations leading to revolt either against government or against another.
Debating the budget for Ministry of Lands and Housing tabled by Minister Prince Maele, Mokgware said land was at the centre of dispute in the majority of wars throughout the world in the last few years. It is against this reason that Mokgware wants to avoid a situation where citizens will go for jugular in future and fight against another for land ownership.
Mokgware also spoke against government policy towards the youth in land allocation. Mokgware said inability to allocate land to youth will effectively lead to their disempowerment since they cannot do anything without land ownership. Maele had told parliament that out of 18,857 plots allocated last year 1,748 were allocated to youth something which Mokgware said is disappointing. “We should be at least talking about 10,000 of those plots being allocated to youth,” he said.
Also debating the budget proposal was MP for Tlokweng Same Bathobakae who called for government to review the BHC mandate and divert it from a profit driven entity to a service driven one with the view of delivering houses at affordable rate to ordinary Batswana. “BHC should not be profit driven and distribution of land should show development,” she said.
Over the last few years Tlokweng has been of the areas which have been at the centre of plot allocation debacle with tribal leaders preferring an arrangement where Batlokwa are given priority in plot allocation. The view has been shared by some in society including President Khama who had promised a policy that will give priority to native dwellers in land allocation.
The Tlokweng MP also expressed disappointment that government has the tendency of repossessing land from citizens without notifying them. Bathobakae said these results in them selling land when they are not able to develop the plots.
Bathobakae also observed that the land crisis and indecisiveness in allocating plots for business use is turning away investors from starting businesses in Botswana.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Thapelo Olopeng said government should consider closing the loopholes in the laws regarding transfer and selling of land to foreigners. Olopeng said he has realized that plot owners transfer the ownership of their plots to their companies and in the process the companies get sold, all company assets are acquired including land. Olopeng warned that this will result in transferring majority of land to foreign ownership contending that there is a need to review land transfer legislation.
Olopeng also shared similar concerns with MP Mokgware in regard to youth land ownership. Olepeng contended that empowerment of youth starts with land ownership as a result requested government to consider a policy that will favour youth in land ownership.
According to Olopeng government should also consider allowing people to drill boreholes in their homes for the purpose of watering their gardens. Olopeng said it will prove beneficiation to consider such a move and the situation could rescue gardens in the current situation where there is water shortage.
Noah Salakae, MP for Ghanzi North said lack of clear policy will result in wealthy citizens acquiring more land at the expense of ordinary citizens. Salakae faulted the land allocation process saying a country with a mere population of 2 million should not be facing land shortage. Salakae equated the population of Botswana to just a population of a city in some countries, including neighbouring South Africa.
Maele told parliament that the land registration component of the Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) project has surveyed 235,187 plots and 67,728 plot owners have come forth to confirm plot ownership. However, Maele noted that there is a challenge emanating from reluctance by some land holders to come forth and confirm ownership of their land especially in Kweneng Districts.
Ministry of Lands and Housing was allocated P1.6 billion for 2015/16 year to cater for Recurrent and Development budget for the ministry. This allocation represents a 35 percent increase when compared to last year’s P1.2 billion allocated to the ministry.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.