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BIG fight over Land, but who is fooling who?

Kefentse Mzwinila

Ngwato Land Board is seized with a matter in which a private company, 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd is challenging the decision to cancel their land rights in the Kgagodi area where it had proposed to build an International Cargo Airport.

The cancellation was arrived at after farmers around Maunatlala/Kgagodi appealed against the allocation of the large piece of land to 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd for purposes of developing the said international cargo airport.  The sponsors of the proposed airport are now threatening to sue Ngwato Land Board for delaying the project. 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd wrote through Dithobolo Attorneys to Ngwato Land Board, “We hold urgent instructions to note an appeal against the said resolution by our client.”

“We hold the view that this project that our client intends to embark upon is of national importance and fall squarely under Section 10 of the Tribal Land Act.” 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd is arguing that the allocation was done in accordance with the law and land rights had accrued to them. They note through their attorneys that “such rights having been lawfully granted as stated supra cannot be cancelled without the compensatory requirements being followed to the letter.”

They further note, “Such compensatory elements will be inclusive but not restricted to loss of rights, the preparatory expenses client incurred upon signing the lease agreement, loss of prospective business and many other costs necessary in the circumstances.” In their view, “This project is budgeted at P20 billion and no reasonable Land Board would refuse such massive investments within Tribal territory”.

In their letter to the Ngwato Land Board, the company claimed that it had already initiated negotiations with farmers whose land rights are conflicting with those of the proposed international airport. This publication gathers that there are about 12 farmers with a legitimate claim and they were initially promised P7million each.

Maunatlala Sub Land Board allocated 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd the land against the will of the farmers who already had land rights in the area. The decision to award was taken at a meeting held on 4th September 2017. Indications are that this followed a comprehensive campaign by initiators of 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd. The company directors had gone all out knocking on every office to solicit letters of support towards the project.

In their spirited drive they convinced Chief Executive Officers, District Commissioners, Councillors and other high ranking officers to pencil support letters towards the construction of an international airport in the area. The National Strategy Office (NSO) wrote through one Goitseone Morekisi, “…the project is supported as it is in line with the objectives of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) of Economic Diversification and Accelerated Employment. It is also in line with Citizen Empowerment (CEE) Policy of contributing to the growth of the private sector…”

Bruce Bruno, who was Business Development Manager at Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) at the time wrote on 1st March 2016…”This letter serves to corroborate our confirmation that BOL is in a contractual agreement with your company for the provision of fuel. BOL will supply the required petroleum products as per your enquiry from the Government Reserve Storages.” This was a letter to guarantee the supply of petroleum products (diesel and petrol) to 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd.

Akolang Tombale, who was Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) Chief executive Officer (CEO) then penned a patronizing letter in support of 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd. “…To embark on a project of this nature with huge positive economy bearing cannot be over emphasized. Creation of employment for locals and Batswana in general to help eradicate the biggest challenge of unemployment in our country. Botswana Meat Commission is very keen in working with a locally empowered company to help establish a great project. In light of the above that we as Botswana meat Commission are in full support of this project and would assist in any way we can.”

Ernest Phiri, the then Deputy District Commissioner in the Palapye District Administration area was also sold as he wrote “…We wholly support and encourage the initiative. This we do in cognizance of the fact that the project will potentially have massive spin-offs. Issues of creation of employment, economic diversification and potentially poverty eradication are some of the critical Government priorities the project will talk to. While a project such as an Airport might not directly employ a sizeable number of people, it will undoubtedly have huge catalytic impact on the Palapye Administrative Authority’s local economy. It is a must have,” he wrote illuminating his high hopes at as he signed off.

Business Botswana (BB) also wrote a one page letter to “support the project in principle”. They had pledged to offer material support and skills to ensure that the project moves forward.
The Ministry of Land Management also wrote a letter of support noting possible job creation for locals.

On the other hand, Meshack Tshekedi of the BITC was also measured in his support noting the need for satisfying regulatory requirements by the sponsors of the project. He appreciated that the project contribute to the economic development and growth of Botswana by facilitating efficient movement of goods and people in Botswana. “Also, this proposed project could create jobs for the people of Botswana,” he stated.

The Chief Executive Officer of Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) at the time, 31st January 2017, Mr Uezesa wrote a measured letter of support. “…In principle, SPEDU supports all initiatives geared towards diversification of the SPEDU region’s economy and its Revitalization Plan…Our expectation is that you submit a fully-fledged business plan which will assist us to establish the viability of your business case. The business plan should clearly delineate the viability of the project across each and every one of its [proposed components or strategic business units. This will enable us to accurately scope the project as well as inform the nature and extent of our project facilitation going forward,” he wrote.

The Maunatlala Sub Land Board had initially acceded to the application for land to accommodate the international airport at its Board sitting of 27th march 2017. The approval was on condition that the company obtains a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB); it further stated that the land shall be strictly for an international cargo airport and change of use will not be allowed.

The Sub Land Board had also made it clear that “Failure to implement or observe these conditions, the allocated land will revert back to the allocating authority and your rights over this piece of land will be cancelled.”

However on the 6th September 2017 Maunatlala Farmers filed an appeal objecting to the allocation of land to 123 dimension (Pty) Ltd and they were successful. The land rights allocated to 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd were cancelled on the basis that there were already existing rights on allocated land; and that the 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd allocation did not follow the right consultation process.

This is the decision that 123 Dimension (Pty) Ltd is challenging and intends to take the matter to the Land Tribunal should their appeal at the Ngwato Land Board be quashed.
Meanwhile farmers in the Kgagodi area and the Lesenepole junction area have written missives to object to the proposed development because it will encumber on their grazing area. They also claim that the company has not proved its business case beyond reasonable doubt.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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