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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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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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