"My child, we are suffering in Gerald. If I have my P10 for relish, it means I use P4 for transport to Shoprite in town. After that, I remain with P6 which is too little for the seven of us," lamented 50-year-old Itsile Rakola. She expressed concern that lack of shops in the location costs them a lot. She condemned Francistown City Council (FCC) for failing to allocate land to a number of business people who are willing to invest at the location.
Another resident Michael Phuthego is not happy about the situation. He said that taxi operators are not cooperative and charge more money for transporting groceries. He said to book a taxi to Gerald costs not less than P30, which is unreasonable.
Gerald Estate Customary Court president, Paul Motshwane said he could not understand why the area does not have shops. "Definitely there are no shops in this area and people are seriously affected," said the worried Motshwane. He said the issue has been raised several times during Kgotla meetings but to date nothing has been done. He said that the low-income residents of the location cannot afford to travel everyday to town to buy groceries.
Motshwane said many people are willing to establish businesses in Gerald but they are not able because they have not been allocated land. He asserted that he once suggested that temporary plots be allocated but his efforts bore no fruit. He expressed worry that the few tuck shops that exist in the locations exploit people because there are no alternatives.
But tuck shop owner Sarah Thapelo denied exploiting customers. "My prices are reasonable because I know that I am selling to my fellow countrymen," she said.
Councillor for Kanana ward at Gerald, Ace Ntheetsang reiterated that lack of shops is a serious concern. "As a political leader, I usually raise this issue during council meetings but they inform me that there is no money for services if commercial plots are provided." Ntheetsang is worried that the council does not promise to do anything soon.
Former councillor for Somerset West ward, Motlatsi Molapise shared the same sentiments. He said before the squatters were moved, he tabled a motion asking the city council to demarcate business plots. He said the motion was adopted but later ignored. "The government does not care about the welfare of the people," laments Molapise, a member of the opposition Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and a former councillor. He said there is no short-term plan to solve the problem.
Francistown city clerk, Itereleng Phatswhane said they did not have choice when they relocated the residents to an undeveloped area. This was because the people were worse off when they were squatters in highly congested areas. "Their health was in danger and we decided to move them immediately." He pointed out that the council does not give land but only issues licence for business.
He maintained that the law does not allow resident, to have shops on residential plots. He said one of the biggest primary schools in the city is under construction in Gerald.
FCC principal physical planner, Michael Kitembele said commercial plots have been demarcated in Gerald and what is remaining is designing, surveying and servicing. "The area would be designed in a way that it would match the Central Business District for the whole area," said Katimbele.
MP for Francistown West, Tshelang Masisi said it is his wish to see the location developed but the determining factor is funds. He said that the demarcations have been done and are awaiting installation of facilities like water and electricity.
"Generally, we are pushing to secure funds so that we put infrastructure in the area," he said. He said a committee has been appointed to handle the issue. He added that there were many developments coming up in the area if funds are available.