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Land shortage is an artificial creation- MPs

BABOKI KAYAWE
Slow allocation of land has resulted in squatting in urban areas
Some legislators have punched hard at land administrative authorities for pulling the wool over the nationís eyes on the issue of land scarcity, particularly in urban areas.

One parliamentarian figuratively described the status quo as an offshoot of the transition of tribal land administration from the hands of dikgosi, into the air-conditioned offices within Land Board structures.

Pre- independence and shortly afterwards, until 1970, tribal land was administered by dikgosi and assisted by ward heads.  In 1968, the Tribal Land Act was enacted and came into effect in 1970 with the primary mandate of improving land administration, rationalise land allocation and to introduce leasehold to accommodate national economic and social goals and aspirations. It was then that the Land Boards were established and  tasked with the administration of tribal land. “It vested all land rights and title to land in tribal areas in the Land Boards,” reads the proposed Botswana Land Policy.

Under the current dispensation, commentators have come forth to decry the snail pace at which land allocation is carried out relative to when traditional leaders were at the helm of this assignment.

When debating the proposed land management policy Wednesday, Selibe-Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse said policies such as the one in question, ought to solve public problems through quantifiable targets.

Unfortunately, he said the proposed land policy was not cut in that fashion, and had no solutions to solve prevailing land issues such as long waiting periods for land allocation.

“All the critical aspect to needed to embark on prudent land management are missing,” said Keorapetse, adding that there was no clear means to deal with “the creation of artificial land scarcity.”

For his part, MP for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane opined that thorough investigations had to be instituted on those tasked with land allocation in the respective land boards. “It is quite appalling that in the era of computerisation land board authorities are taking forever to allocate land, yet their dikgosi counterparts in the olden days meticulously handled this task without the delays that we are facing today,” he said.

He argued that though their predecessors were not armed with modernity as land boards are

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now, they were far more efficient and effective.

“Land board authorities are outdone by the dikgosi and their land overseer aides.

There is a need to investigate those allocating land,” said Moswaane. 

Same Bathobakae of Tlokweng also reiterated that lack of prudent land allocation procedures have wrecked havoc especially in her constituency where the conventional ‘waiting list’ system has been phased out in favour of raffles. 

Though every citizen had the right to access land wherever they pleased in the country, Bathobakae said since dikgosi have become voiceless in this regard, a quota system reserving at least a portion of land for indigenous inhabitants needs to be considered.  “We could use dikgosi to catergorise those that are bona-fide beneficiaries of this arrangement in order to arrest incidents where those not fit to benefit end up doing so,” she said.

The manner in which the new custodians of lands are distributing it has attracted dividends for non-indigenous Batswana at the expense of their counterparts, charged Tati West’s Biggie Butale.

He stressed that the inaugural national land policy had to ensure that land allocation delays were dealt with.

 “The policy is forward looking,” he said. However, he was quick to note that land was an emotive terrain, with the prevailing historic injustices in land acquisition, Butale added that the general feeling was that indigenous Batswana wanted contended land to revert back to them.

“This injustice should be wiped out once and for all,” he said.   Last year, former Gaborone Central legislator Dumelang Saleshando, narrating a first hand account of events at the Oodi stampede, questioned why countries such as France, which is approximately the same geographical size as Botswana, with a population of over 65 million did not rank shortage of land as one of the key national issues?

 “It cannot be true that there is inadequate land in Botswana, smaller countries with higher populations than Botswana are able to provide their citizens with adequate land for residential and commercial purposes,” he said.



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