Residential land allocation is a sore point in Botswana. The problem always manifests whenever there is a call, especially in peri-urban areas, for land applications.
In some instances, the desperate landless were forced to sleep next to Land Board offices just to make to the queue to drop off an application, leading to stampedes and disorder.
The recent cases that have made land crisis a talking point was the stampedes that occurred in Oodi, Ramotswa and Tlokweng.
The Tlokweng Land Board found itself in a difficult situation when it wanted to allocate 285 plots in 2012, but tens of thousands of applicants thronged the institution’s premises. This forced the Land Board to halt the allocations, and later settled for a controversial raffle. The last act led to Tlokweng residents taking the Land Board to court, with the latter wining the case that had stretched for two years.
Although the ministry of Lands and Housing has come up with the new policy, it does not address how the issues of queues will be addressed.
The policy, currently before Parliament, states that waiting lists will be maintained where necessary and eligible applicants exceed the number of plots available. The Land Authority will determine the appropriate method for allocation – this could be by a raffle, first come first served basis or through waiting list depending on the circumstances.
To try speed up land allocation, the ministry has also started servicing land in some areas.
Land crisis, however, remains a sore point, especially in greater populated areas. The capital Gaborone, for an example, stopped allocating land in 2004 and it has over 180 000 people on the waiting list. The neighbouring peri-urban Mogoditshane Sub-Land Board has over 120 000 people waiting to be allocated.
This week the minister of Lands and Housing, Prince Maele said the new land policy recognises that shelter is a basic need, hence residential land had to be availed to ensure that each family is housed. He told the Parliament that while the policy acknowledges that land is a finite resource that may always not be available, it proposes that every Motswana will be eligible to one plot at his or her place of choice in the country.
“However, one would be deemed to be allocated a plot if they have a
Infrastructure construction for Extension 11 in Palapye that is on going is expected to yield about 3330 plots of various categories at its completion mid 2016.
The ministry says during financial year 2014/15, 871 plots were allocated in Gaborone, Francistown, Selibe Phikwe and Lobatse.
It states that 136 non-residential plots including commercial, industrial and civic and community in Selibe Phikwe, Jwaneng, Francistown and Gaborone have been advertised and are going through the adjudication process.
In addition 1391 plots mainly in the agriculture and industrial sectors had been allocated to drive economic development across the country. In total number, tribal land allocated 18,857 plots and out of these, 1,748 were allocated to the youth.
The new policy states that special dispensation will be made to accommodate the needs of the Remote Area Communities and any other disadvantaged groups that could be identified.
Even though the ministry is not specific on its new scheme of housing for the youth, its intention is to provide young Batswana with suitable housing and it would apply to those with monthly salary of not more than P7, 000 per month.
The new policy does not explain whether the disadvantaged groups would be given first priority or not. A similar pattern emerged in the other centres.
The number of residential plots that remain undeveloped and unpaid for between 1992 and 2001 was substantial. It would appear that people who were allocated plots were not able to develop them, despite the fact that they were offered at subsidised prices.
Allottees hung on to them hoping that one day they would be able to develop them.
As a result, the infrastructure provided deteriorated and was vandalised. Some 22 000 plots were delivered under the programme between 1992 and 2002, but no new major land-servicing project is planned.