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Dispute over community assets divides Palapye

Palapye Development Advisory Trust offices PIC: KOKETSO KGOBOGE
PALAPYE: Hostility is simmering amongst scores of community members and the village’s trust board as the former demands the latter to thoroughly account before handing the baton at the impending board elections on January 29.

Palapye Development Advisory Trust (PDAT) announced recently that its term has elapsed and it is prepared to give way to a new trust, Palapye Community Development Trust (PCDT) that would take care of community assets.

PDAT took over in 2014 from Palapye Development Trust (PDT) as per an instruction from the community. It was elected temporarily to safeguard assets from PDT that was accused of massive irregularities.

With the instruction of the community, in 2017, the temporary PDAT registered PCDT that will take over as the substantial trust of the community. The manner of the transformation, however, has rubbed other members of the community the wrong way.

The enraged members feel ‘mismanagement’ continued within the temporary PDAT and are demanding accountability. Amongst other things, they are contesting that the trust does not benefit the community and they also contest the shortlisted names. They have petitioned the trust to stop the elections and re-advertise.

According to the petition, the shortlist failed to meet proportional representation for women, youth and people living with disabilities. The advert failed to reach the masses, as it was not floated neither in the Government Gazette or Botswana Daily News for other people outside Palapye. They also questioned the vetting process and composition of the vetting team. “We further call for the outgoing Board chairperson’s report to be made public at least 30 days before the date of the elections,” the petition read in part. Trust chief executive officer, David Jibajiba said they have followed the deed of trust to the letter and acted according to directives of the community. He said the trust was cash-strapped and could not afford rates of advertising with newspapers. Advertisements, he said, were posted in all the hotspots around the village and in social media. He said it was not restrictive to anyone, and the minimum requirement was completion of senior secondary education.

He dismissed issues of corruption associated with PDAT. “We have consulted with the community and took decisions according to their guidelines. Our accounts are audited from 2011 up to 2014. Auditing for 2015 is ongoing and the trust has consistently maintained that doors are open to all for checks and balances,” he said.

He stated that issues of land misappropriation and loss of other properties of the trust happened during the era of PDT. “I understand the issues were reported to the police and went up in smoke after lack of


He said PDAT had managed to retain some of the land that was not awarded properly, and the trust owned a shopping complex that PDT left to go under the hammer.

During the era of PDT, the trust irregularly awarded nine hectares of land to Access Works, one hectare to Jus Posh and five hectares to Holistic Ventures. Access Works got nine hectares while the latter got one hectare.

After due diligence was done, PDAT went into litigation with the two companies to correct the anomalies or retrieve the land. Court of Appeal instructed a settlement out of court for a matter against Access Works. PDAT managed to get back three hectares from nine hectares.

They also agreed to a model of build, operate and transfer (BOT). Access Works have built a mall, Riverview Mall in the six hectare land that they will operate until the 30-year lease expires. The trust will subsequently take over.

The trust won a case to cancel the lease against Holistic Ventures at the high court. The latter has filed an appeal, and the matter is still before the Court of Appeal.

“They were not cooperating. We engaged them, and we had a problem of agreeing in the BOT model. They wanted the trust to buy the buildings from them when the lease expires and we did not agree to that,” the trust chairperson Comfort Molosiwa said.

The chairperson reiterated Jibajiba’s corruption sentiments. He said PDAT inherited enormous anomalies from predecessors therefore spent a lot on court battles and tax. The other issue questioned by the petitioners was the tendering processes at the trust.

A Chinese company was directly appointed to refurbish the trust mall late last year. When Molosiwa explained, the dilapidated mall was losing clients to new competitors. They, therefore, applied for a loan with Stanbic Bank to upgrade.

“It was an equity release, and the bank wanted the mall to be serviced in three months so they could secure their capitals. Because we were pressed for time, the board adopted a resolution for selective tender and the community agreed. That is how the company was hired. PDAT is ready to hand everything back to the community,” the outgoing chairperson said.

The elections are scheduled at the village Kgotla on January 29. The list shortlisted includes the outgoing chairperson Molosiwa, Sebetlela Sebetlela, Gaaesi Morake, Benson Bojong, Mogaetsho Keoagile, Onkabetse Magibisela, Russ Molosiwa, Manisa Moatswi and Buca Makwapa.




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