The Kgatleng Land Board’s two page insert, made on behalf of the Oodi Sub Land Board, which was included in Mmegi’s issue of 23rd January provides yet another insight into the land situation in key settlements adjacent to Gaborone.
The insert was, in several ways, remarkable. It listed the names of no less than 474 people who had applied before 2008 for ‘residential infills,’ who were invited to attend a meeting at the end of the month to enable them to show Land Board officials the infills for which they had applied. A quick glance at the list of applicants indicates that a large number, probably the majority, are from Oodi. So far so good. But questions immediately arise. Why the cut off date of 2008 and why now, and not much earlier? Infill areas are the left over bits and pieces of land which have been previously ignored by earlier applicants, because they were inaccessible, too rocky, located in areas of seloko or liable to flooding or even rock fall. Surprisingly those nearly 500 people had managed to identify such pockets in the small, largely rocky area which represented the historic core of the village. Wandering around the village today is enough to show how people have already contrived to squeeze themselves into odd little corners, with unusually shaped plots, amidst rock, on top of rock, and adjacent to flood streams. The assumption must be that in this relatively small area there are still nearly 500 such plots waiting to be allocated or that dozens of people are applying for the same pocket. We have been asked by recent visitors in the last week if we would support their application for a plot in the approach area for our plot. They said that they were listed amongst the 474 applicants even though we had not previously seen them or supported their application. The area in question could probably provide someone with a small, irregularly shaped plot but it does allow access to four separate plots even before a fifth is added. In addition, however, the seemingly unutilised space provides a traditional patlelo for everyone living in that ward, and area. Do Land Boards today take account of such needs or, experiencing severe pressure, do they cave in and ensure that in future people living in places such as Oodi will need to seek permission, as in Gaborone, to pitch funeral tents in and across roads, thus closing them to traffic, because areas that had previously been available for such needs had been allocated for residential plots.
The insert, however, was a revelation to me, but for another, very different reason, as I suspect, it must be for you. At its tail end appeared the Kgatleng Land Board’s logo and its presumably routine statement:- ‘Vision: Sustainable Human Settlements. Mission: Management of Land and Delivery of Housing for Socio-Economic Development.’
Pause a moment and we may begin to see where and how some of our current problems originate. For anyone who has had any dealing with land or Land Boards over the last 40 or so years it will be obvious that it is not, and has never been, one of its mandates to create Sustainable Human Settlements.
Nor has it ever been made responsible for the ‘Management of Land’ or, for the Delivery of Housing for Socio-Economic Development. So what is going on? Either we must accept that mission and vision statements can often, perhaps in this case, be merely words which have no particular meaning or relevance or we need to understand that, somewhere along the line, Land Boards were indeed given significant additional responsibilities. But then again, this could, I suppose, be a case of the Kgatleng Land Board having gone it alone leaving the parent Ministry unaware that it had adopted for itself these new objectives. But then we should also consider why the Land Board should have decided to include the newish Botswana brand in its insert. The brand slogan, Our Pride, Your Destination, may be a jolly sort of message for the tourism industry but could hardly be more irrelevant for a Land Board. But that being the case, why include it?
Finally, I should not close off Oodi as a topic, without reference to its two disingenuous bridges. Oodi, with Modipane is already a virtual town. With traffic increasing by the day, those two absurd bridges could well be a safety concern – who would know? – especially as there has been a very significant, predictable increase in the volume and variety of traffic using them.
These crude bridges are narrow and drivers of vehicles are obliged to share the limited road space with donkey carts, pedestrians, cyclists, cattle and goats. In another year or so, these bridges are going to be a major traffic hazard. Something will need to be done fast if the Land Board is to succeed in making Oodi a genuinely sustainable settlement!