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Allocate Plots, Developments Will Follow

MONITOR EDITOR
Land Boards across the country are sitting on land application backlogs that number over half-a-million, some date as far back as the early 1990s.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee hearing last week, accounting officer at the lands ministry, Bonolo Khumotaka revealed the number of applicants on the waiting list to be over 650,000. She attributed the delays in allocating plots to increasingly landless Batswana to the price of servicing the land before allocation and the reluctance of some people to release land to government.  As Khumotaka put it, to prepare land for allocation, one plot would set back the State by P150,000 or close to P100 billion for the whole waiting list (a whopping 650,000). The servicing means connecting water, electricity, drainage systems and in some instances, internal roads. Government’s land policy is that land must be planned and surveyed before allocation. This system may have had good intentions, but it also comes with its own baggage. Land Boards across the country cannot meet targets to allocate land, as the land is there, but not serviced. The land policy in the long run will come in handy as people need social amenities, but in the short term it is impractical looking at the growing anger from the public. People want land. 650, 000 of them. The number of buildings, both residential and commercial buildings, sprouting across the country as soon as land is allocated, can evidence this hunger. While the cost of servicing land is understandable owing to other needs like education, health and others, honestly there should be a way around the issues with the central aim of

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reducing the backlog, and perhaps by a miracle, ultimately eradicating it. If it takes on average over 15 years for one to be allocated a residential plot, it means Vision 2036, just like 2016 would be an illusion; just another pie in the sky. Maybe time has come for authorities to relook the land allocation process so as to speed up processes by exempting servicing. As has been attempted in other jurisdictions in the past, maybe it is high time land is allocated without the prerequisite services, which can follow after the allocations.  By all means and purposes, Botswana’s population of less than three million people is still relatively small to warrant such delays in giving land to its people, hence the lands ministry should look at other options. Also, in other land tenure systems like freehold, people have become innovative in developing their own plots. For example, Gaborone North has become one of the most sought-after suburbs after Batswana took it upon themselves to develop their plots while bowsing water from elsewhere.  In some places, people use solar power while others access their properties on dusty and bumpy roads. With such innovation around, what will be so difficult to allocate  State or tribal land? People desperately need land right away and should not have to wait a lifetime to get it, only for them to wind up worrying about developing the plot in the eve of their lives already past their prime.



Editorial

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