Scramble for land hits Marapong

Fatshe leno la rona: Applicants at an allocation of plots in Ramotswa, 2012
Fatshe leno la rona: Applicants at an allocation of plots in Ramotswa, 2012

The chaotic scenes countrywide where landseekers have slept in bushes overnight only to stampede in the morning to apply for desperately inadequate plots, was replicated last week in Marapong.

MARAPONG:The scarcity of land is becoming acute – a situation that forces Batswana to scramble for the few plots available whenever an opportunity for land acquisition opens up. Last week multitudes thronged Marapong Sub-Land Board premises hoping to be among those on the list to be allocated land.

Batswana were invited to apply for land in 17 villages through the Marapong Sub Land Board. Close to 4, 000 applications were submitted for the few plots on offer, with Chadibe village alone receiving more than 2,000.

At the Marapong Sub Land Board on Thursday, the Mmegi news crew found hundreds of people blocking the entrance of the premises in a scramble to get inside.

They were even hostile towards this correspondent who wanted to carry out interviews with the Land Board management. Landseekers in the throng believed the correspondent wanted to use underhanded tactics to jump the queue.

The majority of the people were the  youth who in recent years have been said to be the most affected by land shortage.

In an interview with The Monitor, the registration officer, Bapati Dijeng, revealed that even though multitudes of people flocked to apply, only a few would be allocated land because of the shortage.

“We have few plots available for allocation. Applicants should know that even if they have dropped their application forms this is not a guarantee that they will be given plots,” she said, adding that those who will not be successful will be put on the waiting list.

“We have opened land applications in all our 17 villages, but we do not know how many people will be allocated land. The land applications came as a directive from the (Lands and Housing) ministry and we do not have a closing date yet,” said Dijeng.

Dijeng said land officers had noted increasing desperation among landseekers, looking at the numbers turning up for application.

“Last week Wednesday the turn-out was worse and it forced us to ask for assistance from the Botswana Police Service who managed to control the situation,” she said.

An applicant, Kagiso Matshameko, 31, said he arrived at around 4am from Francistown hoping to be among the first people in the queue last Wednesday. Instead, he found many people already in the line and ended up leaving without being assisted.

“Today I’m happy that I managed to drop my application even though the response might come after 10 years.  To own land nowadays is not easy,” said Matshameko.

Masego Jeremane, 35, who lives in Selebi Phikwe, said she was forced to spend a night in front of the Land Board premises in her car, just to be one of the first people to drop their applications.

She said that the majority of people arrived as early as 2am and by 4am hundreds of people were already waiting in front of the premises.       “I do not think those who arrived at 7am will be able to apply unless they sleep here.  I have applied for a residential plot at Chadibe village because it is situated near Francistown,” she said.

Said Nicole Montsho, 20, who applied for a residential plot and a commercial plot at Mathangwane: “There is no land and I do not want to stay within an extended family forever.  I just want to apply even though the allocation may come in 15 years.”

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