David & Goliath Affair

As Gaborone Hotel Expansion Aggrieves Vendors

• Expansion to force informal traders out
• GH manager says the land belongs to them
• Vendors say only two metres were allocated to GH


War has erupted at the Gaborone Bus Station over expansion of Gaborone Hotel into space adjoining it that has been the ‘preserve’ of street vendors for years, The Botswana Gazette has established.

Although the issue started back in 2017, the street vendors are fighting through their organizations, the Botswana Informal Sector Association (BISA) and Thusanang Bagwebi, that are accusing management of Gaborone Hotel of dishonesty for choosing this time of lockdown to displace them “when the matter is still understand discussion”.

“The dispute is about two things – expanding during the lockdown when the matter is still under discussion and expanding beyond what they have been allocated,” said the Secretary of the BISA, Mpho Matoteng. “We are not complaining about the Gaborone Hotel expansion.”

BISA has engaged the Gaborone City Council and the Ministry of Lands and Housing on the issue. “The Ministry of Lands said they have allocated Gaborone Hotel expansion of only two metres into the informal sector space but we were shocked to realise that the hotel management has decided to take all the space,” Matoteng said.

Gaborone Hotel disputes this. Its Manager, Bipin Awasthi, says what they have taken from the informal sector is what belongs to the hotel. “We were allocated this space about six years ago due to our shortage of parking space,” he asserted in an interview.

“It is just too bad because they have politicized the issue. It now appears as if we are bullying the small man, but that is not the case. I understand their frustrations but the truth is that the land belongs to Gaborone Hotel which we have been lawfully allocated.”

Awasthi said he had tried to satisfy everyone by talking with them and providing evidence of Gaborone Hotel’s ownership of the land. However, the issue had dragged for so long that he eventually decided to fence the place up.

“I believe I have done everything that I could do to consult,” he said. “I have even gone to the extent of engaging the police, the council and the complainants.”

But BISA has issues with the Gaborone City Council and the lands ministry over the rationality or justice of allocating their space to what they call “rich guys.”

The informal sector is largely credited for cushioning economies because it is a refuge for people who cannot enter the formal sector. And in an economy that is struggling to create jobs like Botswana’s, experts say the informal sector ought to be protected.

Efforts to reach Gaborone City Council and Ministry of Lands and Housing proved futile at the time ongoing to press.