- Ngwaketse land board launches probe into controversial list
- Halts allocations due to irregularities
- Unending land probes, suspensions in Kweneng
- Kgatleng legal land tussles halt development projects
- Research paper identifies land allocations as Africa’s largest criminal activity
Ngwaketse Land Board has launched an internal investigation after several applications for residential plots tagged 2007/08 were found on a January 2009 Kanye Sub-Land Board list due for allocations in September this year.
Ngwaketse Land Board is already inundated with enquiries from applicants who were due for allocation because the list did not begin where it ended in 2009. The Botswana Gazette can reveal that the 2009 list is largely made up of a backlog from 2007/08 applications and that most of them do not have application dates.
While the names have already been publicised for allocation in September, the Chairman of Kanye Sub-Land Board, Charles Mosime, says the allocations are likely to be suspended if the ongoing probe finds irregularities.
Asked whether he is aware of people’s concerns, Mosime answered in the affirmative. “Yes, I have been made aware of the discrepancies and have called for a probe into the matter and harmonisation of the land board position with the people’s concerns,” he said. “I can further confirm that the 2009 list has 2007/08 applications on it and I hope we will reconcile all these as soon as possible.”
Mosime called for a report on the probe to explain discrepancies found if the trust of members of the public in the land board should be restored and transparency established.
KWENENG LAND CORRUPTION PROBES
However, land boards in Botswana have been referred to as the heart of organised corruption. The Ngwaketse incident emerges while an investigation into Mogoditshane Sub-Land Board for flagrant disregard for procedures and illegal land trades that began late last year is yet to be completed.
The audit, which was conducted by the lands ministry, raised red flags on acquisition of ploughing fields, sub-division of fields and compensations for these, as well as transfers of residential plots that were offered as compensation.
The principal spokesperson of the Ministry of Lands, Alice Mmolawa, had told the press that it noted that land administration processes and procedures were not followed when dealing with some issues of land acquisition, subdivision of plots and compensation in-kind, hence the investigation.
She said that The Compensation In-Kind Policy was introduced early in 2019 as a way of encouraging people to give their ploughing fields to get residential plots. Initially, one would get six plots for each hectare but this was changed to two. Over 30 employees were found to be in abuse of the provision and were subsequently suspended in April 2020 and some reinstated in September.
Still at Kweneng Land Board, official transfers of plot ownership were brought to a halt to make way for the probe. This has up to-date left some purchasers of plots in a lurch.
“The year has gone by and the person I bought a plot from through a lawyer is still unable to transfer its lease to me because of the investigations,” said one such purchaser who preferred anonymity. “It has begun to get worrisome because in the meantime I am expected to keep paying the financing bank.”
KGATLENG LAND DEBACLES
In Kgatleng, the land board issued a land allocation moratorium in order to investigate several land transgressions and questionable transfers that were taking place at Mmamashia area. The land board Secretary, Tlotlego Rampa, informed councillors of Kgatleng District about this late last year.
The land board was worried that the area is Kgatleng’s expansion area and that it seems a lot of transactions have been on-going there without their blessing. Rampa said it seemed the sub-land board has been exceeding its authority to make executive decisions without the involving of the parent land board.
One such was unauthorised land use changes where some people subdivided their ploughing fields into residential plots. Just a week ago, this publication reported that a long list of names of people due for allocation of residential plots in Kgatleng had caused anger across the district because some of the names were of people who were recently allocated plots. But land board officials defended the accusation of “clumsiness”, saying such are common mistakes in the trade.
However, in October last year, Kgatleng Land Board found itself tussling with lawyers after it had placed a three-month moratorium on land allocations after it was discovered that a sub-land board may have illegally approved some changes of land use without authority. Some owners had already made multi-million pula developments when the land board sought to reverse these allocations and changes.
This was a result of the 2019 presidential directive CAB 14 (A) about facilitation for efficient utilization of land allowing for 50 percent of agricultural land to be used for other purposes for self-help. Many people took advantage of it to buy huge chunks of land to make developments which the land board turned around and said were illegal and therefore should be revoked.
This resulted in a petition to the President and several clients dragging the organisation before the Land Tribunal arguing that they could not be held accountable for land board officers who approved their applications as they had assumed that their decisions were legitimate and had no reason to suspect that they were not.
While the presidency pleaded with the protesters to give the land board a chance to find a resolution, the clients argued that both the main land board and sub-land boards in Kgatleng should own up to their errors or carelessness and not inconvenience them as they treated them as a single body.
The Minister of Lands was unreachable at the time of going to press. The Botswana Gazette would have sought an update on these cases, what the ministry was doing to bring to account those found in violation of the law, and to establish if the turnaround times of land allocations to Batswana were working efficiently.
AFRICA’S MOST UNGUARDED CRIME IS ITS LARGEST
Meanwhile, a Policy Brief by Eric Scheye at Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) titled “Heart of Africa’s Organised Crime: Land, Property and Urbanization,” identifies land allocations, real estate and property development – particularly in urban areas in many African cities – as the largest and most unguarded organised criminal activity on the continent.
Scheye argues that there is little accountability built into land regulation systems and processes that control real estate and property development. This, he points out, enables various state actors to accumulate and distribute property and its benefits as they choose, most often for their private aggrandisement.