The churches an eyesore to investors
FRANCISTOWN: Government has reportedly set aside the initial decision by the Francistown City Council (FCC) to suspend the eviction of squatting churches due to the significant growth of squatters in recent times.
The FCC was granted a court order instructing the squatters to move out or be evicted but before to the 2014 general elections, the order was not actioned following the intervention of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership who allegedly felt that the decision would negatively affect it in the election.
The Botswana Gazette is reliably informed that however due to continued growth of church squatting, the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Prince Maele recently met the Francistown councilors, particularly all chairpersons of committees to overturn the suspension and effect the decision to demolish squatter churches. According to the councilors who attended the meeting, it was indicated squatting churches grew from about100 in 2014 to over 300 in 2017. The councilors said although they tried to oppose the decision they failed because the ministry is the one that manages the land. “The decision was above us therefore there was nothing we could do even though we were against the move. We wanted the ministry to at least to come up with alternatives to help these churches with land to worship,” revealed one councilor.
FCC Mayor Sylvia Muzila confirmed the decision but said she is limited to comment on the issue. “What I can confirm is that the ministry has taken decision to evict all squatting churches within the city. The councilors tried to persuade the minister but it was so difficult due to shortage of land,” she revealed.
Muzila said though they tried to be considerate, squatting churches grew exponentially in 2014. “When we took over 71 churches were awaiting eviction but currently they are over 300. This is a significant growth that has also contributed to the ministry’s decision,” she observed.
While the minister responsible could not be reached, Principal Land Officer in the Department of Lands Kenewamang Malgas confirmed the development, saying “All squatters have been notified and advised to apply for the community plots that will soon be advertised.”