The 1st of April marked the beginning of a countdown to President Khama’s departure from office and this is what preoccupied many people’s minds over the past weekend. On the other hand, the day marked the beginning of a new three-year contract for Land Board members around the country.
I have worked with General Khama as one of his trusted advisors while he was Commander of the Defence Force (CDF) even though we now are found in opposing political parties and ideologies. However, I still would want to be his chief advisor when it comes to issues of land.
I still believe that President Khama can make a twist on his legacy if he could make a landmark decision on the land issue. By the way, last year I petitioned the president on several issues around the land issue. I know he is doing something about the petition as I have already been briefed. I will in no way discuss the issues in this opinion piece.
The new issue as I may call it arises from the recent appointments of people who are to occupy office in the different land boards. For the reader’s information, there are 11 land boards in Botswana with several subordinate land boards under them.
The land policy demands that the members of these land institutions be appointed every three years. There is a lot of abuse of power by the land board secretaries in the appointment of the board. The interests of the secretaries matter far more than what may be the needs of the people (the demos).
The current system of appointment has allowed corruption to thrive and secretaries cannot be taken to task in any way nor are they accountable to anyone. They are accountable only to themselves and not even to the minister responsible for this portfolio. Apparently the appointments are done by the minister. But the truth of the matter is; the minister only serves to signature and rubber stamp the wishes of those who are holding our tribal land tenure system at ransom.
Initially the appointments were transparent as candidates were chosen at public kgotla meetings. Apparently the unemployed youths came to hijack the system and elected those of their kind into power. That did no seat well with government and the results of such were reversed.
I believe we need a hybrid of both systems. This would allow the minister to appoint two members and the rest would be elected by the public. At the moment we can only watch as the boards mismanage land in this country and we totally have no say in the selection. Members of the public have no recourse if they feel aggrieved by the way land is being administered in their locality.
The ruling party has on the other hand hijacked the system. In Mabutsane Su-Land Board, all members are known to be activists of the ruling party. Is this a mere coincidence? Any right thinking individual will not believe that it’s a pure coincidence.
President Khama must rein in on the land boards. Minister after minister at the Ministry of Lands and other things will not make any difference. Mr. Nonofo Molefhi should have stayed longer at this ministry because he understood the tricks of the game.
President Khama must open up public participation in the selection of the boards. This will be the starting point to break up the land syndicates that are running this country. Land is the basis for all economic production and the way it is administered affects the economy.