- Minister Mzwinila decries lack of funds to allocate land
- Land Boards to repossess undeveloped plots
- ‘Servicing just a single plot could cost Govt P150 000’
- Allocating land is a cheapest thing to do – land expert
The Minister of Lands and Water Affairs (MLWA) Dr Kefentse Mzwinila has regretted that his ministry is facing budgetary constraints to speed up land allocation, which he said was expensive.
This is despite him making a declaration that his ministry will allocate 100 000 plots this year.
Desperation by the citizens to own single residential plots has been growing with government getting a lot of backlash from land activists, individuals and civil society owing to the slow allocation rate.
According to Mzwinila, the process of land allocation needs resources in terms of money but his ministry is currently facing budgetary constraints.
He stated that the 100 000 residential plot allocation target is very ambitious amid existing challenges. “We are concerned by high number of people on the waiting lists and we are doing all our best to expedite plots allocation. However, we need resources and we don’t have them. We need to first buy land, service it and allocate it. We are committed to fast track allocation,” he indicated.
The minister said servicing land alone which include water connection, electrification and sewage system connection is very expensive, requiring P150 000 from government to service one plot.
He lamented that the other important process of land allocation being Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is also expensive as it costs between P15 000 and P20 000 for one plot.
“There is a lot in terms of budget that is required for the ministry to allocate land efficiently. I understand the frustrations of Batswana who don’t own a single plot. However, we are also worried by some people who still apply for land while they already own a plot,” he added.
Dr Mzwinila said the law provides that no person must own more than one plot in tribal land.
As a result, he said, the ministry will clean the waiting list to ensure that only people who are yet to own residential plots are the ones who put forward when the land allocation process is expedited.
Meanwhile, land surveyor Gilbert Sesinyi said the claims made by the minister that allocating land is expensive are not substantial, emphasizing that land allocation is the easiest thing to do.
“Only servicing could be expensive when people are in possession of land and have to develop. What expense he is talking about in just distributing a piece of plot? We have experts and in line to assist. I can do it for them for free with volunteers because it is a noble thing to do,” he said.
In addition, Sesinyi said he thought that the ministry had surveyed all the layouts during Land Administration Procedures, Capacity Building and System (LAPCAS), which gobbled millions of Pula.
Sesinyi said now it is a question of just showing people their plots, dismissing the ministry on its bone of contention that it lacks funds, adding that they like to ‘rocket science’ everything.
Dr Mzwinila also raised concern about the absent land boards who don’t develop their plots.
He said the land boards will embark on repossessing the undeveloped land from the owners.
“Land boards normally can take 2-5 years to repossess the land if not developed. But as a caring government sometimes we don’t want to be harsh by taking back land. Land is very emotional, it can cause instability if it is not handled well. We urge owners to develop their land,” he said.
However, Sesinyi said it is disturbing for the minister to boast about repossessing land from owners.
“How do you expect a person to develop a plot that has no basic services,” he asked rhetorically.
Commenting on the water sector, Mzwinila said a lot of progress has been made around water provision to the country, pointing to implementation of projects that will improve water supply nationally.
He singled out water treatment plants in Palapye and Mahalapye, and the Kanye North South Carrier pipeline and Masama pipeline. He said the World Bank funded water projects are taking shape in Nata and Boteti.
The World Bank in March 2017 approved a $145.5 million (P1.5 billion) loan to Botswana for the emergency water security and efficiency projects with water drought stricken Nata and Boteti included. Minister Mzwinila said their target is to see Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) as a regional excellence centre by 2023 when it comes to water supply.