- Had wished to reach 100 000 by March 2023 but only nearing 56000 - Issuance of Secure Land Titles stands at over 6 000 - Govt regains 45 000 hectares of Tati Company land

President Mokgweetsi Masisi had desired that by March 2023, Land Boards across the country would have allocated an ambitious 100 000 residential plots, however, allocated plots are now nearing 58 000, according to the Minister of Lands and Water Affairs, Dr Kefentse Mzwinila.

While this is just over the half way mark, Minister Mzwinila views it as a significant feat considering that the allocations are at a rate of more than 800 percent of the average of the past 20 years with the same financial resources and equipment. So far 72 000 plots have been surveyed and ready for allocations.

Minister Mzwinila told the media this week that the ministry is grappling with a number of challenges that include surveying, which is a critical factor of residential plot allocations. Another challenge is conveyancing.

“Plots have to be surveyed and our capacity in the ministry was stretched and we had to reach out to the private sector,” Dr Mzwinila said, adding that a number of Batswana companies were engaged. He further added that the conveyancing aspect also became a challenge because it required legal minds to assist accordingly. He explained that they had to also employ the use of technology to deal with gaps in capacity.

Mzwinila further revealed that transfers have also slowed down plot allocations. According to the minister, ever since the ministry embarked on the plot allocation exercise and increased the pace of allocations, transfers have also significantly increased. “The challenge is that the same people who are tasked with plot allocations are the same people who are doing transfers. More people are selling their plots,” he said, adding that shortly after being allocated plots, they are back to do transfers.

According to the Minister, the ministry has clear data now that shows that the plot application lists are severely exaggerated. “We call people for interviews in order to allocate them plots, but on the day of the allocation, out of a 100, we can allocate around 20 or 30. A lot of them do not qualify for plots because they already have plots,” he said. He further added that some Land Boards now have the opposite of the norm of lengthy waiting lists of applicants, and have waiting lists of plots that are waiting to be allocated. For example, Kgalagadi and Ghanzi Land Boards have plots that are waiting to be allocated.

“We are going to push and ensure that the situation permeates all throughout the 12 main Land Boards, 53 with Sub Land Boards across the country.”

Mzwinila admitted that the ministry started slow in the issuance of Secure Land Titles (SLTs) as a result of teething problems. However, they are optimistic that with the usage of technology and the fact that surveying is proceeding well, they are hoping for significant progress in relation to the issuance of SLTs. He however, regretted that the same people, who are allocating plots, are the same people who are inundated with the task of transferring plots, as well as facilitating the issuance of SLT within Land Boards. “We assure Batswana however that we will proceed with this as professionally and quickly as we can,” he said.

The Minister said SLTs were not just a method of empowering Batswana with their own land as their wealth creation instrument, but also involve a financial benefit to Batswana. He further added that SLTs also offer security of the documents because in the past there have been several issues of fraud with the easy manipulation of old certificates. He further added that the SLT was a direct result of Botswana Land Administration Procedures, Capacity Building and System (LAPCAS), which is a model that sought to eventually enhance government’s ability to issue Land Titles.

Mzwinila is proud that LAPCAS is an ambitious land management tool, the most advanced in Sub-Saharan Africa. “If you are doing something as advanced, complex and technologically advanced as LAPCAS, there will be teething problems,” he said. He said other countries in the region have shown interest in Botswana’s land delivery model and by next year when the country has fully rolled out the issuance of SLTs, many countries will benchmark from the Botswana system.

Mzwinila further said they have made significant strides in terms of land reforms since 2018. They have enabled facilitation of change of land use from ploughing fields to 50 percent or maximum auxiliary use and also change from 50 percent to up to 100 percent to mixed-use agriculture, as well as facilitation of change of land use.

“Many Batswana have taken advantage of this to establish industries in ploughing fields. We have facilitated this even further by placing physical planners within Land Boards. Usually these are located in physical planning units of councils but we are now placing them at Land Boards in order to fast track changes of land use.

The Ministry will now provide water to such enterprises at the cost of the client, because traditionally, government was reluctant to provide water outside water works areas. Hon. Mzwinila said this is because of the success of the land reform agenda because there have been a number of enterprises, for example, those in the tourism sector that have been in need of portable water in such areas. “The Water Works Act allows this to happen in isolation. This is also in recognition that water can be an enabler of economic diversification and job creation,” the minister said.

He further revealed that they are in the process of changing the Developmental Control Code. As part of the land reform agenda, they changed the requirements that needed to be met in order to change use of residential plot to offices, change use of residential to guesthouses. He further said initially there were issues with the number of parking bays one should have, standard of the road that should be servicing the area, but these have been relaxed and have yielded direct benefits. “At the beginning of next year we are going to change further certain aspects of the Developmental Control Code to ensure that land is facilitator of job creation and economic diversification,” he said.

Minister Mzwinila is also happy that government took a decision and was successful in acquiring the remaining land of Tati Company measuring 45 000 hectares in the Francistown area, to address land shortage in the North East district. This is at a cost of P1.412 billion.

This amount will be paid over two financial years. “The purchase agreement has been signed and government now has rights of full access to the land. This is a significant milestone because negotiations by nature can fail,” Mzwinila said.

The Minister explained that the valuations that Tati Company had were over P1.7 billion, and government’s valuation was P1.244 billion. He added that the difference in valuation was brought about by the assumption of the growth of Francistown, which is to the south of the city, among other factors.

“We didn’t have plans for the growth of Francistown because this area was not our land. Since it was their land, they had a plan for a township,” he said. In addition they valued certain things differently, for example, they considered the existence of the Tachila nature reserve in the area.