Some residents have been found to abuse the citizen empowerment land dispensation and in the process compromise the food security potential of the eastern corridor.
Batswana may optimally utilise land they possess by introducing other economic empowering activities on up to 50 percent of their agricultural land. This was introduced by President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi in 2018 to empower citizens with the most precious commodity that they have- land. But, sadly some Batswana are subdividing their land into small plots while others sub divide their fields (masimo) into the minimum requirement of 1ha portions and transfer them with the intention of benefiting more from the said fields especially where Land Boards have provision for in-kind compensation.
At the rate at which such sales are taking place, it is evidently clear that in future Land Boards will not manage to acquire land for equitable distribution to Batswana. This turn of events also threatens the food security as it reduces the already scarce productive agricultural land that exists in the country. The eastern part of the country boasts the most fertile agricultural land. The Revised Development Control Code allows Integrated Agricultural Farming ancillary use provision of up to 50 percent of the total area of the land parcel.
It says that supporting agricultural developments and, or activities up to 50 percent considered as ancillary to agricultural land use, do not constitute change of land use. Ancillary developments of up to 50 percent of Agricultural Land would be considered mixed use and would require change of land use.
The policy states that the development control code and other related instruments have been amended to allow changes and no piece of agricultural land shall be subdivided without the permission of the planning authority. Non-Agriculture related developments of up to 50 percent should be allowed as mixed use. Minimum lot size allowed for Intensive Agricultural/National Agricultural Production Zone is 4ha, while minimum lot size for Extensive Agricultural Zone/Ordinary ploughing fields (masimo) is 1ha. This was pronounced by instrument No147 of 2019.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, the ministerial management team composed of all Departmental Directors and led by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation services, Bonolo Khumotaka, shared their views, experiences, concerns and specific amendments regarding the subject matter. What is clear is that the subdivisions and changes of land use to non-agricultural uses by some residents pose several challenges which could leave many poor in the long term, and cause mushrooming of unplanned settlements and villages.
Although the guidelines state that the plot holders or masimo owners should take the responsibility of the cost of infrastructure and other services in accordance with the management team, there is no commitment of such and the problem will still go back to government as it is that population who are also taxpayers who will demand infrastructure and services in future. The Director at the Department of Town and Country Planning, Eunice Mmono said it is important to bear in mind that the land in question is Tribal Land - ploughing fields (masimo) which were allocated on customary grant for subsistence purposes.
It should be borne in mind that fertile agricultural land resides on the eastern corridor of Botswana and that production on that land is important to feed the urban populace which also concentrates on the same belt. Mmono explained that the overall goal of the Revised Botswana Land Policy of 2019 is to protect and promote land rights of all land holders and promote sustainable human settlements. She said it is clear that the sub division and subsequent disposal of land are clearly at variance with the overall goal of the Land policy.
“Batswana are increasingly dispossessing themselves of their land rights for short term gains. They temporarily empower themselves financially which has proved not to be sustainable and government needs to protect these rights”.
She fears that the haphazard and indiscriminate mushrooming of settlements will grow without the requisite comprehensive planning and provision of infrastructure services. She said in as much as the guidelines suggest that landowners should provide for services, lessons learnt from areas such as Gaborone North are examples of such.
These will eventually come back to demand that government should provide such services, as the occupants being Batswana and tax payers will rightfully deserve such eventuality. What puts government in an awkward position is that in some cases transfers are done by the Sub-land boards which do not have jurisdiction. Botswana Guardian has learnt that the current legal position is that any sub-divisions attempted pursuant to these permissions can be rejected by Surveyor General and Registrar of Deeds.
Mmono explained that it is clear that the planning of Tribal Land and changes thereto is the exclusive domain of the main Land Board. In the present case, change of land use permissions was granted by the sub-land board. She said in that case such permissions are not lawful as the sub land board lacked jurisdiction. The Sub Land Board must be instructed to inform the public that it lacked jurisdiction and therefore the permissions granted are invalid. The Land Board can apply to court to declare any certificates issued thereto as unlawful and invalid.