The land question and the 2014 General Elections

SHARE   |   Sunday, 06 July 2014   |   By Dr Boga Manatsha
The land question and the 2014 General Elections

I have been hibernating for some time. I am back to continue with my discussion on the issues close to my heart: ‘The Politics of Land”. This October Botswana will be holding its general elections. South Africa and Malawi are done with theirs. In both, we have seen the controversies and complications of the concept of ‘democracy’ in postcolonial Africa. The problem with Africa is that the word ‘democracy’ is mainly best used when it suits those in power. When they lose or face threats from the opposition, they blame others for their ineptness and bestial arrogance which alienate them from the masses. Likewise, some opposition parties lack internal democracy. Some devote their energies criticising the ruling party, which, unfortunately, make those they criticise popular. Botswana is no exception.

In South Africa, Julius Malema’s party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, an off-shot of the ANC, made some significant inroads despite it being relatively new in the race. Malema and his red-beret comrades are very vocal, radical and anti-status quo-the Che Guevara type! They capitalise on the land question and the lack of economic freedom for the blacks in South Africa. This is what define them and they have a strong appeal from the youth, mine workers, Abahlali baseMjondolo or the Red Shirts (those living in squatter camps/informal settlements) and the farm workers, amongst others. Anyone who listened to Malema and his lieutenants would agree with me that their political discourse is real ‘African’: Land and Peasant Revolt, Mass Consciousness, Calling a Spade a Spade, Political Struggle and Anti-Colonial Rhetoric, Nationalism and Nationalisation and Africa-for-the-Africans were the real political slogans in the 1960s! Since 2000, after Robert Mugabe grabbed the white-owned land, these slogans appeal to many Africans, but in Botswana, they are viewed as regressive and anti-liberal. Yet the land question will haunt this country and politicians this year. Many will find it difficult, as usual, to address the land question honestly and with its deserved vim and verve. Many will not dare, I say, talk like Malema! Yet we have problems of absentee landlords in this country, elite-capture of land from the poor, biased policies and the state-sanctioned repossession of land from those perceived to be ‘not serious’.

The purpose of my column is not to talk about democracy in Botswana, but to discuss the broad theme of land within the context of a democracy. I will broadly explore this issue (the politics of land) especially that in Botswana, since 2012, there has been heightened debates on or over the land question. Botswana’s political parties, the ruling and opposition, I dare say, do not have clear and robust policies to address the land question in this country. The voters should then ask them tough questions at each and every freedom square gathering and the radio/TV debates that are up-coming. The youth, especially those in town, should take political parties to task on the land question. There is a lot of lip-service by politicians in Botswana with regard to the land question. Readers should look forward to a balanced and fair analysis as I attempt to provoke a sustained public debate. Generally, Batswana are uneducated about their land rights, and surprisingly they feel that talking about them openly one is being disrespectful to those leading us.  Let me remind all that ownership of land is your right and not a privilege. Therefore, You, I and All deserve to fully know our rights to land. I will thus attempt to assist you to ask politicians informed questions as far as the land issues are concerned ‘Fatshe leno la rona’!