Landboards: heart of corruption

SHARE   |   Thursday, 09 July 2020   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Khumotaka Khumotaka

It seems Kweneng Sub Land board and corruption are Siamese twins as the two always has a way of finding each other when it comes to land allocation in the Kweneng district.

In March this year, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Bonolo Khumotata slapped 20 employees of Mogoditshane sub land board with suspension   on allegations of maladministration as they have been implicated in the use of inside information to acquire land and benefitted in kind in the current model of compensation.

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“You shall not enter Kweneng Land Board premises or attend to any business or affairs on behalf of the land board without the express written permission from the Land Board secretary,” reads the suspension letter partly.

The suspension of the employees come after a sting operations by members of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime and Directorate of Intelligence Services on suspension that the staff are using inside information to acquire land.

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In order to address land shortage in the greater Mogoditshane sub district which covers areas like Gabane, Mmopane and Metsimotlhabe, Kweneng Land Board introduced the ‘compensation-in-kind’ policy.

The policy was that when one surrenders his ploughing field to the land board he/she will get six plots per hectare.

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This proved to be a golden opportunity for some land board officials in collusion with land grabbers to use inside information to coerce people to surrender their ploughing field and will fast-track  their compensation in exchange of two plots per hectare.

Investigations have allegedly shown that the land board officials colluded with the moneyed expatriates mostly selling second hand cars in Mogoditshane to buy fields from farmers especially the elderly and then surrender them to land board to get the much wanted residential plots within Mogoditshane.

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“The land board officials will inform a farmer that government is going to confiscate the land because there are no developments in it and will recommend he/she sells the land so as to get something. That is when their foreign partenrs will come in with cash,” revealed a source.

It is alleged that some of the land board officials now are land barons in Mogoditshane with some owning more than 20 residential plots which they sell at around P300 000.

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Ministry of Land Management moved swiftly and suspended the policy after it was discovered that this was now turned into land grabbing masquerading as compensation in kind policy.

Heart of corruption

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For time immemorial Mogoditshane sub Land Board has proved that when it comes to corruption in land allocation they are on the league of their own.

In 2010 the land board was closed due to high rate of corruption which involved the officers and most of them were just transferred to other areas.

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In 2014 DCEC investigated a case involving 10 cases of corruption in allocation of land in Mogoditshane and Mmopane. The 10 cases involved over 200 residential plots and land board officials were involved in the deals.

The DCEC uncovered rampant corruption, characterized by illicit land dealings, double allocations, fraudulent allocations, counterfeit land certificates, bribery and abuse of office.

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The land officers are said to be tapping on the loopholes of most of the land being registered manual thus making it easy to tamper with the records.

In the early 1990s the then Minister of Lands and Housing who was also the Vice President Peter Mmusi instituted a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption of land allocations which was headed by Englishman Kgabo known as Kgabo Report.

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Though the report implicated the late Mmusi and the then Minister of Agriculture Daniel Kwelagobe for illegally acquiring land in Nkoyaphiri, they were later absolved by the court of law.

Total overhaul

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Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLMWSS), Bonolo Khumotaka, recently nullified all the results of interviews concluded in March for candidates who aspire to be members of the  landboards around the country.  New advertisements have been flighted calling for fresh applications.

The term of Land Board membership is three (3) years and the tenure of the last Boards elapsed in March 2020. Khumotaka revealed that the ministry management had discovered serious inconsistencies in  selection procedures used by all Land Boards emanating from Regulations which empower Land Board Selection Committees (LBSCs) to formulate their own procedures.

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It emerged that  the processes and procedures adopted by each LBSC during the selection process done in March differed substantially. "The anomalies led to inequities in the selection process, in some cases leading to the recommendation of unqualified candidates. Thus the current selection process is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue in a country instilled with good governance as a basic principle. Taking all these into consideration, the Ministry has resolved to cancel and re-start the whole process and further standardize the selection process across all Land Boards," said Khumotaka.

According to Khumotaka the decision to nullify the selection process was made taking into consideration the extremely important role that  Land Boards have in  ensuring that  Batswana are served and assisted accordingly, as well as ensuring that the economy is revitalised after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. "In addition, the Ministry is the strategic  implementing  authority   of  the  Transformation   Agenda  with respect to land reform and land management for greater economic growth and development," she said. "The Ministry will re-advertise the position for Land Board membership in various media platforms. Eligible Batswana willing  to diligently  serve the nation and drive the Transformational Agenda for  greater  prosperity  are encouraged to  apply.    The term  of the  previous Main Land Board Membership has  been  extended  up  to   31st August   2020  to   ensure continuity of service," said Khumotaka.

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