Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

27 March 2008

Botswana: Monageng Explains Mafenyatlala Deal

Gaborone — The chairman of the Kweneng Rural Development Association (KRDA) board, Shima Monageng has denied that they have sold the Mafenyatlala plot in Molepolole for a song.

He explained that KRDA has leased part of the plot to a local company, Cash Bazaar Holdings to develop a shopping complex. KRDA has been paid P2 million by Cash Bazaar for a 35-year lease. At the end of the lease, the developed plot will revert back to the community or Cash Bazaar can re-negotiate another lease.

In a petition to the Kweneng Land Board, some residents protested that there is no comparable land use change deal that is one sided in favour of the developer than the one that has been entered into between Cash Bazaar and KRDA. The petitioners protested that the interests of Bakwena have not been fully catered for by the proposed land use change.

But Monageng said the Mafenyatlala deal was negotiated for a very long time. The negotiations involved members of the community. "We had to find ways and means of redeveloping the plot and the best development which could bring income is a shopping complex which is not existent in Molepolole. We approached banks to acquire a loan to build the shopping complex which costs P30 million," he said.

However, the banks require a minimum deposit of 10 percent from KRDA, an environmental impact assessment study including architectural and structural plans. Monageng said they faced a challenge because they could not meet the banks' demands. He said this is why they approached Cash Bazaar Holdings to lease part of the plot. He said people are querying the deal because they think that the P2 million that Cash Bazaar has paid KRDA is not sufficient. He countered that the board considered opportunity costs in reaching the deal.

He said one of the advantages of the deal is that the developed plot will continue to be owned by KRDA.

Monageng, who is also a property developer, said the size of the plot leased to Cash Bazaar Holding is five hectares. He estimated that a commercial plot of the same size in Molepololole would cost between P2 million and P3 million. "Any prudent business person would consider whether to sell at a probable maximum market price of P3 million as opposed to having the land developed and lease it for P2 million. If the Mafenyatlala plot was sold it could have fetched P3 million or less," he said.

He said the deal is similar to the leases that Game City and River Walk malls have entered into. He said the River Walk plot was leased to a developer for over P3 million but it is in a prime area in Gaborone. "The brigade in Serowe has also gone into a similar arrangement with a developer," he said. "We are worried about fellow Bakwena who sit back when KRDA is in problems only to be seen to be opposing projects that we undertake. When we took over in 2000, KRDA was owing well over P2 million." The water bill had accumulated to P140,000 in over 10 years. Monageng said the Mafenyatlala Hotel was about to be closed by the council health department because of the dilapidated roofing. "We managed to overcome all these problems without assistance from some of the community leaders," he said.

"Bakwena will be surprised to learn that when we took over, we found that Mafenyatlala Hotel had been sold to a company for less than P1 million. This was for the entire plot and development," he said. He said the company had only paid KRDA a deposit of P200,000. "What surprised me is that our community leaders were not concerned that the hotel was sold for that figure."

Monageng said they worked tirelessly to reverse the deal and reimbursed the money to the company. "If we did not act, the plot could have been owned by a private company and not the community," he said. Monageng said construction work has commenced on the Mafenyatlala plot and the project is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2009.

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