A heated debate ensued in Parliament on Wednesday after MPs proposed the introduction of laws that prohibit foreign nationals from owning land in Botswana, with the only option available to them being long term leases.
The suggestion, which came about during the debate of the Transfer Duty (Amendment), Bill 2018 tabled by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, left the house divided with Vice President Slumber Tsogwane strenuously opposing the move.
The Bill's key proposal among others is that the rates of duty charged for the non-citizens should be increased from 5% to 30%, although MPs argued that it is still not enough. In the case of customary land grants, the Duty will be calculated on the aggregate rental payable or on the value of the immovable property leased, whichever is greater.
Tsogwane was not amused by the legislators' proposition for Botswana to stop giving full land ownership to foreigners as this sidelines locals in having access to land. "Should Parliament ever dare to introduce such bombshell piece of legislation, this will lead to a fall in foreign investment, hurt tourism and property industry therefore leading to decline in economy," Tsogwane warned.
"It is not a good idea to be thinking of introducing a law like that. Such laws will scare the potential investors to our country. It won't happen let us stick to the 30% proposal made by minister on the Transfer Duty (Amendment) Bill," he said.
However, the MPs differed with Tsogwane indicating that the impeding ban will not affect the rights of the current foreign land owners as such step should not be seen as threat to foreign investment. Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkaigwa while debating the Bill said the proposed 30% could not any how deter foreigners to buy land or property as government anticipates, calling for a ban. Nkaigwa argued that it is not all about the investors as Tsogwane thinks but it should be about protecting Batswana who are have land in the expense of robust whites monopoly currently.
"Citizens don't have access to land because foreigners continue to own large acres of land at the expense of our people. We should negotiate in this sensitive issue, this land belongs to Batswana not the so called foreign investment," he protested, regreting that in the next 10 years Gaborone will be fully owned by foreigners controlling vital segments of economy such as the property industry.
Supporting Nkaigwa was Lerala-Maunatlala MP Prince Maele who regretted that Botswana for the sake of being sweet to investors remains the one of the least countries that impoverishes its citizens by denying them valuable asset being land. He noted that government should not shy away from banning foreigners to own land but lease so that Batswana can be also accommodated emphasizing that land belongs to Batswana. "Where else in Africa can we as Batswana can own piece of land including these government officials? It is still difficult for me to understand why the foreigners still own large sums of land while our children don't have plots. We should shy away from cracking the whip," Maele said.
Ngamiland most affected
Maun West MP Kgosi Tawana Moremi, who is also the Kgosikgolo of Batawana, was infuriated by the debate on land ownership. Disappointed by what he refers to as the white monopoly of Ngamiland, he said all the blame for the scourge goes to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which prefers whites over citizens in allocating land.
Tawana indicated that the important economic value sectors such as tourism are in full control of the foreigners while the indigenous citizens of the region continue to live in abject poverty. "Ngamiland is the most affected by foreigner invasion in our land. This doesn't seat well with me because I all put this blame on BDP government. What hurts me more is that they even give the whites to run all tourism in the expense of our people, foreigners must not own land at all, it must fall," echoed a clearly wounded Tawana.
Land allocation delays
Gabane-Mmankgodi legislator Mjr Gen Pius Mokgware expressed concern over the delays in allocating land to the locals adding that for foreigners who masquerade as investors is done quickly. He bemoaned that in most areas across the country, locals are made to wait for longer periods to be just allocate d residential plots while on the other hand foreigners own two or more residential plots in the same locality.
Mokgware pleaded with land allocation authorities to expedite the process fairly so as to give the locals' access to land pointing out that Tsogwane could not be defending foreign investment. "I am very disappointed with the Vice President to be concernedabout foreign investment while our people don't have land. He doesn't know the situation we are talking about at all. We call on your government to stop giving our people's land to foreigners," he lashed out at Tsogwane.