Has the establishment of Land Boards improved land management?
Land has throughout the world led people to civil strives and even wars. In colonial Africa where the imperialist came and took large chunks of land away from the indigenous people the struggle for independence involved demand for the return of land.
In some countries today people have turned against their governments on the question of land. Throughout history people want to have access to land and it maybe because of this that people sometime resort to self-allocation of land, when perceived or real that the land authorities ignore the people. Land distribution and allocation must be done in a manner that is transparent and equitable. Without this, peace, justice and public order become an illusion.
In traditional Setswana setup land administration was regulated through customary land tenure system, with the Kgosi leading the process of land distribution and allocation.
This was passed from generation to generation. Kgosi as the leader did not administer land exclusively but did so through a web of subordinates (magosana) and clan leaders (bo-ra-lekgotla). Distribution and allocation of land was done in a manner that ensured every tribesman had a piece of residential or ploughing plot. Through a network of tribal leadership each member of the community took responsibility to know which land was allocated and which land was never allocated. The whole process, though not perfect, was involving and the whole community took responsibility in ensuring that there were no duplicated allocations of plots.
At independence when the new dispensation was ushered in the founding fathers rightly or wrongly thought that in a new democratic Botswana, some feudal systems did not augur well with the new systems and had to be discarded. One such process was the administration of land. The new government sought to correct this, by introducing The Tribal Land Act of 1968 (as amended in 1993) (CAP32:02) which aimed to establish Tribal Land Boards amongst the so-called eight main tribes and other areas like Tati, Chobe, Gantsi and Kgalagadi.
The Land Boards were established with a clear purpose to give a more effective management of land. Part VI Section 13 of the Act clearly summarised the functions of the land board in relation to customary land tenure to include takeover of the role Dikgosi had over this. Land management experts have argued that as the country advanced economically and the demand for land resources by Batswana increased, it became further apparent that the traditional land management could no longer live up to the development. It thus became more difficult to execute land matters in an equitable and social just way. But have Land Boards lived up to legal and societal expectations?
Lately through Botswana citizens have hundreds of cases that effectively show that our land boards have become masters and not servants of the people. A visit to the Land Tribunal (later development in land administration) would confirm that all land boards either consider themselves above reproach or are clueless of what is expected of them. The officers of land boards are godly and ordinary citizens have a mammoth task to access official assistance. Sadly, throughout this country land boards do not even follow their set standards.
A lawyer friend of mine tells me land boards have become so “powerful” that they have developed the nerve to contemptuously disregard orders of the Land Tribunal. Would it be wrong to say the establishment of land board has not lived up to the expectation of the founding fathers? Would it be right to say there is mushrooming of illegal settlements through the country because land boards are manned by officials who have become some demi-gods?