Fight over Roma riches

SHARE   |   Monday, 21 August 2017   |   By Staff Writer
Fight over Roma riches

The recent resignation of Bishop Valentine Seane as the Apostolic Administrator of Diocese of Gaborone, one of the richest in Africa, has exposed the simmering tensions and terse dealings at the hierarchy of the church.  At the centre of differences with some business people within and outside the church is the two multimillion projects that the church is embarking on – the Kgale Lake City and construction of Commerce Park Phase 4. The two projects, which were supposed to start this year, are said to have put Seane against some very powerful business people who threatened to scandalise him should he deny them opportunities within the two projects. In one instance in a meeting held at his office last year, a top business person with business interest in the Commerce Park Phase 4 project, informed Seane that should he refuse to give them a stake they will expose his scandals to the media. This is said to have forced Seane to break his silence in January when giving a homily at Christ the King Cathedral when he informed the congregants that some people with interest in the church land are trying to blackmail him to give them the land. Seane made the disclosure seven months before he threw in the towel as threats overwhelmed him.

Kgale Lake City

In April 2014, the Roman Catholic Church and ArcSwana entered into memorandum of Understanding which was to run for three years. “During the three years’ period ArcSwana was to carry out all relevant land development activities such as statutory planning approvals, topographic surveys, statutory environmental assessment approvals, all architectural and engineering designs, cadastral survey as well as financial models thus working towards a bankable project,” reads the proposal. Between 2015 and 2016 some influential business people are said to have tried to convince Seane to dump ArcSwana and use their preferred multinational company with some foot prints in Botswana. Last year, Seane is said to have informed them they have settled with ArcSwana as the developer and will be entering into binding definitive agreement with them. A special purpose company was registered called K-Hill proprietary Limited and ArcSwana entered into Binding Definitive agreement with the Catholic church early this year. Heralded as one of the coming opulent places in Gaborone, Kgale Lake View will be situated between Kgale Mews and extending slightly over St Joseph’s college turn off (2.6 km in length approximately) on the western side of the Gaborone to Lobatse road. K- Hill was to pay the Catholic Church P 269 million for the land acquisition which was payable in four years. Kgale Lake City will have an artificial lake constructed between the Kgale Hills with residents having opportunity to have boat cruising and feed the birds as the walk along the lake. Along the lake there will be an apartment tower which will be constructed at the cost of P100 million as well as twenty-one complete built houses with each to cost market value of P3 million.  It will have high density residential plots, commercial plots which will have shopping complex and Hotels which will be built along the lake, a primary school and a crèche. To cater for those who are spiritual and want to connect with the divine, Kgale Lake City will have a meditation (Prayer) hill. All the residential plots will have free hold tittle while all the commercial land, mixed use and civic and community to be on a lease hold of 80 years.

Commerce Park Phase 4

This is another ambitious project by the church in partnership with Wharic Construction which is the expansion of Commerce Park. The project has already started with the construction of internal roads and plot demarcations. Contacted for comment, Vicar General for the Diocese of Gaborone Father Andrew Makgetha confirmed that Gaborone International Commerce Park Phase 4 is currently under construction and refused to divulge information about Kgale Lake City project. 

Catholic net value

The Vatican (which is not the same as the Church) is said to have a net worth of $10 - $15 billion. The Vatican Bank, which has about $8 billion in assets, has often been at the centre of scandal and corruption since it was founded in 1942. The bank closed over 4,000 accounts to weed out corruption and currently has a total of 33,400 accounts as part of cleaning exercise by Pope Francis. The Vatican has two main entities, The Holy See, which governs the Catholic Church and the Vatican City State, which governs Vatican City. What's important to note is that much (perhaps most?) of the Catholic Church's wealth is not in the Vatican. The churches around the globe represent a sizable real estate holding.  The real estate is held by individual dioceses (sort of, regional collections of local churches).

Gaborone Diocese worth P5 billion

Gaborone Diocese is one of the wealthiest in the Southern African region with a net value of about P5 billion. The main source of income is their real estate mostly Forest Hill KO9 farm which stretches up to Tsolamosese. The area houses Game City, Kgale Spar and Pick n’ Pay shopping complexes, Gaborone International Commerce Park, Kgale Mews and Finance Park. According to Turnstar Holdings in 2013 they paid P4,478,524 while in 2014 paid P4,305,271 to the Catholic Church. The company has leased land from the church for 75 years commencing in April 2001. Kgale view residential area is leased to various developers including Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) by the church. Another prominent business operation for the church is Ave Maria Pastoral Centre, which is one of the most sought after venue for events in Gaborone. The church also owns some properties in the main mall including a park space which has been rented out to Orange Botswana. They have several day care centres mostly in their parishes around the country and one senior secondary school being St Joseph’s College five primary schools and one clinic in Kgale.