Back off!  – Balete declare

SHARE   |   Monday, 18 December 2017   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
Back off!  – Balete declare

In an effort to get its hands and assume ownership of Farm forest Hill 9 KO whose ownership  currently rest with Gamalete Development Trust, Malete Land Board has slapped the Registrar of Deeds, The Attorney General , Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and Gamalete Development Trust with a notice of intention to sue. While the Land Board state that the basis of their law suit rests among others on the fact that “ in terms of section 10 (1) of the said Act ( Tribal Land Act ,of 1968), all rights  and title to land  in each  tribal area listed in the first column of the first schedule shall vest in the land board  set out in relation to it in the second column of the schedule in trust for the benefit and advantage of the citizens of Botswana and for that purpose of promoting the economic and social  development of all the people of Botswana,” Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, other Gamalete royals and the  Gamalete morafe dismiss this as a shady ploy to cheat them out of their valuable asset in favour of  investors. “We believe the land board is in cohorts with the investor, who …. has intentions of splashing about USD700 million for a five-star hotel and golf course to be built in the land,” said Kgosi Tsimane Mokgosi during a press briefing addressed by Kgosi Mosadi and the Gamalete Development Trust on Wednesday. According to Kgosi Mokgosi, it seems as if the land board is succumbing to the pressure exerted on it by the investor and is willing to do anything to deprive Balete of their hard earned land which measures 200 229 hectares and is nestled between mokolodi and the lucrative kgale hills, cutting across the A1 along Lobatse road up to the rail way line.

Echoing the same sentiments, Kgosi Mosadi accused the land board of not being truthful in its dealings with the people of Gamalete, saying it erred by deciding to proceed with negotiations with the investor without  involving them as the rightful holder to the land’s title deed. “It must be noted that we do not have a problem with the investor or with the land being used for something that would benefit our people and Batswana but we believe the right channels should be followed by both the land board and the investor in their quest have the deed of transfer,” she said. According to Kgosi Mosadi, their belief as the people of Gamalete is that the land should benefit morafe greatly. “The whole thing is counterproductive, considering the fact that merafe have for a long time been encouraged to be self- reliant, and this piece of land has been for a long time been the people of Gamalete’s way of attaining the said; self -reliance,” she said, adding that befitting compensation if the transfer was to go through should be made, to ensure that they (ba Gamalete) attain something to fall back on. “This should be an opportunity to uplift those who are underprivileged,” she said. 

It will not the first time that Bamalete will grace the courts (If it so happens) with Forest Hill being at the centre of discussion. In 2010, Quarries of Botswana PTY LTD dragged the Bamalete Development Trust before high Court Justice Key Dingake contesting the latter’s decision to erect a boom which blocked access to its quarry which was gained by way of a road running across Forest Hill, thus denying the company's employees and the people with whom it did business access to the road and to the quarry. Quarries of Botswana  alleged that the trust's conduct was unlawful inasmuch as the farm was tribal land and members of the public, which included its employees and the people with whom it did business, had an unfettered right of access to the land. For that allegation, the company relied on s 7 of the Tribal Territories Act (Cap  32:03) as having converted the farm from private to public land, ownership of which vested in the Malete Land Board; and on the definitions of 'land' and 'tribal area' as contained in s 2 of the Tribal Land Act (Cap 32:02). The applicant sought a final interdict against the respondents. The Bamalete Development Trust resisted the application, alleging that the farm was owned by the Bamalete tribe, as reflected in the registered title deeds, and that such ownership had not been extinguished by operation of s 7 of the Tribal Territories Act as that would have amounted to an unlawful expropriation of privately owned land.

Justice Dingake, however, in his judgment turned down the application, stating that the definitions of 'land' and 'tribal area' as contained in s 2 of the Tribal Land Act could not be interpreted as meaning that all land in a tribal territory was public land vesting in a land board because such an interpretation would be absurd. It would have the effect of taking land from private hands without due process or compensation and that the farm Forest Hill belonged to its registered owner, as reflected in the title deeds.  He also stated that section 7 of the Tribal Territories Act simply incorporated the farm into the Bamalete tribal territory and  did not, upon being so incorporated, become tribal land, hence the Balete tribe, as represented by the first respondent, was the owner of the farm and was accordingly entitled to place the boom across the entrance to the road. The Bamalete are therefore in part basing their argument on Justice Dingake’s judgment and believe that they should be given the primary responsibility of deciding the future of Forest Hill farm and not Malete Land Board. According to the attorney representing Kgosi Mosadi and Gamalete Development Trust, Thebe Ramokhua of Ramokhua Attorneys they are willing to pursue and attain a positive outcome. “Should we not succeed in defending the matter against Malete land board, we will seek resolution from the highest available forum even if it’s a multi- national forum,” he said