Bishop speaks against land grabbing

SHARE   |   Sunday, 13 July 2014   |   By Phillimon Mmeso

The Catholic Church of the Diocese of Gaborone has now opened up about their Forest Hill 9-KO farm which has in the past been a burning issue in political circles. Recently the church came under attack from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) parliamentary candidate for Gaborone South Akanyang Magama who was quoted in a weekly newspaper saying that if voted into power he will reclaim the land owned by the church and re-distribute it accordingly after negotiations with its leadership. The former Gaborone South Legislator is reported to have said said that after six months in power his party will impose land tax on the Roman Catholic Church.

According to BCP 2014 Manifesto, in Pillar 5, the party will impose a tax on allocated freehold land that remains undeveloped beyond the development covenant. Reacting to these sentiments, last week Sunday, addressing members of the church at St Bernadette parish in Gaborone West, Bishop Valentine Seane called on Catholics to be wary of politicians who are intent on expropriating the church’s land once voted into power.

“Be careful against those kinds of politicians as they are talking about the land that is sustaining your church and yourselves. They are directly attacking you because that Kgale farm belongs to you,” said the prelate, to the applause of the congregation. He informed the full packed church that money generated from the farm is used to develop the church in the country and make it self-sustainable. “We use the money to train priests and build new churches around the diocese and if someone talks about taking it away when you elect him/her to power be wary of that person,” he said. The Otse born theologian used metaphors and church hymns to drive his point home about politicians who want to grab his church’s land.

“Tlhotlhomisang thata, itshinkeleng nnete le tshabeng timelo (Investigate thoroughly and look for the truth and avoid being led astray),” sang the Catholic bishop in a hymn which was loaded with a lot of messages to his flock. Seane who is currently on a pastoral tour of his parishes in the southern part of the country said that the Kgale Farm is the treasure of the church which every member must protect against those who want to seize it. Ordained a bishop in 2009, Seane also became one of the youngest bishops in Africa. He leads a congregation of 70 000 Catholics spread across the southern part of Botswana. The church owns large tracts of land in the southern part of Gaborone. BCP parliamentary candidate for Gaborone South Magama rebutted allegations that he said he will repossess the Catholic land and added that he was grossly misquoted. “We are just going to negotiate with the Catholic Church to buy part of their land in order to help ease congestion in Old Naledi,” he said. Magama who is also BCP deputy secretary general said that they will impose tax on all undeveloped free hold land.