‘Batlokwa’s claim to land owned by the Khamas is baseless’

09 Dec 2018

It is certainly a sentiment that will raise heckles but a scholar who has studied Botswana’s history for decades feels comfortable enough to assert that Batlokwa’s claim to the vast tract of land by the Khama family is mistaken.

“It has become a habit of late for some living in Tlokweng to claim that the Khama family took Batlokwa land and are now bound to return it to the Batlokwa. The question is, on what basis do the Batlokwa have a claim to this farm and the 107 freehold 4-hectare plots created in 1987 that form its perimeter?”

None, from what Professor Fred Morton goes on to assert in the 50th volume of the Botswana Records and Notes which came out last week. His summary of events is that when the Batlokwa, under Dikgosi Matlapeng and Gaborone, settled at Moshaweng (as Tlokweng was called then) there was an understanding that the land was under the authority of Kgosi Sechele I of Bakwena. Sechele’s son, Sebele, was regarded by the British authorities as having dominion over Moshaweng and the area around it and in 1895, granted this entire area to the British. In turn and with the exception of a small Crown Reserve, the British granted this land to the British South Africa Company. Thereafter, the Batlokwa became the Company’s rent-paying tenants.

“In 1931, the Company granted to the British that area occupied by the Batlokwa and which then became the Batlokwa Native Reserve,” says Morton, referring by the latter, to what is now called Tlokweng.

Sandwiched between Gaborone and South Africa, the Batlokwa have the smallest tribal territory of all the politically and economically dominant Tswana tribes. Some have explained this land poverty in terms of economic crime committed against the Batlokwa by the founding president, Sir Seretse Khama – who was married to an Englishwoman named Ruth. After acquiring a large piece of land north of Gaborone, the first couple turned it into a farm which they named Ruretse  - from “Ruth” and “Seretse.” In 1987, the land – which was part of “Gaberones Block” that Morton refers to in his historical account - was parceled up for sale. Morton, who lives in Ruretse, says that “it is possible that the Batlokwa were using that land for meraka (cattle posts) and masimo (ploughing fields) prior to the formation of the Gaberones Block.”

The Ruretse issue has never gone to court but if does, it is likely that the documents that Morton bases his research on, will form part of the evidence.