Date set for Balete vs gov’ over Farm Forest Hill 9KO

24 Jun 2019

BY THOBO MOTLHOKA

The case in which Balete are fighting the government over Bamalete Land Boards’ intention to strip them of ownership of Farm Forest Hill 9KO farm will be heard by the Gaborone High Court on October 23, 2019.

The court will rule on, among other issues, whether the Registrar of Deeds should be directed to cancel the deed of transfer No. 387 passed in favour of Bamalete Tribe in respect of the farm under contention.

It will also be decided whether Paramount Chief, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and the Bamalete Development Trust should be ordered to hand over the floating copy of the Deed of Transfer and whether the Bamalete Tribe have been unconstitutionally deprived of their property contrary to sections 3, 8 and 15 of the Constitution of Botswana.

Also to be resolved will be whether the Tribe and Chief were consulted before the amendment of Section 7 of the Tribal Territories Act of 1973.

Addressing tribesmen at the Gaborone High Court this past Wednesday Kgosi Seboko said there was no way she was going to hand over the Title Deed to the Land Board. She said they would continue fighting the government over the issue.

The Balete have long vowed to take the fight to the government in their quest to retain ownership for Farm Forest Hill 9KO farm.

Speaking at a press briefing organised by Bagamalete Development Trust in December 2017 Kgosi Seboko said the freehold farm was purchased through financial contributions by tribesmen back in 1925. “We believe we are the rightful owners of this land as evidenced by the deed of transfer number 387 of 1925 in the name of Kgosi Seboko 1 Mokgosi on behalf of Balete tribe,” she said. She made reference to the Quarries of Botswana V Gamalete Development Trust case at the High Court in 2010 the judgement of which concluded that Balete were in fact the lawful owners of Farm Forest Hill 9KO. In the subsequent appeal by Quarries Botswana, the Court of Appeal (CoA) however ruled against the tribe, concluding that the farm ownership rested with the Malete Land Board.

“The tribe is convinced that the CoA judgement cannot be right,” Seboko told the press. “We should have been consulted extensively by the government before the decision was made to take away the land from the tribe.” She said Balete would not accept being deprived of the investment of their forefathers’ heritage which is of significant value. She said consequently, they have engaged their legal team to assist in defending their claim to the 2,229 hectare piece of land.

The Land Board, Seboko said, had hitherto always treated the land as that of the tribe. “It is now when there is an investor who has shown interest in carrying out developments in the land that the Land Board seeks to claim ownership,” Seboko said.

She said the Land Board should have instead referred the said investor to the Trust.

Giving a legal account of the events surrounding the litigation at the 2017 meeting, Thebe Ramokhua said they had received a statutory notice from the Malete Land Board notifying them that they were instituting proceedings the purpose of which is to obtain orders from the High Court cancelling the title deed of the Balete which denotes their ownership of Farm Forest Hill.

“As a tribe we then made a formal letter response to that notice of intent to sue,” Ramokhua said. He said they notified the Land Board that they would “vehemently and vigorously” challenge the litigation. He said the premise of the application seeking to extinguish the rightful claim to the land by Balete, based on the 1973 Tribal Territories Amendment Act , violates constitutional dictates in Botswana particularly sections three and eight.

Ramokhua said it was a shock to the tribe that more than 40 years since the Tribal Territories Amendments Act there are now some within the government and the Land Board who say that interpretation must be made in relation to the piece of legislation with the intent and purpose to strip Balete of the rightful ownership to the land. Balete and Kgosi Seboko are represented by Motlhala Ketshabile & Co, while the Bamalete Landboard is represented by Pau & Partners. The Registrar of Deeds is Represnetd by The Attorney General.