The war between Francistown City Council (FCC) and Tati Company over land ownership in Francistown has reached a boiling point as the councillors are demanding that Tati Company (TC) sell its land to government or they will simply mobilize the community to take it by force.
The councillors maintain that the land owned by Tati Company was acquired fraudulently from the natives during the colonial era.
Last week FCC and Tati Company held a heated meeting at Thapama hotel in Francistown over this land issue. Tati Company a controversial British company which is owned by the Bennet Glazer Will Trust, incorporated in South Africa currently owns huge chunks of land in the North East District and Francistown. The company deals with selling and buying of real estates. FCC is also at logger heads with Tati Company over a farm it acquired from the company for denying it access to the farm. FCC has since threatened to take legal action against the company over this farm.
Giving a brief overview of the company and the land issue during the meeting, Ogaisitse Khama who is the General Manager of Tati Company Limited said Tati Company came into being in 1900 in North East and Francistown before Botswana got its independence and was previously Tati Concession limited.
“Formerly known as Tati Concession Limited, Tati Company was initially owned by the European businessman Cecil John Rhodes and the company’s main interest was to explore for gold. As you may be aware, the first gold rush in the region was in Francistown. The company was broke and it was later bought by another businessman Bennet Glazier from Europe in 1954” he said.
He said the land had been previously marred by disputes following Difecane wars in the historic days. The Bakalanga and Bakhurutshe who lived in the area had been displaced by these wars. He said due these conflicts the British government as a protector of the then Bechuanaland Protectorate was the custody of the land and gave the title of the land to Tati Company (the then Tati Concession Limited). Khama said in 1966 when Botswana attained its independence from Britain, Botswana government approached Tati Company as it needed land for its people. He explained that in 1969 an agreement was reached between Botswana government and Tati Company and the company donated most of the land to government at no fee.
“What Tati Company retained was some farms measuring 22 000 hectares in the North East District. In Francistown all the land was given back to the government except for the 10 percent in high value income areas and commercial land. Tati Company has no land in the North East District except for a few farms. The company is currently owned by the Glazer family as a Trust,” Khama explained.
He said subsequent to this agreement, Tati Company has since developed most of its land and sold some of its land. The major client of Tati Company is believed to be Botswana government. Khama said Tati Company continues to contribute significantly to the development of Francistown through employment creation and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Regarding the conflict regarding access to the farm by FCC, he said the issue will soon be resolved.
However the councillors could not take kindly to the historical events and explanations seeking to clear misconceptions by Khama. First to fire the salvos was special elected councillor who is also Francistown former Mayor James Kgalajwe. He warned that for the company’s own good, it should sell the land to government before them as politicians mobilize the community to take it by force.
“This land issue should not be taken lightly because it has divided nations and caused bloodshed in other African countries. As you mentioned the British wanted to protect North East as they were our colonizers. What boggles my mind is that after independence they did not want to return all the land to its owners and the land ended up in the hands of the Glazer family.” he said.
“This land belongs to the people and we feel that you should sell it to government in a cordial manner or us as politicians will mobilize the community to take it by force. The coming generations will obviously need their inheritance and they will too obviously demand the land by force. You should be warned,” he added.
Another councillor, Joe Gunda slightly differed with Kgalajwe as he called for drastic measures to be taken against Tati Company without compensation. He said the land was acquired fraudulently from the natives by the colonists and should be returned to its owners with no compensation.
“What saddens us as the city authorities is that we have often called Tati Company to meet and talk over this issue but they have often refused. People in Francistown and the North East District do not have land for residential purposes and farming. Just bring back the land with no compensation,” he said.
Lesego Kwambala another councillor also shared the same sentiments with Gunda. He said it was disappointing note that the company owns 10 percent in Francistown alone when people do not have land.
“What also raises eyebrows is that Tati Company owns huge chunks of land which is not developed but it is never repossessed unlike ordinary citizens. Land is an important resource and the company should bring back our land. I am also disappointed by your presentation as you failed to explain in detail how much land you own and where exactly,” said the youthful councillor.
Some of the councillors called for the owners of Tati Company, the Glazier family to be summoned to the city council try and resolve this issue of land ownership.
While most of the councillors could not take kind to Khama’s explanations, the seemingly helpless Khama in conclusion pleaded for calm and assured the councillors that Tati Company is a duly registered company. He emphasized that the company has a title to the land it owns. He implored the councillors to challenge the issue through legal means as enshrined in the constitution of the country if they feel entitled to the land.