Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fight for land-Balete

Balete have vowed to take the fight to the government in their quest to retain ownership of Farm Forest Hill 9KO farm. Speaking at a press briefing organised by Ba Gamalete Development Trust on Wednesday in Ramotswa Balete Paramount Chief, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, said the tribe had taken a decision to oppose a court application by the Malete Land Board that seeks to cancel the tribe’s claim to Farm Forest Hill 9KO. The freehold farm, Seboko said, 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,” Seboko 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, the Trust’s legal representative Thebe Ramokhua said they received a statutory notice from the Malete Land Board notifying them that they are 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.

“This is rather strange. Why didn’t the government back in 1973 move an application to have the title deed cancelled and declare Farm Forest Hill a public land?” he asked rhetorically . The lawyer says all the 1973 Amendment Act does is to delineate and set clear coordinates for various tribal territories. The purpose of the Amendment, Ramokhua said, was just to incorporate Farm Forest Hill within the extent of the Balete tribal territory.

“That has always been our understanding,” he said. “There is a certain measure of executive audacity in seeking to expropriate in an unlawful fashion, what is a piece of private land.” He said all they are doing is to challenge the lawfulness of the government’s intended course of action. Deputy Chief of Balete, Tsimane Mokgosi said a company known as Alebeng Investments, had expressed intentions to introduce P7 billion worth of developments in the land that include a seven star golf resort. 

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