The Francistown City Council wants government to expropriate tracts of land owned by the Tati company which it believes are proceeds of colonial plunder and has resolved to summon the Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila to come and discuss the issue.
The Tati Company is registered in the United Kingdom and its holding company is a mysterious vehicle registered in the tax haven of Panama, Amarena Holdings, which is ultimately controlled by the The Bernard Glazer Will Trust, incorporated in South Africa.
The Director of Lands, Segomotso Maroba was last week called at short notice to address a Francistown full council meeting on the city’s land issues and was quizzed by councillors on when government would repossess the land from Tati Company.
First to raise the issue was Itekeng Ward councilor Lesego Kwambala, who asked the Director when the people of Francistown will be allowed to repossess their land from Tati Company.
“When are the people of Francistown repossessing their land from Tati Company? To be honest I think we need audience with the Minister because this is a serious burning issue in Francistown which has been overlooked for years. The minister needs to be summoned here to come and explain to us what is happening with Tati Company’s land rights as the company seems to take the people’s land as it pleases,” said the youthful councilor.
Another councilor Gaethuse Ramolotsana of Tatitown said Tati Company was giving them sleepless nights. He said the company had fenced off most of the land in Francistown and has failed to give satisfactory evidence on its land rights.
“The minister should be called to explain on this issue. We feel that the company is simply taking the land that belongs to Batswana and this has been happening for a long time,” he said.
Councillor Joe Gunda of Somerset East complained that “our relationship with this ministry has not been friendly for a long time. We wrote a number of letters to your office concerning land issues but nothing is ever done. I think the people of Francistown are often taken for granted. The director is not helping us but telling us processes and policies which we know. What we want is the answers to problems of land allocations in Francistown by the Ministry. We need the minister to come here and explain. You are unprepared to talk to us madam about this issue. Just go back to Gaborone and next time come prepared with the minister,” said Councilor Gunda
Unconfirmed reports state that together with other absentee landlords and freehold farmers, Tati owns more than 40% of land in the north-eastern Botswana. The company’s 2016 accounts list the company’s portfolio of investment properties as including 12 farms and 11 lots. The total valuation of these properties was about 140-million pula (R181-million).
Councilor, Reuben Ketlhoilwe of Moselewapula ward in Francistown warned that the issue of land in Francistown should not be taken for granted as land has caused wars and bloodshed in other countries.
“Can you imagine, one applies for land in 1989 and are only availed the land in 2019. This is a heartbreaking scenario and this is what is happening in Francistown. I think this is a deliberate move to sabotage the people of Francistown. Land is very important and it can lead to blood -shed and wars,” he cautioned.
In conclusion the seemingly helpless Lands Director said she would take their concerns back to the Ministry.
In August 2003, the opposition Botswana National Front tabled a motion in the Botswana Parliament calling on the government to expropriate all idle and unutilized land held by the Tati Company and other absentee landlords.
The government rejected the motion, saying this would contradict the principles of Botswana’s liberal democracy.