Scores of investors who had ploughed a lot of money in creating sectional title schemes and were facing financial ruin when government insisted that sectional titles could not be registered on tribal and leased land sighed with relief this week when the government was forced to climb down from its position at gunpoint following a costly official blunder.
Mstshediso Investment, a local investor who had spent a lot of money preparing a sectional title scheme on his tribal plot following a written confirmation from the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing threatened to take government to Court.
Among industry insiders who felt the bottom had fallen off the industry was Premier Properties? Luc Van der Casteel who warned that ?the cost to the industry is enormous and to some of the individuals who built schemes, the damages might just ruin them.
? Lawyers will be the only ones benefiting from the mess,? he warned.
The situation was, however, saved by a blunder by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing, forcing government to settle with Matshediso Investment out of court and register the company?s sectional titles on tribal land.
Van der Casteel, who represented Matsediso Investment in the controversial land deal, told The Sunday Standard before the out of court settlement was reached that ?before lodging a scheme on leased land, clarification was sought and the department confirmed in writing through its Permanent Secretary, that schemes can be registered on tribal land. Today, five months later, the scheme has been prepared by the surveyor, as required by the Act, and the client is faced with the Deeds Office who refuses to register the scheme.?
A Deeds Registry internal discussion paper reveals that the Botswana legislation was based on the South African law and did not take cognizance of the peculiarities of leasehold and tribal land.
The Registrar of Deeds, Nchunga Nchunga, confirmed that although their position was that sectional titles could not be registered over leased and tribal land, the Deputy Permanent Secretary told Matshediso Investment in writing that Sectional Titles can be registered on Tribal Land.
?It is possible that the Deputy Permanent Secretary may have consulted somebody, but not everyone is an expert on sectional titles. He pointed out that his deputy was probably the only lawyer in Botswana both in government and the private sector who is an expert on sectional tittles. And his deputy?s position informed that of the Registrar of Deeds that Sectional Titles can not be registered on leased land and Tribal Land. ?This matter is very complex. The only person who is an expert on Sectional Titles is my deputy. The truth is we do not have many experts,? he said.