The long-drawn-out tiff between government and the Balete tribe over the latter’s right to freehold farm south of Gaborone appears to be resolved ending ten years of a protracted battle.
At a meeting addressed by President Ian Khama in Ramotswa recently, the Minister of Lands and Housing, Lebonaamang Mokalake, told the tribe that the government has put the matter to rest and has asked the tribal authority to identify a freehold farm outside the greater Gaborone planning area ready for sale following which the government will purchase it on behalf of the tribe.
While the tribe holds a legitimate title deed to farm Forest Hill 9 KO resting with the Deeds Registry Office in Gaborone, the government nevertheless, without following the rules of natural justice, tribalised the now prime land in 1973 through an Act of Parliament without compensating the tribe.
The ill-fated farm would in recent years become the subject of a court case in which a quarrying company, Quarries Botswana (Pty) Ltd, challenged the tribe’s legitimacy to hold title to the farm after the company was denied access to a road traversing the farm by GaMalete Development Trust ÔÇô custodians of the tribe’s free hold land possessions. The company initially lost the case but appealed and subsequently won the case.
The government, after waking up from its own blunders by acquiring Balete’s farm without compensation, said it would not want to be seen to be interfering with decisions of the courts and resolved to compensate the tribe with another freehold farm. ┬á
Owing to the acute shortage of land in Gaborone, the government at the start of the negotiations with the tribe needed at least 1 000 hectares of the farm measuring over 2000 hectares, which now falls under the greater Gaborone Development Planning area of 1997-2021.
When the negotiations began ten years ago, the government was prepared to purchase the freehold farm for P90 million (P9 per square metre). Better still, the government was prepared to enter into partnership with the tribe to jointly develop the farm but along the way the government changed tune and said it could only offer the tribe a paltry P5 million so the negotiations collapsed.
The Balete are hemmed in between Gaborone to the north, Lobatse to the south, to the east by South Africa, and to the west by the Kweneng District. Similarly, Gaborone is hemmed in by the Kgatleng District to the north, Tlokweng to the east, Ramotswa to the south, and the Kweneng District to the west.
Other than the farm issue, residents told the President about the lack of residential plots citing that a certain ploughing area called Seuwane south west of Ramotswa was identified for new allocation of residential plots but the Malete Land Board has since suspended the allocations.
Mokalake told residents that the Malete Land Board halted the allocations to resolve the issue of compensation to the people who were relocated to pave way for residential plot allocations – a situation which obtained in 2012. He promised the government would expedite both the compensation and relocation.
But Mokalake did not end there. He berated the tribe for the tendency to transfer residential plots which┬á he suspected were actually being sold to foreigners.
“In 2010/2011, the land board allocated 226 residential plots. In the same period, 312 were transferred,” said Mokalake. “I am not saying they were sold. In 2011/2012 period 339 residential plots were allocated and 373 were transferred. In the period 2012 to date, 95 residential plots were allocated and 297 were transferred”.