In a strange turn of events early this week, Mascom Mobile Network was issued with a 50-year lease agreement by the Kgatleng Land Board (KLB), for its transmitter which is located at the top of Phuthadikobo hill in the Bakgatla tribal territory.
That is despite the fact that the location of the tower is contested by the tribe both on the basis that it emits electro-magnetic radiation and that it has not been properly allocated.
The certification of the stated plot has been viewed by some as a slap in the face for Bakgatla, especially Kgosi Kgafela II.
Roseline Kedimotse, KLB Secretary said, “This is nothing out of the ordinary.”
She argued that the issuance of the lease agreement has nothing to do with the conflict between the tribe and Mascom, as we are only completing a process that started with the granting of Mascom’s application some five years ago.
Kedimotse added that as far as the Board is concerned, “we have observed all the procedures necessary in allocating the Mascom plot.”
She also stated that currently there is nothing compelling the Board to review its decision.
However, the Board Secretary acknowledges that Bakgatla Chieftaincy (Bogosi) had forwarded a complaint to them sometime towards the end of 2008..Apparently, that entailed a copy of a letter written by Kgosi Kgafela II to his uncles indicating that he contemplated relocating from the Royal Palace as he feared for his family’s health and the Queen mother’s as well.
After receiving the complaint, the Board looked at it and decided it needed to meet both parties (Bogosi and Mascom), albeit separately.
“We then decided afterwards that the Board had played its part, and further that once the two have struck a deal, the Board would then be ready to come in and assist as would be appropriate,” stated Kedimotse.
She said this message was duly relayed to the Bakgatla chieftaincy in March this year, whereupon they were advised of Mascom’s readiness to enter into dialogue with them and amicably resolve the issue.
Notwithstanding this, a spokesperson of the Bakgatla has told the Sunday Standard that Mascom, to this date, maintained a recalcitrant attitude.
“They are giving us a deaf ear,” he said.
“Thus the decision to destroy the tower may not altogether be divorced from the loss of patience by the tribe with Mascom as they would not sit back when their Chief was imperiled by some inanimate lethal device,” argued one independent analyst who preferred anonymity.
To make matters worse, the only way that either Mascom or anyone could access the point where the tower is located is by either going through the Kgotla from the western side of the hill or through the Royal Palace’s entrance from the Northern side of the hill.
Against this background, the entrance from the Northern side, which goes through the Royal Palace, has now been sealed off with a steel gate labeled “Private Property”.
In this connection, Kgafela II said, “Whoever enters through this gate shall do it with a very clear conscience that they are now treading on somebody’s private domain.”
Several attempts made by this reporter to meet the company’s Communication Head, Meshack Mokone, and or the Chief Executive Officer have not yielded fruit.