Land Tribunal President, Gaesiti Baruti, has fined Ngwaketse Land Board, its Secretary, Gabofete Raditladi, and its Chairperson, John Ikgopoleng, P600 each for contempt of Court.
The fines have to be paid not later than the end of June.
This follows after they ignored or not acted on a Court order issued by the same Court on 13 December 2005, instructing them to reconsider an application by Leaf Mfetane for a “beef production” farm in Sekhutlhwane.
On fining them, Baruti said that there is no doubt that the three had acted in contempt of Court because facts indicated as such.
He pointed out that there was a valid Court order, which had been made known to the respondents, being the land board, its chairman and secretary, in their course of work and also pointed out that the three had never disputed knowledge of the order.
Baruti also said that they had reconsidered Mfetane’s application on the 18 and 19 of December, 2006 whilst the order had stipulated that they should reconsider it by June 2006.
After the stipulated six months, they again are said to have failed to comply with the order for a further six months, from July to December 2006.
This, he said, meant that they had sat on the case for a complete period of a year without complying with the Court order.
“Was their disobedience willful? Was their conduct bona fide?” he asked.
Baruti further said that, for the period of the six months, they had sat back and said nothing to the parties concerned, adding that if they at all had a problem with complying with the Court order, they could have approached the Court and applied for its amendment.
Baruti said they did not do so and that they did not offer any reasonable reasons for failure to do so.
Had they sought to respect the Court by complying with its order, he said, they could have come across the problem of the Department of Animal Health and Production well on time, adding that they were only stirred into action when the Department wrote to them.
The Land Tribunal President said that there was no evidence that the three had approached the Department or made it aware of the Court order. This department, he said, therefore, did its work at its own leisurely pace.
He charged that the land board and its officials therefore failed to do what was reasonable, willfully disobeying the Court order and failed to advance reasonable explanations for their failure.
The background of this case is that in 2003, the Ngwaketse Land Board advertised for some ranches in the Sekhutlhwane area within its territory. The advertisement urged members of the public who were interested in being allocated the land to apply to the Ngwaketse Land Board.
Mfetane filed his application, which he titled, “Beef Production and Dairy”.
The Land Board wrote back to him, advising him that the heading of his application was wrong and advised that it should, instead, read “Beef Production”.
Mfetane, on receiving the letter, wrote back asking if it was not possible that the words “Beef Production” only be used in the application.
The Land Board did not respond for a year. When it did reply, it said that the application had not been successful.
Mfetane then appealed to the Land Tribunal, which ordered that the application be reconsidered within six months after the order was made and this was not done, resulting in the contempt of court fines.
This is not the first time the Land Board and its officials were found guilty of contempt of Court.
In the past, the Kweneng Land Board, along with its former secretary and chairman, were all found guilty by Baruti and were only saved from civil imprisonment by the High Court, which quashed both their sentences and fines.
Besides that, the Kgatleng Land Board is still to carry out Lobatse High Court orders that demanded it to demolish some houses built on land which the Court had established was illegally acquired.
The order was issued three years ago.
Its officials say that they are giving the owners of the houses a chance to negotiate with higher authorities on the issue.
A similar case is that of the site where former Mochudi Wholesalers used to stand. The building on that site is still standing though the Courts have found that it was not built in accordance with Council regulations.
Some people are accusing the Councils in the country of only acting and demolishing houses belonging to poverty-stricken citizens, whilst the same is not the case with their rich counterparts, whose properties remain standing years after such court orders have been issued.