Representatives of Mogoditshane sub-Land board found themselves backed against the wall last week when farmers told them in no uncertain terms that they were not willing to surrender their farms to the state unless measures were taken to correct the wrongs that were committed by land boards in the past.
The farmers, from Bodibane lands between Gabane and Mogoditshane villages in the Kweneng District, clashed with officials from Mogoditshane sub-Land board at a kgotla meeting last week, at which they were to be apprised of the imminent expansion of the village, which would encroach into their farming lands and ploughing fields. The land board also advised farmers about procedures of land organization and urged them to prepare to hand over their fields and make way for future developments.
But the farmers would have none of it, as they told the land board officials to first compensate people who had earlier surrendered their fields for developments.
“People have not been compensated for the fields that your land board took from them years ago. You must first pay the people that you owe before coming to us. Otherwise I am not going to give you my field,” said Gosetsemang Marope.
Another farmer, Ramaphoi Makati commended the land board for trying to make amends, but asked how the land board expected the farmers to trust it when its reputation was already spoilt. He said the previous land board took away people’s farms and allocated them for residential purposes without paying them.
“People were dispossessed of their fields and told to stop farming. Their hearts broke when they saw lavish buildings being erected in their fields while they had not been paid. Some of them died while waiting for compensation. How do you expect us to trust you?” asked Makati.
He accused the land board of treating farmers with contempt after duping them into surrendering their land for developments. For example, said Makati, he had written 19 letters to the land board asking about compensation, not a single one of which was responded to. Kunene Dingwe, a headman of records in Gabane, also narrated how his parents had to wait 15 years to be compensated for a farm that they were told to surrender for developments. He said the land board did not fulfill its earlier promise to the farmers that their children would be allocated plots in the same fields.
“Our parents died while waiting for compensation from the land board. We wrote letters to the land board with copies of our parents’ identity cards attached but to no avail. We were not allocated plots as promised and no one has responded to our letters,” he said.
For his part, Mogoditshane sub-Land board Chairperson, Ramathebe Mmoloke explained that it was not the policy of government to compensate farmers for their fields with pieces of land. He also urged farmers to visit land board offices for their problems to be resolved and promised that problems that occurred during the past will be amicably resolved in the near future.
After lengthy discussions, which sometimes went out of control as farmers became emotional, it was resolved that the land board would give farmers some time to think things over before they made final decisions. At the close of the meeting, the Deputy Chief of Gabane village, Kgosi Sello Pule told land board officials that the root cause of the problems lies with their pride and disregard for the headmen. He urged the land board to work with dikgosi to ensure smooth allocation of land.