Ba-Gamalete chief exposes Masisi’s hypocrisy

Bame Piet
VICTORIOUS: Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and Balete in court

Khama advised against Forest Hill Farm court case-Masisi allowed it- Kgosi Tsimane Mokgosi

Ba-ga Malete Deputy Paramount Chief, Tsimane Mokgosi has quashed President Masisi’s recent claims that he had not wished for government to appeal the High Court judgement which had affirmed the tribe were the rightful owners of Forest Hill farm.

When the government lost the case at the Court of Appeal last week Friday President Masisi said, “Politically speaking, we had wished for Balete to get their land, simply because ba ne ba koleka and got a tittle deed. (they contributed money to acquire a title deed) However, the Attorney General decided to appeal to find clarity to some parts of the judgement that affected other pieces of legislation.”

Speaking in an in exclusive interview this week; Mokgosi expressed shock at Masisi’s statement considering that, according to him, Masisi’s predecessor former President Lieutenant General Ian Khama had discouraged the then Attorney General from using the court to assist the Bamalete Land Board to launch an attempt to disposes Balete of their land.

According to Kgosi Mokgosi, although meeting the former President was almost impossible at the time since it could only be facilitated by the then Minister of Presidential Affairs Mokgweetsi Masisi who is now president, a high profile Balete delegation eventually managed to meet him.

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The chief said the purpose of the meeting was for them to request the president to intervene and advise the Minister of Lands to discuss the matter outside the courts.

“When we finally met the Former President sometime in 2012, he asked the then Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme whether they would have wanted to grab the tribal land without compensation if Balete had purchased it anywhere outside the South East District Council. The answer was “No”. At the time Molokomme conceded and said they had understood the Balete claim for their land and that they would revert to us,” the chief explained adding that they were then surprised when the new administration launched a fresh court case to try and wrestle the farm from Balete.

Background of the case is that In 1925, the Bamalete tribe bought Forest Hill Farm for grazing purposes and have owned it since.

However government dragged the tribe to the High Court last year contending that the Tribal Land Act of 1970 and the Tribal Territories Act of 1933 vested all rights and titles to land in tribal areas in Land Boards and that it included the Farm.

The BaMalete Land Board therefore sought a court order to cancel Forest Hill farm Deed of Transfer in favour of the Gamalete Development Trust but dismally failed as the tribe led by their paramount chief, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko opposed the Land Board’s application and won after they successfully argued that their land did not fall within the definition of tribal territory in the Acts.

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The AG appealed hence the ultimate victory for the tribe in the Court Of Appeal which affirmed the lower court ruling last week.

Ba-Gamalete chief exposes Masisi's hypocrisy

Asked what the COA victory meant to his tribe, Kgosi Mokgosi said since the Apex ruling was delivered as recent as last week they still need to call a meeting for the tribe to map the way forward.

“Service providers such as Water Utilities Corporation, Botswana Power Corporation and others have over the years built infrastructure in the farm.

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There are several water pipelines connecting to the North South Water Career to a variety of consumers, and high voltage power lines that were built in the farm without our consent. We should therefore come to an agreement in due course and see how all these are resolved. In March 2021 we saw WUC coming to us saying they were sent by Land Board to clarify on who really owns the land after the High Court ruling that led to this appeal”.

However, there was an investor who had wanted to establish a multi-million Pula project that included a Golf Course, Hotel and residential suburb in joint venture with his partners in agreement with the Land Board.

“All this was a result of a wrong impression by Land Board that they were the rightful owners of the land. Everything had to stop. That is why Land Board decided to go to court. If the investors are still interested they are welcome to start fresh negotiations with us ,” he said.

Meanwhile efforts to speak to ordinary Balete about their knowledge of the Bamalete Development Trust attracted a seemingly reluctant public that did not want to speak publicly about the issue.

A 27-year-old man irking out a living from fixing shoes said he grew up hearing about the Trust but has never seen its benefits. He pointed to a huge shopping complex nearby which he said was built on the land belonging to the Trust.

In the meantime, Balete farmers are welcome to express interest in utilizing the 2,229 hectares that stretches from a portion of land from Kgale Hill, near St Joseph’s Primary School up to Mmokolodi Game Reserve; Otse Farm Quick walk/Rankoromane, and Mogobane Irrigation Scheme.

According to Kgosi Mokgosi the tribe which was among the last to arrive in the country from South Africa during the Bantu Migration in the late 1800s was faced with shortage of land and purchased the farm from Aaron Siew in 1925 as he was relocating to Cape Town.

He further explained that the borderline along Notwane River started as an animal disease control fence, but was later confirmed a boundary line between Botswana and South Africa in 1912, leaving Balete with a few options that included crossing back into the South African territory or buying that piece of land.

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