Colonisers made Balete buy their own land back

Bame Piet

Members of the public got a glimpse of the country’s history on Tuesday when the Government and Balete clashed at the Court of Appeal over Forest Hill K.O.9 Farm near Kgale, and Rankoromane Farm in Otse.

The dispute has to some extent pitted the President’s office against Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete. According to evidence led in court, Balete purchased the land in 1925, and one of the conditions was that the tribe could not sell it without the consent of the High Commissioner.

The High Commissioner was then replaced by the President after independence.

Advocate Dr Sidney Pilane for the Government, argued that the 2021 High Court decision was wrong to recognise Balete as rightful owners of the farm saying the 1973 amendment of the Tribal Territories Act automatically transferred the farm from the tribe to the Landboard.

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Furthermore, Pilane said Balete were unable to pay back the £3000 bank loan which they acquired to purchase the land from Aaron Siew and the government intervened and paid outstanding payments as well as arrears.

However, Advocate for Balete, Geoff Budlender said there was no evidence that the tribe consented to the transfer of the farm since there were no records of any agreement or resolution by Morafe.

He argued that on several occasions the government has purchased portions of land from the tribe, including for the extension of Gaborone dam, and the construction of A1 Road to Lobatse, which proves that they owned the land.

He added that the government was trying to deprive Balete of their right to property, adding that the farm was a freehold property lying in a tribal land and therefore should be treated as such.

“This land is not different from the freehold land held by cabinet ministers, rich people, and others,” he said.

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He warned that the government’s attempt to expropriate the land without compensation could have serious implications for generations to come.

Kgosi Mosadi Seboko said she was only 21 years old when the amendment was made, but stated there was no consent from Morafe to transfer ownership of the land to Bamalete Landboard. She added that the transfer was only for management of the farm.

For decades that followed, government officials and the tribe treated the land as belonging to the Morafe, which Pilane labelled incompetence.

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Judgment has been set for February 17th.

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