Kgatleng fight for land reaches a deadlock

Bame Piet

We never said people should develop or sell – ministry

The ongoing dispute over land use between Kgatleng Land board and field owners who have changed the use of their plots from ploughing to mixed use has reached a deadlock with the Ministry of Lands, Water and Sanitation Services digging its heels in and refusing to regularise the new developments.

While the ministry does not deny that that President Mokgweetsi Masisi had in 2018 issued a Directive authorising Change of Use and Compensation in kind when government takes your land, ministry officials have argued that the directive was never ratified into law so it did not grant anybody a right to erect structures that do not align with land use on a ploughing field or even sell their plots.

This stand off is happening when hundreds of people are faced with a difficult future after they acquired loans, made developments, and sold part of their ploughing fields based on the pre-election presidential directive.

Responding to a questionnaire from The Voice on why they wouldn’t break the deadlock by regularising the already existing structures and issuing people with land certificates, the ministry said, “These people say they were authorised by the sub landboard to engage in change of use but the truth is the Board never delegated the responsibility to acquire land to the Sub Land Board. The responsibility to acquire land lies with the main Land Board.”

The ministry further noted that, “The approved compensation policy never advised anyone to develop or sell parts of their fields.”

Over and above that the ministry is adamant that they have never received any complaints from the affected ploughing field owners but only learned about some Kgotla meetings where the issue has been discussed.

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“The Board process however, is that when the main land board has made a decision on a matter and a person is aggrieved by the decision, the affected person has a right to appeal,” said Chief Public Relations Officer Kaelo Kaelo.

Our investigations however have indicated that the Kgatleng aggrieved landowners had written to the minister complaining that: “The office of Deputy PSP who was by then Mr Thato Raphaka had advised the Land board that once clients have approvals of Planning, the decisions are binding on Government”. They argued that while the Main Land Board has not shown them their fault, it has also not indicated where it derives powers to revoke decisions of the sub land board which authorise them to subdivide and develop.

Meanwhile it has also emerged that a precedent has already been set at the Land tribunal concerning the matter in the case of one Chilisana Marobela versus North West District Council. Marobela had dragged the NWDC to the Land Tribunal over its refusal to grant change of use for his ploughing field, and citing the President’s 2018 announcement and Presidential Directive to allow citizens to subdivide their ploughing fields for other non-agricultural economic activities, the Tribunal ordered that Marobela be granted change of use with immediate effect.

“Local private investors need to be allowed space to implement part of the equitable redistribution of land and the intensification of developments. The vision is clear, move from government driven economy to a participatory economy by all,” it said in the judgment.

Making his stand known on the contentious issue, Chairperson of the Kgatleng District Council, Daniel Molokwe spoke in support of the disgruntled land owners.

He said that the council has unanimously adopted a resolution that nobody should be inconvenienced as a result of poor working relations between the Oodi sub landboard and the Kgatleng Main landboard.

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“It is our resolution that we support businesses in our district because we know that those people acquired loans to embark on multimillion Pula projects, and if anyone wants to disadvantage them we are not party to that. We advised land board that hands-off Batswana, we are against any move to disadvantage Batswana,” he said during a press briefing recently.

However as similar developments continue to crop up in Mmamashia area, Molokwe has confirmed that the Mmamashia industrial area is also a product of change of use policy and pointed out the discrepancy in land policy application and the hypocrisy of allowing one section of the community to change their land use and deny another in the same district to do the same.

Chronology of events

2017 – 2018

Parliament passes the Tribal Land Act which then gets into operation in 2018. Among others, the Act seeks to recognise any piece of land as a commodity that can be used as collateral or security for loan acquisition.

July 2018

Presidential Directive: President Masisi issues Directive that gives Batswana permission to use their ploughing fields for other non-agricultural economic activities.

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The ministry also approves compensation in kind which gives authority to landboard to acquire land and compensate owners with residential and commercial plots according to the size of their fields.

February 2021

Moratorium on Kgatleng developments: Upon realising mushrooming of developments in the area, Kgatleng Main Land Board imposed a moratorium to investigate how they were approved. It found that many of them were approved by Oodi Sub Landboard which it says had no jurisdiction.

March 5th, 2021: Mwale and 5 other complain to the President concerning the Moratorium

A letter written by Lawrence Mwale and five others complain to the President about what they called ill-treatment by the Kgatleng Main Landboard. Op does not respond

August 31, 2021

Letter to Govt Chief of Staff

Sesinyi and 30 other people complained to Govt Chief of Staff Boyce Sebetela about what they called abuse of power by Kgatleng Main Land board to disenfranchise them.

They state that their applications for their fields changed into mixed use were approved by Oodi sub land board mostly in 2019 and they made developments worth millions of Pula, including service connections.

Chief of Staff did not respond.

March 6th, 2023

Letter to Ministry of Lands, Water and Sanitation services: In another letter addressed to the Minister of Lands, the same complainants requested the minister’s intervention stating that they have cumulatively terminated 500 jobs created during the construction phase.

The complainants stated that they can neither sell, rent or transfer their properties which become havens for criminals.

TO this day, No word from the Office of the President on the way forward

March 13, Ministry PR Chief Public Relations Officer Kaelo Kaelo responds to The Voice questionnaire stating that the ministry has not received a single complaint from the aggrieved people.

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