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Balete declare ‘war’ over Kgale Farms

INNOCENT SELATLHWA
No retreat: Deputy chief, Tsimane Mokgosi points to the western limits of the 2, 000 ha Kgale Farms PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
RAMOTSWA: Balete have ramped up fundraising towards the legal costs of defending their rights to the 2,000 hectare Kgale Farms, which the Land Board is seeking to seize and parcel to investors wielding US$700 million (about P7 billion).

Yesterday, the tribe’s lawyer, Thebe Ramokhua told journalists gathered here that Balete had resolved to defend the suit filed by the Malete Land Board and go as far as the International Court of Justice if they lost in local courts.

The Land Board is suing Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and the Gamalete Development Trust for the title deeds to Kgale Farms. Deputy Kgosi, Tsimane Mokgosi said the Land Board informed the tribal leaders that a deal had been reached in 2014 with Alebeng Investments in which the company would pump P7 billion into a “seven star hotel, state-of-the-art golf course,” and other developments on a portion of Kgale Farms.

Alebeng reportedly intends to use between 25% and 50% of Kgale Farms for their developments.

However, Kgosi Mosadi and the Trust refused to hand over the title deeds, citing their historical ownership of the Farms, Balete’s existing land shortages and the lack of compensation reported desired by the Land Board.

The Land Board is reportedly emboldened by a 2011 Court of Appeal (CoA)judgement in a dispute between the Trust and Quarries Botswana, which wanted to build a road through the land to the quarries. The Trust, which had sealed the road off, lost at the Court of Appeal in a judgement, which threw ownership of Kgale Farms into a grey legal area. The decision apparently encouraged the Land Board to not only sign a deal with Alebeng, but also push for a land grab without compensation.

Addressing the media, Kgosi Mosadi pleaded with Batswana, companies, and the international community to assist in all ways

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possible, especially funding and advocacy, in the fight to hold onto the title deeds.

“It is surprising that in the past we had talks with various ministers responsible for land with a view to having Balete compensated so that government could expand Gaborone,” she said.

“But now the Land Board, who were with us during the 2011 court case, now want to take the land for free. We had expected that the government would engage us and not just take the land despite the CoA judgement whose intention wasn’t to take away the land from us.”

Kgosi Mosadi said the land in question was used mostly for subsistence agriculture, with villagers gradually commercialising their farming activities over the years.

“We would have considered partnering with the said investors instead of being pushed out when they came. It is surprising that in the past the government did not refer to the CoA judgement and offered compensation.

“All of a sudden things have changed and the President does not even want to give us an ear over the matter,” she said.

According to available documents, Kgale Farms dates back to 1925 when Balete bought a farm known as Forest Hill 9KO farm for investment purposes. The tribe contributed to raising the 3,000 Sterling Pounds required to purchase the land from Aaron Siew.

In the same year, a title deed was issued by the Deeds Registry in the names of Kgosi on behalf of the tribe. To this day, the title deed is in the name of Kgosikgolo for and on behalf of the tribe.



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