Silver jubilee for Tlokweng land row

Land hungry: Landseekers at a recent allocation of plots
Land hungry: Landseekers at a recent allocation of plots

It has been 25 years since the land dispute between the Tlokweng Land Board and the Matlapeng family started. But it seems the war is far from over.

The long-standing dispute, which can be traced back to the 1990s, centres around the ownership of the late Pilanyane Matlapeng’s field situated in Metlhabeng ward, Tlokweng.

The piece of land is estimated to be about two square kilometres.

“Central to the more than two decade old dispute is the family’s claim of ownership to a large portion of land in the contended area as a family farming field belonging to them while at the same time the Land Board also claims ownership to it,” previous court records state.

Several families have found themselves entangled in the war since the Land Board allocated them residential plots on the contested land.

At one point, the Matlapeng family, who leased part of the land to a church, fenced in several families. The fence was later removed following an order from Land Tribunal decision, last year.

In fact, the Land Board versus Matlapeng family sage has ping-ponged in lower and higher courts as well as the Land Tribunal. Tonnes of legal records exist on the battle and volumes more are due in future.

According to existing legal documents, the Land Board tried resolving the matter on November 8, 1990 but their decision was rejected by the Matlapeng family who appealed to the Minister of Lands and Housing in September 1991.

The appeal was later transferred to the Land Tribunal, which led to a 2010 court order of halting any developments on the disputed area except by the government.

The main case on the determination of ownership to the disputed area is still pending in court because ever since then there have been countless side litigations.

The estimated two square kilometre plot war even now continues to be heated with tensions recently heightened after the family leased out part of the plot to a church known as the World Community Counselling Centre (WCCC).

Early in 2014, the Matlapengs took drastic measures and fenced the hotly contested area off, effectively kraaling some of the residential plots that were awarded to members of the public around 2000.

The family argued that they were left with no choice but to protect ‘what rightfully belongs to us’.

The family had hoped that by fencing the area, they would prevent the Land Board from allocating more plots. The Land Board has however consistently argued that the family had no right to the land.

Some parties within the Land Board are adamant that the church has influenced the family to make hasty decisions over the land matter, while it was still before the courts. The long-standing dispute went back and forth between the High Court and the Land Tribunal.

The Land Board enjoyed a small triumph within the greater war, when the Land Tribunal ruled that the Matlapeng family remove the fence, in June 2014.  The family was given an ultimatum to have removed the fence by July 21, failing which they would be fined P500.

The family would also bear the costs of the removal if they didn’t remove the fence.

The Matlapeng family did not take the matter lying down. They applied for relief from the Land Tribunal, asking that the original order be made null and void.

Their submission was however rejected, although the family gained an additional 14 days to remove the fence. When the two weeks elapsed, the family applied to the High Court for a stay of execution, which was summarily dismissed.

On November 10, 2014, the Land Board successfully applied for a contempt of court order and removed the fence, ending only a small part of the decades long war, which continues.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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