FRANCISTOWN: Many in Botswana do not understand what title deeds and surety mortgage bonds are all about. They think 'these things' are none of their business, considering them to be matters of the wealthy.
To 35-year old Maipelo Chabaesele of Francistown, deeds, leaseholds, freeholds and mortgage bonds are foreign languages. She says she always comes across advertisements in newspapers with headings like "Application of Lost Title Deed", which she never understands.
"I have given up on those things. I don't think I will ever know what they are all about," she says, noting that there is not enough public education from the relevant authorities on these issues.
Public relations officer at the Lands and Deeds Registry, Moses Moakofi, says he is aware that most Batswana are ignorant of the work of his department. His office plans to embark on a nationwide campaign to educate the public on its mandate.
Moakofi says contrary to popular perception, title deeds are for anyone who wishes to have proof of ownership of a piece of land.
Gabriel Komboni, an attorney with Phumaphi, Chakalisa and Company, elaborates on a title deed as being a document of title over land.
"If you buy a piece of land that belongs to someone, there will be a title deed which will be showing that the piece of land belongs to that person," Komboni explains.
Title deeds normally come with conditions that state the original owner of the land. For example, if the original owner of the land is the government, a person who acquires it is given a deed of fixed period grant which stipulates that he or she will have the piece of land for a certain period of time and that he/she should build a residence or commercial building of a certain value on the land.
"If it is a government-owned land, you acquire it for a fixed period, usually 99 years for residential and 50 years for commercial land," says Komboni. "At the end of that period, that land is supposed to revert to the original owner, being government."
Komboni notes that most title deeds of fixed period grant have not yet run their time. In addition to a fixed period grant title deed, he says, there is a freehold title deed. Such deeds are usually found in older parts of Gaborone and Francistown.
"In a freehold title deed, the only condition may be that the government can construct public utilities like telephone lines and sewer works," Komboni says.
Under a freehold title deed, a person holds the piece of land in perpetuity. "It becomes his/hers forever and if s/he transfers it, there shall be another title deed in the name of the new owner," he explains. "The conditions on the deed will be carried forward to the new owner."
Also under the freehold title, there are conditions for mineral rights which are reserved to state.
Of a lost title deed Komboni says: "If you have lost the document itself, you can apply to the registrar of deeds, who is the custodian of title deeds.
"And then you, the holder of the land, are given your own copy called a floating copy.
That is your title deed. So if you lose it, the law says you can apply for a certified copy, which means the registrar of deeds will now make you a copy from his registry copy and certify it and give it to you, and that is as good as the copy that you lost."
He goes on to note if a person owns a piece of land and has a title deed over it, s/he can use it as surety if s/he wants to borrow money from the bank. Usually the bank will value the land, and if the value of the land is over the amount required by the borrower, the bank will take it as surety. This security itself over the piece of land, Komboni explains, is called a bond.
"It means then that if you default on the loan, the bank can actually foreclose, which means that they can actually go to court to get an order that you must pay them the money and that the land must be sold by the bank in order to get the money," he says.
Lost title deeds must be advertised because some people may not be telling the truth that they have lost a title deed, whereas they have pledged it or they have given it to the bank or to someone as surety, Komboni says.
"So it has to be published so that if someone is holding the title deed that gives a mortgage bond over a certain piece of land, they would object to the issuance of a new copy of a title deed because they would be holding the title deed as security."
The registration of title deeds and mortgage bonds are done by conveyancers, a term that refers to lawyers who deal with transferring title deeds from the sellers to the buyers. These lawyers do the paperwork and lodge the documents with the registrar of deeds who then checks them and endorses the registration of the new title deeds.
According to information scanned from the Internet, a deed is a signed and usually sealed legal instrument in writing used to grant a right. It also indicates that deeds are also referred to as agreements under seal, contracts by deed, specialties, or indentures and are often used by lawyers when a very formal document is required.
It further states that a deed is any formal document that transfers interest or right of ownership (title) to an asset from one person to another, often using a description of its metes and bounds, for example conveyances, transfers, mortgages, charges, or leases.