FRANCISTOWN: Former Member of Parliament (MP) for Palapye, Boyce Sebetela has re-instituted his lawsuit against Ngwato Land Board (NLB) after withdrawing it last month.
The lawsuit stems from differences over the amount of compensation Sebetela should receive for giving his land to NLB in order for the expansion of Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) in Palapye to take place.
In his founding affidavit, Sebetela said that on March 27, 2015, NLB served him with a ‘Notice to treat’ in respect of his farms situated at Morupule lands.
“According to the notice, the State indicated its intention to acquire the pieces of land in the public interest under Section 32 of the Tribal Land Act for the construction of MCM open cast mine.
“I was directed to stop all improvements on the land and have cooperated accordingly. Consequently, my family have looked for and acquired land for resettlement at Thabala (for cattle), Paje (small stock and arable farming) and Makoro (settlement),” said Sebetela.
“My piece of land was assessed and inspected for compensation between April 8 and June 2015 on the basis of the schedule of compensation of rates for the tribal areas attached hereto and marked “Appendix O” in LS1,” Sebetela stated.
He continued: “In terms of the schedule at 7B, ‘the rates of compensation are a guide to the most common types improvements and the committee must make its best judgement in each case and provide notes of any factors’.
“Furthermore, in terms of 7D, ‘an assessment committee shall invite the various affected occupiers to submit any additional or counterclaims for the improvements if any they wish’. It goes on to say that ‘some claimants may engage the services of professionals and should be given time to do so’”.
On May 31, 2016, Sebetela said, he received the first complete assessment report from NLB marked LS3.
“I responded in the first instant per mail marked LS4. I indicated that at item 5 of LS4 there was an error of addition that I brought to the attention of NLB to be corrected. This was followed by a detailed counterclaim with solid evidence for all improvements marked LS1 based on Sections 7B and 7D of the schedule referred to above as the basis for negotiations with NLB in response to their draft assessment report of May 31, 2016 of P10, 468, 777,80 marked LS3,” Sebetela said .
The assessments report amongst other shortcomings, Sebetela noted, had omissions on assets, wrong sizes and measurements of land fencing parameters.
“It did not comply with subsection 33 subsection 2 a-c of the Tribal Land Act which outlines the components of adequate compensation as (a) the value of any standing crops taken over by the state; (b) the value of any improvements effected to such land including value of any clearing or preparation of land for agricultural or other purposes-these should reflect full market costs of both land and other assets to allow to replace them and (c) the cost of resettlement-we are re-settling at sites from our current one,” said Sebetela.
He added: “(d) The loss of right of such land-this to us is the financial loss of investment in return that our family will
“On November 25, 2016 after several months of negotiations, the NLB issued a resolution marked L55 granting us compensation of P26,914,023,97 marked LS5.1. We were given 24 hours to respond to the offer. The amount was later corrected to P27, 704, 557,23 marked LS5.2 later that afternoon of the same day. We accepted the offer of compensation per my letter dated November 28, 2016 attached and marked as LS6. Even after payment, I would still be able to pursue issues I did not agree with NLB as per the last paragraph of LS5 which gives us the liberty to seek redress as we do now,” said Sebetela.
After further deliberations based on LS5, Sebetela noted, NLB issued the final compensation assessment report amounting to P26, 230, 763,45 marked LS7 on December 15, 2016.
“This assessment addressed the issues contained at paragraph 3 of my LS6 which was a condition of land rights to the land board. NLB in their resolution granted me leave to pursue other avenues to deal with issues they could not address…We agreed with NLB that outstanding issues should not delay MCM and that payment would be made immediately so the project could continue and we could continue with our lives,” said Sebetela…
According to Sebetela’s cause of action, “between December 13 in 2016 and February 2, 2017, MCM wrote a number of letters to NLB which they copied to me. These letters sought to challenge the NLB compensation assessment reports. MCM was aggrieved with the NLB resolution of November 2016. The letters are marked LS10. Our view about the letters and meetings held to discuss them has always been that MCM has legal standing to challenge NLB resolutions”.
“Between March 20 and 31 in 2017, we attended several meetings between NLB and MCM discussing the letters marked LS10. This culminated in a resolution dated March 30, 2017 marked LS11. In the resolution, NLB declared themselves functus officio (of no further official authority or legal effect) and stated categorically that it cannot review its decision/resolution of November 2016. The minutes of NLB are marked LS12. On page 8 of the minutes of March 29 to 31, 2017, the NLB chairperson stated that… ‘the matter was primarily between MCM and NLB and the farmers were only invited as interested parties’,” said Sebetela.
Sebetela, who was initially a self-actor, withdrew the matter, and offered to pay NLB the costs of the suit.
An order delivered by Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo withdrawing the matter reads: “This application be and is hereby withdrawn with the applicant tendering costs to the respondent”.
However, all is not lost for Sebetela, as he has now engaged prominent law firm KK Sechele Attorneys to represent him in his battle against NLB.
His lawyers have since written a statutory notice to sue NLB over the compensation issue.