The Malete Land Board has denied reports that they want to take the disputed Balete Kgale Farms because they plan to pass it on to a big investor whose application has already been approved.
Land Board Secretary, Rose Kedimotse said the reports doing rounds that they have already accepted an offer from the investor to develop the land are false and further denied any promises to investors being made.
Briefing the media on Friday, she explained that in fact there has been interest in the land from individuals and corporates as it is a norm, but nothing has been decided or no one has been offered such.
“Like any other Land Board we receive applications for land and even with the Farm Forest there has been interest and applications, but we have turned them down, so reports that we want to take the land to pass it to an investor are not true,” she said.
On the decision of the appeal, the Land Board said there was no decision yet whether to appeal or not.
Land Board chairperson, Onneetse Malope said as the Board they were yet to sit, look at the judgement thoroughly and weigh in on the next move. “There is no decision yet in regards to the appeal. The Board has not met as of now to decide whether there will be an appeal or not,” she said.
Weighing on the legal aspects, the board’s legal team said Farm Forest was under the Land Board as per the law.
Attorney Paul Muzimo explained that in 1973, Parliament took the decision that Farm Forest belonged to the Balete Tribal Territory and that meant that the land automatically belonged to the authority of the Land Board.
“Section 10 of the Tribal Territories Act is clear that if the land is under the Tribal Territory it belongs to the [Land] Board.
On top of that there has been a case of Quarries of Botswana against Balete Tribe where the Court of Appeal decided that the Farm falls under the hands of the Board, a decision that has been guidance for the [Land] Board,” he said.
Muzimo said looking at the legislation and the decision of the court, it were the reasons the Land Board decided to approach the court. He said the court route sought to appeal to the Balete Tribe to return the title deed of the farm for cancellation so that the Land Board can have complete control of the land without any conflict between them and the tribe.
Muzimo pointed out that contrary to reports that the Land Board wanted to take the land, that was not the reason they went to court since according to law the land already belonged to the Land Board.
On the transfer of land to the Land Board, Muzimo said it was not the Land Board’s doing for the land to be transferred to the Land Board. Rather, he said, it was the tribe
“Following the tribe’s decision to hand the land to the [Land] Board that’s when the Tribal Territories Act and Tribal Land Act were amended to give the [Land] Boards full control of state land.
There is also proof through the minutes of the Board that the Balete kgosi was noticed of the amendments of the law as they had requested and the Board went with the kgosi to inspect the length of the farm to take control of it,” he said.
He noted that it was not true that at any given time the Board took the decision to take the land from the tribe without consultation. It was the tribe’s decision to hand it over to the Board, he argued.
Muzimo said it was surprising that when you read the High Court judgement, there was no mention of such and that the judges’ only focus was that the tribe has been deprived of their land without any consultation. The judges never took into account the Board’s arguments that it was the tribe by its own doing to hand the control of the land to the Board, the attorney said.
Muzimo added for the Board to be managing the land does not mean they own the land. He said the land still belonged to the tribe while the Board is only an administer and they administer the land for the benefit of the tribe and the citizens of the country.
“There is no acquisition of the land by the Board as per the legislation, the land still belongs to the tribe and the Board is merely there to manage and administer it accordingly,” he said.
“The decision taken by the court that the amendment was unconstitutional was based on the fact that they say there was acquisition, which we say is not true and without acquisition, you cannot say the amendment of the Act was unconstitutional.”
On the decision by the High Court to overrule the Court of Appeal judgement saying they erred, Muzimo pointed out that it was ‘shocking’. He reasoned that it has never happened that a lower court overrules a higher one according to the hierarchy of the courts.
The Board’s press briefing followed the recent loss at the High Court as they battled to take control of Farm Forest known as Hill 9-KO. The Balete Tribe insists on its ownership on grounds that they bought it with their own money. The Board had launched an application seeking to cancel the title deed of the farm.