President Mokgweetsi Masisi continues to ignore overtures by Bamalete Paramount Chief, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and her tribe, despite a rendezvous at State House II late last year over the controversial Forest Hill 9-KO farm case.
Information obtained by this publication indicates that the meeting between Masisi and Kgosi Mosadi was held in September 2021 at Masisi’s official residence, just three months after government had expressed intent to appeal the decision of the High Court.
Sources indicate that the sit-down was brokered by MP for Ramotswa, Lefoko Moagi who was also party to the deliberations.
Balete are desperate to persuade the Masisi administration not to proceed with the appeal over a high court decision, delivered on the 21st of May, which granted the tribe and their leadership ownership of the 200 hectare tribal land.
Portion 9-KO of Farm Forest Hill remains the rough rope in a tug of war between the tribe and government, the latter represented by the Malete Landboard. The state’s appeal, which will be heard next month (April), could have debilitating consequences should the Court of Appeal judges uphold it.
At the meeting, Kgosi Mosadi is alleged to have lobbied Masisi to impress upon government to drop its appeal and make peace with the determination of the High Court. It is further alleged that a lawyer acting on behalf of Masisi promised to look into the suggestion, until Kgosi Mosadi lost faith when the tribe’s lawyers were slapped with a settlement of record on the 13th of December 2021, indicating that the state’s appeal was well in motion.
Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang told this publication through a written response that he is not aware of the get-together between Masisi and Kgosi Mosadi Seboko.
“I’m not aware that Kgosi Mosadi Seboko has requested that the matter not be taken for appeal. This matter has nothing to do with the President. Therefore, I advise you to speak to the Attorney General because this is a legal matter,” said Leagajang.
The lawyer representing Balete tribe and Kgosi Mosadi, Tshiamo Rantao indicated that they are yet to file a response to the states’ appeal in the Forrest Hill 9-KO Farm case. When contacted for comment Kgosi Mosadi denied ever meeting Masisi. This was despite multiple sources confirming otherwise. “I don’t want to discuss the President,” said Kgosi Mosadi.
When probed further, she responded by referring to the press: “le mpitlaganya le botshelo,”literally meaning, “You’re making life miserable for me or you’re consigning me into a tight space.”
On the other hand, Moagi who was the meeting’s fixer also declined to confirm or deny the September rendezvous. He said this was because he was in the company of ‘some people.’
In the appeal application that will come before the Court of Appeal (CoA) in April, state lawyers will argue that the High Court erred in finding that the land held in terms of Transfer Number 387 being the Remainder of the Forest Hill farm 9-KO is vested in the tribe and not the Land Board.
Lawyers from the Attorney General’s Chambers will argue that the High Court erred in exercising jurisdiction and making factual and legal findings upon a matter in which the CoA has previously made findings and decisions to the contrary. The AG lawyers will further argue that the court erred in finding that any land owned by the Bamalete at any time in history (including Forest Hill Farm) did not become part of the Bamalete Tribal Territory when it was acquired in 1925.
“The decision of the High Court was wrong on a comprehensive consideration of factual and legal issues that arose in the matter and the far reaching implications for the rest of the country resulting from the High Court’s determination,” AG argues in its appeal.
The AG prays that the appeal succeeds and that the CoA cause Kgosi Mosadi and GDT to deliver Forest Hill’s deed of transfer. “Should they fail to do so within 14 days and to sign documents they are required in order to ensure cancellation of the aforesaid, such Deputy Sheriff as is called upon to sign the documents in their place shall do so,” states the AG’s appeal.
In May 2021, High Court Justices Michael Mothobi, Mokwadi Gabanagae and Gabriel Komboni ruled that Forest Hill 9-KO Farm at Kgale on the outskirts of Gaborone is legally vested in the Bamalete tribe. Malete Landboard had dragged Kgosi Mosadi and the Gamalete Development Trust (GDT) to court trying to force them to surrender the title deed for the farm in a matter of seven days, and for court to direct the Registrar of Deeds to cancel the farm’s deed issued in favour of Balete tribe. The facts before court indicated that in 1925 the tribe had raised 3000 pounds sterling to buy the land through their then paramount chief, Kgosi Seboko Mokgosi from one Aaron Siew. The transaction was approved by the administration of the Bechuanaland Protectorate sitting in Mahikeng.
In their judgment, the three judges noted that while the 1973 amendment to the Tribal Territories Act placed land under the Land Board, in practice Forest Hill continued under direct management of the tribe as evidenced by government multiple negotiations of part purchases of the property with the tribe. The judges also noted that the 1973 amendment presented a constitutional challenge of depriving the Bamalete of their land contrary to sections 3 and 8 of the constitution, as there had not been compensation.
Meanwhile, the Acquisition of Properties Act also states that property shall not be compulsorily acquired except under extenuating conditions such as it being necessary or expedient for development, in the interest of public health, town planning, for the development of mineral resources or provision is made by law and there is compensation.
On the arguments that the issue of ownership had already been decided by the CoA, the judges ruled that the previous case was not between Malete Land Board and the tribe, but between the Bamalete and a different litigant.
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