Aggrieved residents of Ralenyeletse settlement popularly known as masimo- a-ga Ralenyeletse in the outskirts of Botshabelo location in Selibe Phikwe have rejected plans by government to evict them under the pretext that they are squatting.
Government, through Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) is fast tracking plans to acquire the land for commercial purposes, facilitated by Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU). The residents, who describe themselves as indigenous people of Ralenyeletse are accusing SPTC of targeting their land, claiming that they are occupying it illegally.
Some of the unhappy residents who use the land for farming purposes to earn a living have vented their frustrations, indicating that physical planners at SPTC are intimidating them. The Patriot on Sunday caught up with some of the residents who are decrying eviction threats. They indicate that council physical planners have urged them to move or risk demolition of their buildings if they do not cooperate, a majority of which are shacks.
As a result, the residents are anxious and therefore feel that they could be robbed their land. Previously, the town council indicated that some of the residents occupied land legally while others were squatters. SPTC has also insisted that those facing eviction were long compensated.
In an interview, one of the residents and a pensioner who preferred condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said he is afraid that he will soon be thrown out of what he calls his ancestral land. According to 85 year old Ralenyeletse dweller, he occupied his piece of land in early 1970s.
He noted that prior to Ralenyeletse turning into a settlement it is today, it was used as the farming fields but later on turned into a settlement as Botshabelo location was getting densely populated.
“I have spent most of my time in Ralenyeletse with my family. The issue of government seeking to repossess the land from us dates long back with its argument based on the fact that some of us are illegally occupying this land. Before I got tired due to old age and deteriorating health, I worked in some contracts under BCL mine and I resided in Ralenyeletse at that time,” he said.
Another inhabitant, Ophana Kele said Ralenyeletse residents are not illegal squatters as it’s said. According to her, their occupation of land has been termed illegal as it’s now targeted for money. “We were never allocated plots by the land board and as such none of us have certificates of land ownership. This is our ancestral land as history tell us that our traditional leader Gaolatelwe Ralenyeletse Modise led our grandparents to occupy this land when the people were relocated to make way for BCL mine developments, hinted Kele urging the SPTC to stop intimidating them.
The Ralenyeletse settlement is considered to be highly fertile land hence targeted for commercial agricultural purposes to be facilitated by SPEDU under its plans of rescustiating Phikwe economy.
One of SPEDU project targeted to be implemented in Ralenyeletse is the Urban Agriculture one.
According to SPEDU on its listed projects for Selebi Phikwe, Urban Agriculture is the project that is aimed at promoting urban agriculture in Selebi Phikwe on a (1309ha) of land that is set aside in the Selebi Phikwe town planning area (Senwelo 1062ha, Ralenyeletse 102ha and Mokondo 145ha).
“The land has been surveyed and the layout was approved by the Minister of Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLWS) in 2018. The project is to benefit small scale farmers, youth women groups and contribute towards poverty eradication,” said SPEDU on the project.
Furthermore, SPEDU noted that the project will be serviced through the SPEDU land servicing project.
“The project will be serviced through the SPEDU land servicing project. The Land servicing is planned to commence in 2020 and anticipated to be completed in 2023,” SPEDU said on the project.
Responding to The Patriot on Sunday questionnaire, the Deputy Town Clerk- Finance and Administration at SPTC, Senatla Rutherford denied that Ralenyeletse residents are evicted.
According to Rutherford, SPTC does not evict illegal land occupiers unless where land use is contravened. “The Ralenyetse community does not contravene the land use as zoned by the Selebi Phikwe Planning Area Development Plan (2011 – 2035) and as such may not be evicted by Council. Land
Allocation authority and in this instance, the Department of Lands, may evict the community if their occupation of land is not recognized by State Land Act,” stated Rutherford chickening out.
Rutherford went on to say that Selebi Phikwe Town Council is not aware of the forceful eviction of residents but, the Department of Lands may be aware as the custodians of land occupation.
Despite council denying to evict the residents, The Patriot on Sunday understands that SPTC would evict residents, as previous council leadership was on record that SPTC will do evictions.
Meanwhile, residents who are bound to lose their land fear that they won’t be compensated.
According to them, Selebi Phikwe Town council have failed to come with a viable compensation plan. “We are bound to be cheated on our land. We always hear that some of the residents have been compensated and the argument of town council is that those compensated are also refusing to leave. Some feel the compensation was not worth value of their land,” said a resident pleading for anonymity.
Deputy Town Clerk Rutherford also said the council us not aware of any compensation done with respect to this project, adding that SPEDU or Department of Lands is best placed to answer.
Pressed further if the town council is perhaps specifically targeting illegal occupants of land at Ralenyetse for eviction Rutherford has said “Department of Lands and/or any organ under the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs may be able to assist on this question. This is the Ministry dealing with land allocation and hence, squatting of land occupation in is inherent in that mandate,”
Previously, this publication tried to solicit comments from Lands Ministry about the status of purported illegal land occupation by the residents of Ralenyeletse but it was referred to SPTC.
Furthermore, the residents have accussed government for denying them basic necessities such as water and electricity, hence decrying being subjected to abuse by politicians every election season.
According to unhappy residents, they are only given water supply during campaigns for elections.
Filled with signs of desperation, the residents indicated that they are being used as objects to elevate politicians to parliament and council only to be mistreated hence threatened with eviction.
“When its elections season we are promised developments such as the water and health services. We are told that we are in an illegal settlement which is not recognized by the government but when elections come, we are allowed to vote. We are being abused for political gain,” said one youth.
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