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Land Tribunal favours Ngwaketse Landboard, business tycoon

The Land Tribunal has this week dismissed an appeal following an objection raised concerning the controversial allocation of some ranches located near Banyana farms in the vicinity of Southern District Council (SDC).


WeekendPost has turned up information suggesting that the members of Basimane Syndicate; the Secretary Makgekgenene Neelo Kwape and Chairperson Lephatsimile Kwape were questioning the allocation- in particular of a ranch dubbed JN14A. Basimane syndicate’s contention was that the allocation of the ranch, which was since allocated to a well known Kanye business mogul Stephen Phirinyane, was irregular and unlawful.


They said he was disqualified on equitable considerations as he failed to disclose that he was a member of a syndicate known as Tsepane, which held rights over an existing borehole point. They further said he had also not applied for the disputed ranch but had only applied for ranch JN 14 B. Both ranches are in SDC locality in Rajakopo in the Ngwaketse tribal area. However, when making judgement this week Messr. Kebalepile Rutherford dismissed the appeal saying it lacks sufficient evidence and was full of unsubstantiated allegations.


Rutherford made the ruling subsequent to heated arguments made before him, Tribunal President Boitumelo Kaisara and Messr Gordon Lecoge, who were also part of the bench of the matter. According to Rutherford, from available records, as at December 2005, the Tsepane Syndicate borehole, which Phirinyane was said to have used at the time, belonged to the Council (SDC). He said in terms of the records, it was used by the Syndicate on leasehold basis from Council.


“The court is therefore not convinced that such constituted a right that could disqualify an applicant from allocation or warrant disclosure. This ground therefore fails,” Rutherford said when reading the judgement. The court maintained that there was insufficient evidence also on whether Phirinyane was a member of the syndicate at the material point stressing that it was upon the appellant to prove the point. The Judge however further pointed out that, following the findings that he is not a member of Tsepane syndicate, the argument therefore automatically falls away.


This was said after allegations were made by Basimane Syndicate to court that Phirinyane held borehole rights at Tsepane Syndicate at the time. Another point they alluded to was that, the allocation was contrary to the spirit of equitable land allocation as contained in section 10 of the Tribal Land Act. Rutherford in return stated that in terms of the advert, syndicate applicants did not necessarily have an edge over individual applicants and therefore the argument failed.


Basimane Syndicate had argued that in allocating, Syndicates should have been preferred over individual applicants. It was however explained that the advert package did not even categorise applicants as such. The tribunal was required to determine whether the business tycoon’ cum farmer’s allocation of the disputed ranch was proper in light of the points raised by the appellants (Basimane Syndicate) in objecting to the allocation.  


During prior arguments, Counsel Kgalalelo Monthe on behalf of Basimane Syndicate had maintained that the allocation was irregular, unlawful and contrary to the provisions of Tribal Land Act on equitable allocation, and that the allocated applicant did not adhere to the advertisement prerequisites. Monthe argued that the allocation be set aside as a nullity. Further, he said that the Tribunal should make appropriate orders such as allocating the appellant the disputed ranch or an alternative site.


“He said the appellants deserve to be allocated as the only party before the tribunal and also as only two applicants applied for the disputed ranch.” On the other side, representing Ngwaketse Landboard at the time, Counsel Laba Mokete, stressed that in terms of Ngwaketse Landboard minutes, on the procedure used for allocating ranches, there was no particular procedure which they failed to follow. In addition, when speaking on behalf of Phirinyane, attorney Doreen Khama said it would not be fair for Phirinyane’s allocation to be set aside when he had developed it over 10 years.


Justice Rutherford emphasised that the court is required to determine the validity of the disputed allocation based on applicable laws and procedures as opposed to the magnitude of improvements on site. “To illustrate this, in the selection process, allocations were not based on the ranches applied for but rather on the scoring system. Ngwaketse land Board’s explanation in this regard prevails. This also means the issue of addition of farm JN14A to Phirinyane’s application form becomes irrelevant,” Rutherford ruled.


Ngwaketse landboard advertised 4 ranches for allocation being KN33A, KN33B, JN14A and JN14B on 16 July 2006. A total of 104 applicants’ responded to the advert. The four successful who were later called for interviews includes Popagano Syndicate who scored 38.83 points, Stephen Ntirelang Phirinyane (37.33), Kgosikhumo Gofhamodimo (36.50) and Thomas Mhenyi Kwape (36.50).  


Phirinyane was one of the 4 successful applicants to be allocated based on marks scored, and was consequently allocated. Basimane Syndicate then objected to his allocation. The objection was however dismissed by Ngwaketse landboard, but the Syndicate then appealed to the Tribunal under case no. 10/2007. In October 2011, the tribunal later on, in turn remitted the matter to Ngwaketse Landboard for “re-consideration”.


Ngwaketse landboard then resolved to, at its meeting of February 2015; dismiss the objection made by Basimane Syndicate on the basis that the Syndicate failed to substantiate their allegations concerning Mr. Phirinyane’s allocation of ranch JN14A. The land board felt that the allocation was in order. Aggrieved by the decision, Basimane Syndicate filed the Appeal which consequently was disimissed this week in favour of business magnate Phirinyane and Ngwaketse landboard.

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