Hundreds of land seekers who crammed the Malete Land board offices in Ramotswa to submit application forms for just 385 plots in 2013 have taken the Land Board to the Land tribunal accusing it of unfairly denying them plots.
The Tribunal is currently trying to find better ways of how the cases, similar in nature, can be effectively and efficiently managed. In 2013, the Land Board advertised 385 available plots, inviting in the process thousands of applicants who crammed the Malete Land Board offices in what nearly turned into a stampede of some sort.
In an interview with Weekend Post, the Malete Land Board Secretary, Ikgopoleng Shabani said she is aware of the multitudes of Protestants who have taken the matter to the Land Tribunal.
“It is true that there are hundreds of people who have taken up the matter with the tribunal accusing us of unfairly sidelining them in the 385 plots we recently advertised. We hold the view that their objections are unfounded as everything was taken into consideration before any rejections,” she said.
The Land Board is said to have rejected them on the basis that they ‘did not give a descriptive answer to the questions as posed in the application form’.
The Land Board Secretary, Shabani in explaining this said many applicants did not give full or proper answers to the questions.
“Some for unknown reasons left some questions unanswered while others answered wrongly. We cannot, at this time know why the applicants chose to do this,” she said. Shabani further said that one of the requirements was that application forms should be fully-filled.
“Our defence at the Tribunal will still be the same, we will submit the copies of the applications to show how incomplete they were to the court and the individuals,” the Board Secretary said.
She continued, “We were forced to disqualify some deserving people who did not provide descriptive answers to key questions. This was done even after relaxing a few requirements to accommodate those at fault.”
Despite this, the Land Board, Shabani said has decided to allocate the successful applicants their plots at the end of July or before that. “We have shortlisted some applicants and have been conducting interviews and audits into our actions,” she said.
On the criteria used to allocate the plots, Shabani said they could not use President Khama’s locals’ first criteria. Khama had proposed that Land Boards should reserve quotas for natives, noting that the existing Land Policy disadvantaged residents. He has repeatedly said that he would issue a Presidential directive nullifying a parliamentary decision that rejected his proposed land quota system.
“We couldn’t enforce the policy because as far as we are concerned there is nothing official compelling us to. What will be our basis of defence if someone decides to sue us following a decision based on that?” she asked rhetorically. But those who argue on the other corner indicate that whatever the President utters is equivalent to policy.
What then were they looking at? “We looked at the applications and considered those who have never owned plots before others among others issues,” reasoned Shabani.
The Gamalete plots application process nearly caused a stampede as many came out in large numbers from all corners of the country to seek the elusive resource. Police were called in to control the situation as people were threatening to storm the land board offices. Hundreds of the applicants it was reported had spent the entire previous night queuing at the offices.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.