Documents show that the Khama siblings have given permission to Ngwato Land Board to transfer some boreholes they inherited from their father, Seretse Khama to their brother, the President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama. This has given rise to fears among some ‘borehole users’ that the move is meant to prevent them from challenging ownership of these boreholes. The Botswana Gazette is in possession of three almost identical letters; all dated 9th May 2012, from President Khama’s elder sister, Jacqueline Khama and the two younger twin brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony. The letters provide no other detail on the transfer other than to say that each of the siblings, “[gave] consent to the transfer and registration of all boreholes listed as previously owned by my late father Sir Seretse Khama to Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama.”
A borehole user in the Ngwato Land Board area who asked not to be named was surprised upon receiving a call from this publication that his borehole would be handed to the President as per instruction from Office of the President. “The borehole has been in my family for as long as I can remember and it is part of my inheritance. I do not know whether we would lose it as we have never been disturbed by anyone over its use, but I am worried that we will not be able to challenge ownership if indeed what you say is true” he said.
Another user; also in the same region, who said he had no proof of ownership, was told by his father that the borehole was given to them by the late first President of Botswana but it was never formalised. “As far as we know it is ours but if it is going to be transferred to the President without consultation then I am afraid we have lost. We hear the President cannot be challenged in court,” he lamented.
In 2009, the Court of Appeal, in a case where the late Gomolemo Motswaledi, former leader of the Botswana Movement for Democracy, sought to challenge President Khama’s decision suspending him from the Botswana Democratic Party, concluded that a sitting President is immune from litigation in his private capacity.
A land expert has said that though it was a highly unusual way of conducting transfers, due diligence should pick any dispute should it arise. He expressed worry that this requirement might not be adhered to. “The problem is that the instruction comes from the top and deals with the most powerful man in Botswana. The way the Savingram is phrased could make anyone investigating the matter to be biased towards the President. It does leave room for unfairness.” the source said.
Last week, The Botswana Gazette reported that a Savingram from Senior Private Secretary to the President Duke Masilo dated 18 April 2012 instructed the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing to transfer ownership of these boreholes to Ian Khama. “Addressing this Savingram to the Permanent Secretary is a further anomaly, since the appropriate authority for dealing with land located on tribal land is the land board for the area where the land is”, the expert opines.
The Savingram, which was forwarded to the Ngwato Land Board on the 28 July 2014, states without exception that the boreholes should be registered to the President. No reason or ground for the decision to transfer the boreholes to President Khama is either stated in the letters from the siblings or the Directive from the Senior Private Secretary.
“In all land transfers, it is a requirement of law that the underlying cause for transfer of rights from one person to the other should be stated. These causes may include sale, donation or inheritance. In all cases however, all competing interests to rights attaching to the land must be fully considered before a transfer is effected,” said a lawyer who preferred anonymity. “My advice to the land users is that they must seek swift legal intervention before transfer of the boreholes is made, if it such has not been done yet”, the lawyer said.
Attempts to get comment from some members of the Khama family at the time of going to Press were futile. Tshekedi Khama had not responded to a short message forwarded to him after attempts to talk to him over the phone were disrupted by poor connection. Office of the President in their response to an inquiry said they were not sure which report they were being questioned on and referred the publication to the Department of Waters Affairs. “While we are not sure which report you are referring to we are aware that the issues of ownership of some boreholes belonging to the late Sir Seretse Khama and their disposition was initiated by people in the Central District, i.e. not originally this office. But the Department is best placed to clarify both the sequence of events and its procedures.” Their statement read.