- Inventory taken by govt shows differences from original pictures
- Farmers body says it is unaware of inventory
- MP calls Tuli Block “a state within a state”
The Ministry Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services is considering expropriating buffer zones through Tuli Block farms to ensure access to the Limpopo River by indigenous Batswana, The Botswana Gazette has established.
Minister Kefentse Mzwinila has told Parliament that the decision came against the backdrop of longstanding controversy between Batswana and white farmers of the Tuli Block over closure of passageways to and from the river. Over the years, Batswana have accused the farmers of closing passageways to deny them access the resourceful Limpopo River for tourism and/or agricultural activities.
Responding to a question from the MP for Sefhare-Ramokgonami, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, last week Mzwinila stated that the ministry is considering expropriating portions of land from the farms and compensating farmers who have structures close to the river.
“The ministry has undertaken an inventory of all farms in Botswana, including Tuli Block farms, to ascertain the ownership, utilisation, and development status across all tenures,” he said. “The exercise has shown that over the years there have been transactions and these include sub-divisions and changes of ownership.”
“As a result of these, the farms’ pictures have totally changed from the original ones. Further, the inventory report indicates that 81 out of 95 original farms are aligned to the Limpopo River boundary.”
Minister Mzwinila emphasised following “a legal process” to obtain access to the river by Batswana. “This issue still needs to be considered by the government since the property owners and farmers need to be compensated,” he said.
While Batswana have accused the farmers of closing passageways to the river, the farmers have maintained that there were never any passageways through their farms to the river.
Driving his point in Parliament, Dr Gobotswang, whose constituency encompasses affected frontier villages, said although the middle of the river is the official boundary between Botswana and South Africa, the reality is that the boundary is between Botswana and the commercial farms in the Tuli Block that he described as “a state within a state”.
Speaking to The Botswana Gazette in an interview, the MP said Batswana – including government officials – must obtain a permit from the white farmers to access the river. “Consequently, patrolling along the boundary by members of security forces and access to the farms by service providers has been a challenge,” he said.
Reached for comment, the Chairman of the Tuli Block Farmers Association, J. P. Ross, responded curtly: “I cannot comment on the issue because personally I have never been consulted about the government inventory.”