By ‘Majirata Latela
The ongoing fight between Tsolo community and Maseru City Council (MCC) is taking a new twist as the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offenses (DCEO) has seized four leases believed to have been acquired fraudulently.
One of the community members at Ha Tsolo currently known as Maseru South, Lepolesa Matlokotsi said as a community they have a challenge that some of the sites at Ha Tsolo did not have Form C (proof of landownership) documents when a project called Pula-Maliboho took some of the sites for construction of a tar road.
Pula-Maliboho is a project that bought plots of land from its owners, developed them and resold them to people who were in need of land.
Matlokotsi said during the project implementation, some community members were not compensated and MCC realized that some of the sites acquired by Pula-Maliboho were not being occupied.
He said upon realizing that they were not compensated for the sites which Pula- Maliboho did not use, they took the liberty to develop the sites. However, MCC demolished those houses contesting that the land belonged to Pula-Maliboho.
The MCC allegedly did not have a court order authorizing it to destroy the houses.
“MCC is arguing that the land does not belong to us while we have not received a cent from Pula- Maliboho project. Some of the MCC officers acquired leases for the same land on their own,” he said.
Another community member, Motlatsi Mpulenyane accused government ministries of failing to assist them when they complained about the sites being occupied by the MCC officers. The community members decided to write a letter to the Senate requesting intervention.
The Upper House of Parliament’s petitions committee heeded the call and visited the affected community to hear their grievances first-hand.
Mphulenyane said the matter relating to the controversial land issue dates back to 2002 and 2003, before the establishment of local government community councils.
He said at the time the land was still entrusted in the area chief who allocated sites to the community members considering the agreements which were then in place.
“A committee which was to be responsible for the allocation of land was formed following the agreement between the chiefs and the community. Later after the formation of the committee, community councils were introduced and the committee approached the council to ask that the allocated land should be given leases,” Mphulenyane said.
“The community contributed M290 to pay for fees which MCC needed for the leases but not everyone got their leases,” he remembered vividly.
He said when the leases were allocated to them, that sparked dissatisfaction as some of the documents were wrongly distributed to some community members. Other documents were allocated to wrong sites.
“Among those leases, some came while some documents disappeared in offices resulting into people not getting them,” he said.
Mphulenyane said they later learned that the MCC officials were involved in the wrong doing in acquisition of the leases which they had allocated to themselves.
“This is why we have decided to ask for interventions from the courts, the Senate, cabinet and anywhere where we think we can get help” he added.
A member of the Senate petitions committee, standing in as the committee chairperson this week, Mphonyane Lebesa told the sitting that the issue relating to the sites at Ha Tsolo was a highly sensitive matter that needed to be dealt with urgently. He observed that land issue is a critical matter as some Basotho use land for commercial purposes such as farming.
“We have reached an agreement with the community members to compile a list of people who have acquired leases, those who have not acquired leases and those who experienced challenges when they sought the documents. The list will be submitted to Land Administrative Authority which will investigate and give a report of all the community members dealing with each case on its own.
“We want to assure Basotho that matters relating to land will be dealt with as this is really a big issue,”
“We are aware that history has shown that government sometimes buys land for purposes of implementing development projects. Those whose land has been annexed are usually compensated while some have not, and that is painful to the affected people,” he noted.
The DCEO was not available to comment. It was scheduled to appear before the Senate’s petitions committee on Wednesday this week. However, its appearance was postponed to Monday next week.