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Chiefs fight over land

ST MICHAEL’S — The chief of St Michael’s is up in arms against the principal chief of Thaba-Bosiu who she accuses of taking part of her land.

The St Michael’s chief, ’Mamasekoane Pasane, told the Sunday Express that she was prepared to fight for the land which she said was being unlawfully allocated to the principal chief of Thaba-Bosiu, Khoabane Theko.

She said “there will be blood if the local government gives the land to the people of Thaba-Bosiu”.

The disputed land is on the slope of Seqoqo plateau bordering Thaba-Bosiu and Ha-Maama, about 25 kilometres south-east of Maseru.

St Michael’s is under the principal chief of Ha-Maama, Mabela Maama.

“The land belongs to me regardless of what they are saying,” Pasane said. “We are not ready to lose our resources and let Theko take them.

“There will be a bloody fight between my people and Theko’s.”

Theko claims that the disputed land is part of Ha-Ralejoe, a village neighbouring St Michael’s and under his jurisdiction.

Theko claims he has documents written in 1913 and 1932 during the rule of paramount chief Griffith Seeiso to prove that the land is part of Thaba-Bosiu.

“I have copies of documents dating back to 1913 and 1932,” Theko said.

“The piece of land in question is part of Thaba-Bosiu and should remain so.”

The principal chief of Ha-Maama, Mabela Maama, who is Theko’s sister and has overall control over St Michael’s, said she did not have enough information on the issue when she was approached for comment.

“I was not present when this issue was discussed,” Maama said.

 A meeting was held at St Michael’s last week on Tuesday to resolve the matter which is threatening to escalate into a full-fledged war.

At the meeting the Maseru district administrator said he was going to consult Local Government Minister Ponts’o Sekatle before any settlement could be made on this issue. 

Pasane said she was surprised by Maama’s claims that she did not have any information on the issue.

Pasane said she had written a letter to Maama informing her about the dispute.

She said she had also written to the Maseru district administrator and the Manonyane council.

“We have tried our best to get the dispute solved. I wrote letters to the district administrator, the Maama principal chief and the Manonyane council,” she said.

The land dispute started last month after the St Michael’s community allowed Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) to dig a quarry on the Seqoqo slope, about a kilometre from the village.

The community, through its council, had said MGC should dig a quarry on condition that it maintains gravel roads leading to the village.

Problems started when they received a letter from the district administrator saying the land on which MGC was mining was part of Thaba-Bosiu.

Pasane said she was shocked when she heard that the land which she had “always known to belong to my people was actually being claimed by the people of Thaba-Bosiu”. 

She said she was also shocked that the letter was addressed to the council and not to the principal chief.

She said the letter was supposed to be addressed to Maama.

Maama councillor Nko Mahloane, who received the letter, said he believed the land belonged to St Michael’s. 

Mahloane said the disputed area has always been used by the St Michael’s community for pastures and as a source of water.

He said the people St Michael’s had also planted trees on that piece of land.

“We have been doing that for years,” Mahloane said.

“Chief Theko surprised us last month when he claimed that the land belonged to Thaba-Bosiu.”

Mahloane said their water springs are on the slope and if the land is declared part of Thaba-Bosiu they would have lost an important natural resource.

Phothoma Mafereka, who claimed to be in his late 90s, said he had known the boundaries between Thaba-Bosiu and Ha-Maama since he was a small boy.

Mafereka said Theko was tampering with clear boundaries that the two communities have respected for more than half a century.

“We won’t let him take our land and resources,” Mafereka said.

“That land falls under Maama and therefore belongs to St Michael’s.”

“This is going to cause fights that might result in unnecessary deaths,” he added. 

“We are prepared to take action if we see Theko’s people using our land and resources.

“Even if the local government gives the Thaba-Bosiu chief our land we are not going to accept it.

“We won’t allow them to get onto our land.

“We will not beg for our own property from people of Thaba Bosiu.

“They will take our land when we are dead not while we are still alive.”

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