Gil Saleshando’s Long Walk To His Father’s Gravesite

Boniface Keakabetse

 Veteran politician Gilson Saleshando and Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust have reached an agreement regarding the burial site of Gilson’s father, the late Ndodi Saleshando.

The graveyard forms part of pristine wilderness demarcated as a tourism concession named NG33 by Tawana Land Board.   Gilson’s late father, Ndodi Saleshando, a Wayeyi tribesman, was buried there in 1960, after suffering a fatal hippo attack.  

Gilson’s claim of his father’s grave drew animosity with Sankuyo Tshwaragano Management Trust (STMT), an entity owned by Sankuyo village community, and was in 1996 granted exclusive rights over NG33, under a Lease Agreement issued by TLB.

In 2020, Saleshando approached Sankuyo Village Chief Gokgathang Moalosi seeking his permission to fence the grave. The gesture was turned down by Kgosi Moalosi on the basis of the findings of the taskforce he (Kgosi Moalosi) had set to look in to the matter.

In his refusal, Kgosi Moalosi cited that policy on land use has changed and the area has been declared a tourism concession and therefore allowing people to fence and occupy grave yards would disadvantage the benefits of the tourism concession to the entire community.

Moalosi further expressed fear that acceding to the request could set a wrong precedent for natural resources conservation as all the residents of Santawani, Sankuyo and Khwai would have their relatives buried in the same area who could also be motivated by Saleshando’s case to claim graves of their descendants.’’ acceding to the application could set a precedent that would condemn and endanger the future use of NG33 as a community tourism concession’’ Moalosi wrote at the time.

However, the elderly politician was unfazed and continued fighting for his right to secure the burial site of his late father. In a letter dated 30th July 2020, Gilson went on and applied to TLB for regularisation and fencing of the existing graveyard of his late father in NG33.

Saleshando’s application to TLB was however opposed by STMT citing the sites land use demarcation as an exclusive tourism concession.

TLB thenceforth scheduled a meeting to hear STMT objection. STMT engaged the services of private attorney Clifford Foroma while Saleshando lined Wanano Lumbile for representation before the Board.

However, recently the two lawyers representing both parties told TLB Board meeting that they have since resolved the grievance amicably. It look like TLB main Board had prepared to proceed with the objection issue.   The two parties’ revelation to the Board of reaching an Agreement therefore seemed to somehow throw the Board off-balance. 

  Reading the Agreement before the Board,  Lumbile stated that the Trust has agreed to grant and allow  the applicant the absolute and exclusive use and control of the cemetery of the late Ndodi Saleshando to extent of fencing off the area immediately  surrounding measuring 10x10x10x10 for purposes of due and proper demarcation and beneficial occupation thereof.

He further read: ‘’the agreement stated that for avoidance of doubt, the Trust cedes and assigns its rights, title and interest over late Ndodi Saleshando cemetery.’’

‘’ Nothing in this Agreement shall have the effect   or be construed to have granted the applicant any other rights or obligations than those otherwise provided or allowed by the Lease Agreement issued by Tawana Land Board over NG33 and as such this Agreement shall only have effect to the extent of it being consistent with the said Lease Agreement, ‘’ read Lumbile.

TLB lawyer Tobokani Chilume however quarried a clause which states: ‘’The Trust grants and allows the applicant the absolute and exclusive use and control of the cemetery of the late Ndodi Saleshando. He also queried part of the clause that asserts: ‘’ Trust cedes and assigns it rights, title and interest over late Ndodi Saleshando cemetery.

 Chilume thus felt that STMT had through the Agreement assumed the duty of land allocation function belonging to the Land Board.  You can’t accede land rights to Saleshando when such function is the mandate of the land board. ‘’ what you are doing through this Agreement is asking the Land Board to recognize or subdivide NG33 and give a portion to Mr. Saleshando’s graveyard.’’

In response, Lumbile stated that the two parties will scrap out all the clauses in the Agreement objected by Chilume.  Further, Lumbile assured that STMT has agreed to provide Saleshando with access to demarcate his father’s grave without obtaining land rights over the grave land.

Added Lumbile: ‘’ clause 9 of the lease agreement between TLB and STMT states that the Trust can’t accede its rights and obligations without the consent of the Land Board hence we are here to inform the Board following the peaceful settlement.’’

TLB also wanted a confirmation from the two parties whether they were withdrawing the two applications before the Board being:  Mr. Saleshando’s regularisation and the successive STMT objection applications. The two parties confirmed to the Board that the new Agreement served as a withdrawal and a settlement to Saleshando’s regularisation and STMT objection applications.  ‘’ what is happening in our part is that we are replacing the application with this Agreement’’ stated Lumbile

Foroma for STMT stated that their contention is that the respondents are no longer pursuing regularisation and therefore STMT will stop their initial objection and enter the Agreement. ‘’ yes we are no longer fighting regularization because it is no longer an issue’’ stated Foroma.

TLB also instructed STMT to submit a proper application in line with land Board’s land application procedures stating clearly its plan to change land use for recognition of the late Saleshando’s grave.

‘’ if we are to implement this Agreement the trust as the lessee will have to be at the forefront now’’ asserted Chilume

‘’ the lease holder has to apply to TLB and submit issues of land utilization , issues of sub-division , issues of transfer and the application will be looked each at its own merits.’’

The parties explained that their Agreement purely facilitates access and does not grant land rights to Saleshando of which the Board still maintained STMT institute all those deliberations in writing for consideration in the March TLB Board meeting.

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