Plea for land at hearings

People lining up outside the Friends of God Church in Goodwood.

Should the state be allowed to take land without paying for it to speed up land reform?

Yes, said most of those appearing before a parliamentary committee in Goodwood, at the weekend.

Hundreds flocked to the Friends of God Church, where Parliament’s constitutional review committee wrapped up the final leg of its countrywide public hearings, giving South Africans a chance to have their say on a proposal to change Section 25 of the constitution and allow “land expropriation without compensation”.

De Doorns farmworker Bettie Fortuin, 63, supported changing the constitution.

“I started working as a farmworker at the age of 13, and I feel our land needs to be distributed properly,” she said.

“Women working on farms also have very little rights, which is a problem. If a woman’s husband dies, the farm owner will automatically tell her to leave the farm, which leaves the woman displaced,” she said.

Cassiem Davids, of Lentegeur in Mitchell’s Plain, said he also supported the amendment to the constitution.

“There are too many people who don’t have houses or land. Government has been slow in terms of land reform in this country. Some people I know have been on the City’s housing waiting list for over 40 years.

“I know someone in Mitchell’s Plain who only got a house at the age of 102. She was on the waiting list for 54 years.

“How long will she be able to enjoy the comfort of her house at her age?”

Mr Davids lives in a rented house and said he had no privacy.

“I live in a three-bedroomed house with 11 other people. We have so many open fields of land in this country, why can’t government give it to the people? I believe the wrongs of the past need to be corrected,” he said.

Mirsha Andrews pleaded for constitutional change to accelerate land reform.

“We have seen no transformation in terms of land expropriation. We have only seen the continuation of spatial apartheid.

“White commercial farmers still own 80% of the agricultural land in this country. I also firmly believe that farmworkers need to have a voice in how land is distributed in the future,” she said.

Patricia Crawley, a DA proportional representation councillor, did not support changing the constitution.

“We don’t have to change the constitution as our constitution already makes provision for land distribution. I believe the current government needs to be changed,” she said.

Harold Petersen, of Welcome Estate, who represented the First Indigenous Nation of South Africa, said the constitution could not be reviewed or amended without the input of the indigenous people.

“Cape coloureds are direct descendants of the Khoisan. DNA reveals that coloured people have 32% to 34% Khoisan blood. The rock art, artefacts and bones found by archaeologists are proof and act as title deeds of the original caretakers of the land.

“The Khoisan have for hundreds of years been oppressed and dispossessed by colonialists,” he said.

Kholeka Gili, of Lower Crossroads, called for the constitution to be changed.

“My family fought too much. Government is not doing enough for us. My people are still staying in shacks and kept away from white people in this city. I firmly believe that racism is still alive in South Africa in 2018,” she said.

Peter Marais, who attended the hearings as a representative of the the Griqua Royal House and also as the president of the Bruin Bemagtiging Beweging (BBB), said the issue was one of restorative justice rather than mere restitution or reform of any particular law.

“One cannot reform broken lives unless the root causes that led to their destruction are first examined. Apartheid has destroyed millions of lives. If the constitution in its present form makes ample provision for expropriation, without compensation, it must be assumed that all those parties who signed the agreement at Codesa, fully realised its implications and thus, cannot now, object to its implementation,” he said.

Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) involved negotiations between the apartheid state and freedom movements to bring the system to an end.

Mr Marais, a former Western Cape premier, said if the constitution did in fact make sufficient provision for expropriation without compensation, then that should be tested in the courts before trying to change the constitution.

“We fully agree with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed amendment to the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) motion, to the effect that expropriation should not be at the expense of long-term food security or a declining economy.

“Agricultural production should not be affected. Our position is that wildcat expropriation merely to satisfy the insatiable and suicidal impulses of certain radical forces should be prevented at all costs,” he said.

The parliamentary committee’s media officer, Rajaa Azzakani, said it had held 34 hearings in all nine provinces and heard diverse views.

Committee co-chairperson Vincent Smith said he was confident the committee had succeeded in its task of listening to the people.

“The committee allowed for democracy to prevail,” he said.

He cautioned the crowd to let others speak, even when they disagreed with what was being said.

Committee co-chair Lewis Nzimande said even though they had a packed hall with emotions running high, people had been orderly and tolerant.

“The committee is proud of the tolerance showed by our people, even when they completely disagreed with speakers.”

Faiez Jacobs, ANC provincial secretary, said the party was satisfied with the Western Cape leg of the public hearings.

“Our people have unequivocally and overwhelmingly said, Section 25 of the constitution must be amended in order to fulfill the broad and fair land ownership across the province,” he said.

“Our members and supporters are saying, land reform through the amendment of Section 25 will open the province’s productive forces, and, contrary to popular belief, will actually increase agricultural productivity and will be the catalyst for the broad industrialisation of our country as millions get absorbed into mainstream economy,” he said.

Mr Smith said the committee would now assess the hundreds of thousands of written submissions it had received then invite those wishing to make oral presentations to hearings at Parliament.

“This process will take a bit of time as we had a substantial response to this matter,” said Mr Smith.