The Land: South Africa Speaks – Malema, Lekota in heated argument over 'staged' public hearing

Things got so tense between EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota at Limpopo's first public hearing into the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution on Wednesday that Lekota, who was seated next to Malema, got up and moved to another seat.

Following claims by Lekota that the process was staged, the two got into a heated exchange that resulted in sections of the crowd in the jam-packed Marble Hall town hall repeatedly chanting "Juju", as Malema's followers sometimes refer to him.

After the public hearings ended, Malema told News24 that Lekota believed the entire process was staged because Malema had pointed out people that chairperson Vincent Smith should recognise to make submissions to the Constitutional Review Committee.

"I said to him as a member of Parliament you are allowed to chair, if you think it's staged, take a mic and choose people yourself because I also do the same thing. When I see people, I say 'chair, recognise that person'," Malema said.

"Then he becomes emotional and says 'don't talk to me', then I said 'no, you are being unreasonable now'. That's what we were fighting about."

Malema said Smith was a democratic chairperson who told the committee members that if they saw someone who they felt very strongly must be recognised, then they should bring it to his attention.

'He's crying tears'

"There is no one that has staged this process. Everyone has spoken, black and white, male, female, young and old."

Malema added that Lekota was losing the debate on the land question and had become emotional as a result.

"The people on the ground are saying something different. It's not our problem if Lekota's views do not find expression. He must not create his own imagination."

"He's crying, he's crying tears, the people want the section amended, Cope does not have people. Terror (Lekota) is the membership of cope, he is the leader of Cope," Malema said.

Telling his side of the story, Lekota said that he was unhappy that Malema was telling the chairperson which people to recognise and that those people were given extra time to speak, so he confronted Malema during the sitting.

"He must not be telling the chairperson who to point at and, secondly, how long he can talk. He was specifically urging the chairperson to not stop a man who had already gone over his time because he wanted that man to talk," Lekota said.

Overwhelming support for amendment

"Then he started being rude to me, so I decided to move away from him because it's of no use to me to engage him there."

Lekota also took issue with the fact that the public hearing continued past 16:00 when that was the time at which it was agreed to end each hearing.

He added that he would be addressing this issue in Parliament and that he would make the point that the committee could not make up the rules as it goes along because committee members did not have that authority.

During the public hearing, an overwhelming majority of people called for the amendment of the Constitution so that land can be expropriated without compensation.

They felt the proposed amendment was the only recourse left for the country when it came to the land issue.

Vasco Mabunda of the Nkuzi Development Association in Limpopo told the committee that land reform had failed because there was a lack of will on the part of the government to expedite the transfer of land from the minority to the majority.

Farmers not willing sellers

He added that land claims and the "willing buyer, willing seller" format of reform had not been successful. Claims dating back 20 years had still not been finalised.

Mabunda said farmers were also stubborn and not willing sellers in negotiations, which had slowed down the pace of land reform.

"They don't come to the party," said Mabunda.

While he was for the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution, he said an independent body should be established to deal with land transfers.

Another unnamed participant told the committee that previous land claims had been unsuccessful in returning the land to its rightful owners.

"Until land ownership is amended, there cannot be peace in this country," he said.

Property is everything

Those who spoke against the amendment were heckled as they gave their opinions.

Johan Mills of the Bela-Bela Taxpayers' Forum said amending section 25 was not a good idea because it related to property. He said this meant all types of property and not just land.

He added that he was against this because property was the foundation of everything and that, if money was needed, one could borrow against it.

"If we don't have an asset, we cannot borrow as it will no longer belong to you. It will belong to the government," said Mills.

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