Land: The people speak – Black and white welcome at hearings, says Constitutional Review Committee

2018-07-02 16:34
Co-chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee Lewis Nzimande at a hearing in the Northern Cape last week, flanked by ANC MPs Loyiso Mpumlwana and Nick Koornhof. (Jan Gerber/News24)

Co-chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee Lewis Nzimande at a hearing in the Northern Cape last week, flanked by ANC MPs Loyiso Mpumlwana and Nick Koornhof. (Jan Gerber/News24)

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All South Africans – black and white – are welcome at the Constitutional Review Committee's public hearings on the amendment of the Constitution's property clause, co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande said on Monday.

This after a speaker at the committee's hearing in Botshabelo in the Free State said the involvement of white people compromises the process. 

"All South Africans are invited to these public hearings, black and white. As a committee we do not share the view that white people are not welcome here," said Nzimande. 

Shortly before Nzimande spoke, a group of white farmers stood up and left to loud cheers by other members of the public.

Shortly after him an EFF supporter, a Mr Wessenaar, said the time for an amendment to section 25 had long passed, and said the matter should not be voted on or debated.

He said white people stole the land.

"We'll take it back with a bazooka!" he said.

"We'll build a Titanic so that they can go back home."

He concluded by saying: "Praise God for the EFF."

Earlier, Francois Wilken of Free State Agriculture asked everyone in the hall not to generalise. He said he had bought his farm in 1994.

"I'm not a land thief."

Most of the speakers supported amending the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation, with many arguments centring on historic dispossession. Several speakers in support of an amendment also mentioned that there were people who own several farms, some of which lie fallow. 

Those arguing against amending the Constitution focused mostly on the importance of title deeds. 

If you really want to transform the agricultural sector, you need to give people title deeds, a young farmer named Lourens Schlebusch told the committee.

"I really do think we need to transform the agricultural sector," Schlebusch said. However, he did not think it was necessary to amend section 25 for this to happen.

To illustrate his point, he told the story of his neighbour and friend, who he referred to as Ntate Chris.

Ntate Chris is the beneficiary of a farm of 100 hectares that the government bought. But he did not receive a title deed. So he could not use it as collateral at banks. 

"No one wants to give him money," Schlebusch said.

DA, farmers against amendment

Eventually, he got a loan from the Land Bank, but it only covered half of the R5m he needed to plant. It also meant that he did not have tractors and enough labourers. 

"If you really want to transform the agricultural sector, give people title deeds."

He said he had a problem with the government owning all the land.

"How are you going to do business with the land?"

Many of the speakers who were for amending the Constitution said they supported the EFF or the ANC, the latter having a more noticeable presence in the first meeting in the Free State than in any of the hearings in the Northern Cape last week. There was also a member of Black First Land First who supported expropriation without compensation.

Members of the DA and farmers spoke against amending the Constitution. 

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  land  |  land expropriation  |  land hearings

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