Land: The people speak – Not every black person who wants land wants to be a farmer

2018-06-29 19:44
Members of the public line up in Tzaneen, Limpopo, to participate in the public hearings into the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Members of the public line up in Tzaneen, Limpopo, to participate in the public hearings into the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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While the Limpopo public hearings into amending section 25 of the Constitution have focused on farmland, the reality is that not every person wants to be a farmer.

Participating in the Constitutional Review Committee's public hearing in Tzaneen on Friday, a young man who did not identify himself said that not every black person who wants land wants to become a farmer.

"What is land to us as young people? Land to us is not only farming, land is business, land is homes, land is infrastructure," he told the committee.

"When you think about expropriation without compensation all we think about is farming but land is not subjected to farming only."

READ: Land: The people speak – Black farmers need resources to be successful, says land claim beneficiary

He added that while land for farming had dominated the public hearings in Limpopo, land itself was a broad concept and that the committee must know there are many people who want land, but not farmland.

Another man, wearing a black jacket, told the committee that land was not only for agricultural purposes. 

"We need land to build our homes, develop sports grounds and local industrial sites to uplift the township's economy through business," he said.

Black people disconnected from farmland

One participant said that while white people might ask what it is that black people want to do with the land, the question didn't matter as the land rightfully belonged to black people. 

He told the committee that whether the land was farmed or not was irrelevant, the land just needed to be returned.

News24 spoke to several people at public hearings in Limpopo this week who had various opinions on what the term "land" encompasses.

Most people alluded to the fact that many black people had left rural areas for the cities and that farmland would now mean very little to them.

"Land is not farming, land is business, land is infrastructure, land is sporting facilities, land is houses, land is everything," said one man who did not want to be named.

Up-and-coming black farmer Solly Letsoalo told News24 that being a farmer was a profession and that not every person who wants land wants to farm that land. 

'Where is the money going to come from?'

Earlier on Friday, he told the committee that land expropriation without compensation would not help black farmers if government did not give them adequate financial assistance to farm the land.

"Getting land [without the money to make it productive] is like being poor and getting a Ferrari, you will struggle to buy fuel," Letsoalo said.

"The resources, the mechanisms to make that land workable are not there, that has always been the problem.

"If the plan is that let us amend section 25 so that we can get land, it's good, but where is the money going to come from?" 

Letsoalo, who obtained his farm through a land claim, was disrupted and heckled throughout his contribution to the review committee.

Those who agreed with Letsoalo's view of not amending the Constitution but instead dealing with the challenges that have arisen through land reform policies currently in place were in the minority in Tzaneen.

Much like in Marble Hall and Mokopane, the popular opinion in Tzaneen was that the land should be expropriated without compensation and then returned to its rightful owners. 

Read more on:    land expropriation  |  land hearings  |  land

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