Land: The people speak – 'Reform should be production driven, not ideological'

2018-07-28 21:41

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Around two thousand residents from Tshwane and surrounding areas attended Parliament’s joint constitutional review committee’s final stop in Gauteng on Saturday to share their views on whether they believed there was a need to amend the Constitution.

The joint committee has been criss-crossing the country listening to oral submissions from South Africans on the emotive land issue. This is part of its task following a successful EFF led motion to expropriate land without compensation in February.

This week Tshwane residents had demanded a change of venue, complaining that the initial venue was far too small, and many wanted to air their views on the land question. Parliament changed venues and shuttled members to a new venue in Thaba Tshwane.

Previous venues have been packed to capacity, with committee co-chair Vincent Smith constantly apologising for the small venues and admitting that he "underestimated" the interest South Africans would have into the matter.

READ: Land: The people speak - Committee for land hearing denies moving Tshwane event because of political pressure

The last public hearing in South Africa’s economic hub was less subdued than in Sedibeng, which took place on Friday, but it did not get as heated as some of the moments seen during the West Rand gathering earlier this week, where Smith had to ask political party representatives to instruct their supporters to toe the line.

AfroWorld View owner Mzwanele Manyi and Afriforum’s Ernst Roets, were among those who attended Saturday's public hearings.

"We are discussing a very sensitive issue, but Parliament was supposed to have distributed a report from the past 24 years when Section 25 [on expropriation] was enacted [to show] the outcomes and outputs," said Peter Matle from Brits.

He accused leaders from the National Assembly of depriving ordinary citizens an opportunity to truly engage with the issue at hand.

"What we are doing today might create a problem," he said.

Matle, who veered from the topic under discussion and urging people to participate in the looming 2019 general elections, said it was time to change the political landscape. He also claimed Parliament, and the ANC as the majority party, had failed people as only one party made the decisions for the rest of the country.

READ: Land: The people speak - Tshwane residents unhappy as hearings hit Gauteng

Phillip van Staden, who was against the amendment, argued for the willing seller, willing buyer concept. He also argued that land reform had to be about production, and not ideologically driven.

"Politicians must stop making populist and ideological statements on land, and false accusations, especially against white farmers," said Van Staden.

In arguing over the issue of food security, he said the allocation of land had to be done on the basis of capabilities of new owners in order to ensure sustainable production.

Van Staden also told those at the hearing that he believed politicians instead of ordinary people would benefit from a process such as expropriation without compensation.

Expropriation without compensation not good for joblessness

Werner Human, the deputy CEO of Solidarity told the public hearings that expropriation without compensation would worsen the country’s already high youth unemployment rate.

"It will worsen [the problem]. Less of us would work and the economy would be worse off. In the end none of us would win," said Human.

He said history had shown that expropriation without compensation was "morally reprehensible".

"It leads to totalitarianism and authoritarianism and naturally would mean individual liberties would be lessened and power of the state would expand," he told the hall, questioning why so many people were in support of expropriation without compensation.

Human said he did not believe people actually wanted to farm or work the land but instead sought it as a path towards prosperity and opportunities, warning that the only way expropriation would lead South Africa was towards a situation similar to Zimbabwe's land grabs and economic meltdown.

ALSO READ: Land: The people speak - Tshwane hearings move to larger venue

However, a young man who did not give his name told the arena that this would not happen. In advocating for an amendment to the Constitution, he said people should not lie and claim South Africa would go the Zimbabwe route.

"Was Mala Mala reasonable? It’s not reasonable. The state can’t stand there and say it has taken reasonable steps," he said referring to the 2014 deal which saw government paying R1bn for a reserve on behalf of 960 families of the Mhlanganisweni community.

"You cannot sit here and tell us people of colour; black people specifically will not be able to farm the land. We were living in Africa before 1652. Food was here, there was food security," he said, while some in the crowd cheered him on.

The joint committee will move to the Western Cape next week, the last province before moving on to the task of consolidating the different views it had obtained across the country.

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