We want our own land

Living in hope: Piet Berendse, indigenous name Paru Ikhuhisi, walks on a destroyed site where a cultural village was built in Upington. He and other Khoisan people want to know if they will be guaranteed land, because they were the first inhabitants of southern Africa
Living in hope: Piet Berendse, indigenous name Paru Ikhuhisi, walks on a destroyed site where a cultural village was built in Upington. He and other Khoisan people want to know if they will be guaranteed land, because they were the first inhabitants of southern Africa

In the Northern Cape, tempers flared and the question of the indigenous people’s rights was raised, but what was clear is that land expropriation without compensation has support from the majority of the communities. Tebogo Letsie tells the story in words and pictures

It all started calmly as the Toll Speelman Hall in Upington started filling up – hundreds of people walked in.

That all changed though when the time came for the public to make their submissions as the public hearings into the expropriation of land without compensation kicked off in an agricultural town in the heart of the Northern Cape’s “Green Kalahari” last week.

One thing soon became clear: all black people fully supported the idea of land expropriation without compensation, as well as the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution.

The hearings soon became emotionally charged. People poured out their hearts in support of the idea, using the opportunity to share their emotions on how they have been marginalised.

Talking head: Floyd Shivambu, the Economic Freedom Fighters’ chief whip in Parliament, addresses the public at the hearing

A Khoisan representative agreed with the majority, but had questions to ask. He wanted to know if there would be any guarantee for them to be allocated land as the first inhabitants of southern Africa.

He did not get an immediate answer.

But, as with many of the submissions, it will surely form part of larger discussions in different forums before Parliament deliberates the issue and makes a decision.

A leader of the KhoiSan Revolution Party, Stanley Peterson, spoke angrily about how the indigenous people had always been left out – during apartheid and even after the dawn of democracy in 1994.

He complained about the “continued exclusion and non-recognition of the Khoisan by the ANC and the democratic government”.

A handful of white people present took to the podium to register their voices. All of those who spoke disagreed with the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution, demanding fair compensation if their land is expropriated.


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Johannes Muller, a farmer in Upington, told the committee how expropriation of land without compensation would hurt the country’s economy, claiming what the government should do is give title deeds to every citizen instead of expropriating the land.

In Kuruman, otherwise known as the Oasis of the Kalahari, given its rich and abundant water source, the atmosphere was tense, with emotions running high. At times during the hearings, people became intolerant as different race groups made their submissions.

Boipelo Javas, a descendant of Kgosi Kolotisi Golela, had to step in and call the gathering to order. She raised concerns about what she said were “voices of insults from the white group at the back of the hall as black people spoke on the podium”.

Javas used the opportunity to state her case saying that “during the dispossession of land by white people, they did not take away only the land but our dignity, culture and wealth of blacks”.

She emphasised her strong support for land expropriation without compensation and the amendment of section 25 of the Constitution.

Nicol Jansen, representing commercial and small-scale farmers in Kuruman, said the current land debates would harm the economy, adding that the “government purchased thousands of hectares of land in the past and black people freely bought and sold land ...”

He argued that “therefore the Constitution is not a stumbling block to transformation”.

In another part of the Northern Cape, Steven Brou was adjusting a load of firewood on his donkey cart.

This is part of life in his home town of Olifantshoek and though he didn’t make it to the hearings, Brou still had something to say on the land issue.

He said getting a piece of land he could call his own would make him the happiest and proudest man ever.

“I need land for my 50 goats. I work on a farm seasonally but would love to own land where I can farm and have land for my sheep and goats to roam and graze freely.”

This feature is part of a journalism partnership called Our Land between City Press, Rapport, HuffPost SA, Landbouweekblad and Code for Africa to find the untold stories, air the debates, amplify the muted voices, do the research and, along the way, find equitable solutions to SA’s all-important land issue

Clear message: People line up to enter the Toll Speelman Hall in Upington. There was no mistaking the attitude of this person, whose cardboard poster read ‘we want to own our own land’
All ears: People crowd the Toll Speelman Hall in Upington. Most of the people are in favour of land expropriation without compensation

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