Land: The people speak - Black people opposing constitutional amendment jeered

Black speakers opposing the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution were jeered loudly at the Constitutional Review Committee's public hearing in Phuthaditjhaba in the Qwa-Qwa region in the Free State on Wednesday.

It was a member of Cope who copped the loudest boos.

All the white speakers opposed an amendment to the Constitution that would allow expropriation without compensation.

A black man, who said he did not support the amendment, was booed.

"Don't boo," committee co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande told the audience.

The second last speaker of the day, a black woman who lives on a farm, said she did not support expropriation without compensation because it would mean she would not have a place to stay. She too was booed.

The committee, on its last stop of the Free State leg of their tour through the country, also heard from several speakers how their grandfathers or fathers lost their land in the region. Some were killed and some were banned from the Qwa-Qwa region.

"White people, you are not farmers. You are just people with resources," he said. "The real farmers are these people!" Tsekiso Lephoto exclaimed, pointing to the members of the public seated in the Phuthaditjhaba Multipurpose Hall.

READ: Land: The people speak - Black people can farm, public hearing told

"Roar young lion! Roar!" someone towards the back of the hall shouted as he walked back to his seat.

He supports amending Section 25 to allow expropriation without compensation, like most of the speakers who participated in the hearing.

Several black speakers disparaged the notion that black people could not farm.

"Of course we can farm," Thabo Radebe said.

He told the committee that his grandfather's land in Qwa-Qwa was expropriated years ago.

The general thrust of the argument in favour of amending the Constitution was the assertion that indigenous people were dispossessed of their land without compensation, impoverishing the people and destroying their culture and pride. Expropriation without compensation is viewed as a remedy to this. This follows the pattern at the previous hearings in the Free State and the Northern Cape.

The argument against an amendment has generally been that it will create economic chaos and threaten food security. It has also been suggested that it is not necessary to amend the Constitution to implement effective land reform.

In Phuthaditjhaba, Freedom Front Plus leader Jan van Niekerk said money that could have been used for land reform projects have been lost through maladministration and corruption.

In a similar vein Kobus de Jager said with the money spent on former president Jacob Zuma's home at Nkandla and the Vrede dairy project, 43 000 ha could have been bought for land reform projects.

"If the country wasn't corrupt, there would have been enough land for redistribution," he said.

As at previous hearings, the support for or against amending the Constitution mostly followed racial lines, with most black speakers expressing their support for an amendment, and all white speakers opposing it.

The support also follows party lines, with speakers belonging to the EFF and ANC supporting an amendment, while speakers from the DA, Cope and now the FF Plus against an amendment.

Several of the speakers who said they were affiliated to thee EFF also made a point of greeting the EFF members of the committee and thanking the party for driving the issue. This was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

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