Land: The people speak - Man says he is living proof that state ownership doesn't mean disinvestment

Pat Mathosa told the Constitutional Review Committee he has been farming successfully for the past seven years on state-owned land. (Jan Gerber, News24)
Pat Mathosa told the Constitutional Review Committee he has been farming successfully for the past seven years on state-owned land. (Jan Gerber, News24)

It is a myth that there are no investment opportunities on state-owned farms, and Pat Mathosa is living proof.

"Remove money as a means to access land," Mathosa told the Constitutional Review Committee at its hearing on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in Botshabelo in the Free State on Monday.

He said he knew it was a myth that there won't be investment on state-owned land, as he has been farming successfully near Koffiefontuin on state-owned land.

"Don't buy the land," he told the committee.

Speaking on the sidelines of the hearing, Mathosa told News24 that, in the seven years he has been farming there, not once did the state pay him a visit.

"I'm a living example that it is not true [that] if the state owns the land, there is no investment," he said.

READ: ANC to balance white fear, black anger in land debate - Mkhize

Opponents to the amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation will often say, if this happens, investment will dry up.

"It's an ideological point. It's a mad ideological point," Mathosa said.

"Ownership has nothing to do with production capacity."

He said he has been farming on "desert land" near Koffiefontuin.

"The state is not a farmer."

"I have a right to exploit the land."

'Not judged by the colour of their skin'

He said his right to farm on the particular piece of land was transferable to his wife or children if he died.

And the benefit of the arrangement to the state is that he pays taxes, provides work for up to 20 people, and provides them with housing, water and electricity.

The majority of speakers at the hearing in Botshabelo, 50kms outside of Bloemfontein, supported the amendment of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

The general argument was that black people have been violently dispossessed of land by white people.

Some speakers said the state should be unapologetic about taking back stolen land without compensation. It is also viewed as a way to end poverty. In addition, several speakers said it was untrue that black farmers would not be able to farm productively.

A commercial farmer, Piet de Bruin, said he was tired of people saying that land should be taken away from white people. He then spoke Sesotho (which wasn't translated) and his words elicited some applause from black people in the audience.

"South Africa should be a place where people are not judged by the colour of their skin," he said.

The argument against the amendment of the Constitution focused on the importance of title deeds and the economic impact it would have and the threat to food security. One of the counter-proposals was that white farmers should rather be forced to be BEE compliant.  

'If we don't do it with God, there will be blood'

Earlier, committee co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande said black and white people were welcome at the hearing, after a man said that white people shouldn't participate in the discussions on land.

In a hearing characterised by racial invective, there were also some peacemakers, Koos Molehe being one of them.

"Land to our people is the answer to the havoc caused by the prison called locations, Bantustans, townships," he said.

"Yes, we are ready to take care of our environment, animals, the land and our neighbourhoods."

"Let the land of God benefit all who live on it," he said.

Outside the venue – the Samson Sefuthi Community Hall – he told News24: "This is a very sensitive thing, the land. If we don't do it with God, there will be blood."

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

A young woman called for a stop to racial divisiveness and a man said there would not be a white genocide.

In a statement released after the meeting, Nzimande thanked the public for their orderly participation in the icy weather.  

"The public has been extremely patient and orderly. When the venue was full, they patiently queued outside until they could be accommodated inside to have a say, while the proceedings were audible outside in the cold for an opportunity to speak.

We heard divergent views on this matter, all of which we take very seriously," he said.

"The great numbers we have seen at the hearings so far are an indication of the critical importance of land."

On Tuesday, the delegation of the committee currently in the Free State is expected to have a hearing at the Ferdie Meyer Hall in Welkom.

The delegation in Mpumalanga is expected to have its hearing at the Msukaligwa Town Hall in Ermelo.

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