Land: The people speak - Most Middelburg residents opt for constitutional amendment

Community members from Middelburg, Mpumalanga, on the last day of Constitutional Review Committee's public hearings in the province. (Andrea Küsel)
Community members from Middelburg, Mpumalanga, on the last day of Constitutional Review Committee's public hearings in the province. (Andrea Küsel)

The Constitution must be amended to allow for land expropriation without compensation. This was the general consensus on Wednesday among community members from Middelburg, Mpumalanga, on the last day of the Constitutional Review Committee's public hearings in the province, Netwerk24 reported.

Participants said that not enough land was owned by black South Africans.

"If you want to be respected by a white man, you must own land. One woman, one hectare," one participant said.

Several speakers felt there should be no compensation for land taken from them during apartheid.

Jonas Mushumane said people lived in dreadful conditions because they didn't own land. "People can't even get loans from the bank if they don't own land."

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

DA representative Annerie Weber said she supported land reform, but not land expropriation without compensation.

"Everyone has the right to own property, but if the Constitution is amended, the government will own all the land in the country. Citizens will then have to rent land from the government, which I don't see as freedom."

Gert Smith of Agri-Mpumalanga said he opposed the amendment to the Constitution because it would threaten the country's food security, among other things.

"Land doesn't create prosperity; working the land does." He said Article 25 of the Constitution was essential for economic security.

One participant said: "We are gathered here as victims of apartheid and colonialism. Black people live in abominable conditions - in concentration camps, better known as townships - and then there are still people like Terror (Mosiuoa Lekota) who don't want to amend the Constitution."  

Community members from Middelburg, Mpumalanga, on the last day of Constitutional Review Committee's public hearings in the province. (Andrea Küsel)

'We can't have a law which protects thieves'

Cornelius Mostert, a representative of the local Khoi community, said it had been "hurtful when people were removed from their land during apartheid".

He said South Africa had land which once belonged to the Khoi, but which still belonged to the queen of England. One of these places was the Kruger National Park, he said.

He said the Constitution should be changed so that the people of South Africa could get their land back.

Nkululeku Chabalala said land in South Africa belonged to black people.

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

"We can't have a law which protects thieves. Why should black people provide reasons for returning land, when it was stolen from us in the first place? The Constitution must make provision for black people."

Mohamed Ameen Hajat, of Delmas, said the land on which the town's mosque was built used to belong to his grandfather, from whom it had been taken unfairly.

"I fully agree that land must be expropriated, but it must be done in the right way. If you give land to poor people, what will they do with it? They will go to the bank to get a loan and then buy expensive cars," he said.

He suggested that money should instead be collected from those who benefited from land, such as farms, and be used to give poor people the skills to till the soil.

Only a handful of people were opposed to the amendment of Article 25 (the property clause) of the Constitution.

We need to listen to every person who is here, says Malema

Johan Holtzhauzen, a local farmer, said he realised the significance of land reform. "This is why we donate 111 hectares of our land to six families who live on our farm."

Holtzhauzen said that, rather than fight, he would cooperate with these six families and the government to establish a successful enterprise. However, he warned that care should be taken when amending the Constitution.

"Land is valuable, and we should think carefully about that value if it is just given away for free."

Parliamentary representatives from the EFF, DA, ANC and Cope were also on the panel.

The audience cheered when EFF leader Julius Malema appeared on the stage, but booed Cope leader Lekota.

READ: Land: The people speak – Malema calls for calm as speakers are booed, fears of 'economic suicide' raised

Malema, at one stage, had to calm down people who were unhappy with the opinions of other participants.

"If you don't listen to every person who is here, this whole meeting means nothing," he told them.

Vincent Smith, chairperson of the constitutional review committee, warned participants to respect each other's opinions.

"If we can't hear you, the voice of Middelburg won't be heard in Parliament."

Wednesday's meeting was the last sitting in Mpumalanga.

Hearings on land expropriation without compensation will continue next week in North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

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