Liberation is incomplete without the return of the land, Parliament’s Joint Constitutional Review Committee heard in Vryheid – the KwaZulu-Natal town with the name that means “freedom” or “liberty”.
A delegation of the committee held its first public hearing on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in the province on Wednesday.
The first round of 20 speakers followed the pattern established at the committee’s earlier hearings in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, the Free State and Mpumalanga, where most black speakers supported an amendment, and white speakers, often representing organised farmers’ organisations, opposed it.
The first speaker, a man who wore ANC colours, said an amendment must be implemented post-haste. He said people in the rural areas did not need smallholdings. Instead, they needed large tracts of land to sustain themselves.
A representative of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa said the association supported an amendment.
“The land, we must bring it back,” he said.
He added that the land should be restricted to people who have the capacity to work it.
He also said that land in possession of the Ingonyama Trust should not be disturbed.
Meanwhile, a representative of a construction firm in the area said they had lost three projects since a motion to investigate an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution had been adopted by Parliament in February.
One of these projects was from a German company which indicated that it would not invest in South Africa for two years to see how the process unfolds.
“As a result of that (the three lost projects), we had to retrench 120 people, with another 40 on the cards,” he said.
A representative of the KwaZulu-Natal Red Meat Producers Organisation said most livestock in the province were owned by emerging farmers and the sector had shown strong growth provincially. He said expropriation would disrupt this trend.
An Eshowe Farmers’ Association representative also did not support expropriation without compensation, but added that the association supported a well-thought-out, practical solution to the unequal distribution of land. He said the argument in favour of expropriation was driven by emotion and “perceptions of historical dispossession”.
“Emotion and historical arguments [do] not feed people,” he added.
Immediately after him, a man spoke about returning the land to black people, eliciting enthusiastic cheers from the large audience in the Cecil Emmett Hall.
“Our roots as blacks are land,” he said via a translator. “Our land was stolen from us. We were not compensated when it was stolen from us.”
However, a Khoi-San leader did not support an amendment to the Constitution.
“We as Khoi-San, [are] the first people of the land. We need to be part of any decision,” he said.
A representative of a law firm specialising in land reform said it was not necessary to amend the Constitution for land reform, and it would not solve the problem.
She said there was a large amount of privately-owned land available for redistribution, but that the State had not acquired it.
A woman who had ornately-arranged dreadlocks said she supported an amendment because a return of the land would give dignity to black people.
A representative of Azapo pointed out that the transition to democracy was not liberation if the land issue was not dealt with.
However, a farmer said he was against the amendment.
“Every effort we as white farmers made [to institute land reform] was doomed and thrown aside by government,” he said.
Continuing with the trend set at previous hearing, Wednesday’s hearing was well attended.
At around 11:00, when the hearing started, a long line of people curved over the Cecil Emmett Hall’s grounds to the entrance, and many people milled around on the nearby sports field.