A delegation of the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation held public hearings in Welkom in the Free State.

This, coupled with hearings in Mpumalanga which occurred simultaneously, was the first in a series of hearings that the committee is holding over a few weeks, as it travels the country to get public opinion on the format this amendment should take.

The support by the majority of participants at the hearings for the Bill were overwhelming and several felt that is was way overdue. However, a few dissenting views come from the crowd that felt it would be detrimental to the economy.

At the commencement of the proceedings, committee Chairperson and the leader of the Free State delegation, Dr Mathole Motshekga, made it clear that Members of Parliament (MPs) were there to listen to comments and inputs. “This is your process. We are not here to talk. We are here to listen. We will later deliberate amongst ourselves. We will also not be giving answers to what you are saying. We want to take what you say verbatim and present it as you said it.”

He said the mandate of the committee is to make explicit what is implicit in the Constitution. “We believe if we can free the full potential of our people we will address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment in order not to live in poverty. We want you and future generations to have a better life,” said Dr Motshekga.

A participant, who introduces himself only as Siyabonga, said those who were forcefully removed from Odendaalsrus must be smiling in their graves now. “The fundamental struggle of our people has been the land and nothing else. It is time that it is returned to our people.”

Another participant said the expropriation of land without compensation will take place even with the threat of being downgraded by ratings agencies. “We will close the gap of poverty and inequality with land.”

Another participant, Mr Koos Pienaar, had a different view and pleaded with MPs to keep Section 25 of the Constitution in its current format. He said he was involved in 10 African countries to help small scale farmers become commercial farmers. “If we allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, our economy will suffer.”

An unnamed participant said that the economy would crash and said many white people also want land, but cannot acquire it. “My brother also wants land, but he has to work for a living. That is just how life is. Don’t forget farmers are already having a difficult time.”

Several members of the public also felt that a limit should be included in the Constitution regarding the amount of land any individual can own.

Rajaa Azzakani
10 March 2020