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Members of the public in Welkom in the Free Stare were clear – they want their land back. Speaker after speaker made it clear that the land was stolen from black people in this country and therefore needed to be returned without compensation.

An overwhelming number of the people making oral submissions yesterday to a delegation of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee on day two of the hearings in the Free State were in favour of amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. The committee was instructed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ascertain whether a review of section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses is necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation, and propose the necessary constitutional amendments where necessary.

On Monday, the delegation held public hearings in a packed hall in Botshabelo, Mangaung. Not even the extremely cold weather kept the public away. Yesterday was no different, with high numbers of people attending the hearings in the Ferdi Meyer hall in Welkom.

Ms Vell Gutter, a participant, told the hearings as a white person with a conscious, she cannot deny that black people were tricked regarding their land. “They were hospitable when you came, and whites took the land.”

Mr Tsediso Tlau, a teacher from the area, said poorer schools in the area had not sports fields, as they had no land compared to their former model C counterparts who had big fields. Ms Moloboheng Semela, a Rastafarian, was clear: “Slave masters now stand here and cry like babies. Our Rastafarian forefathers were evicted from our land. We need our land back.”

A traditional healer indicated she wants the land back because when she searches for herbs, she is charged by farmers.

A representative from Agri South Africa in the Free State said they support sustainable land reform, but do not support expropriation without compensation. Mr Willie Prins, who said he trained several black farmers, said title deeds are the way to go, as land alone will not solve the question of poverty and unemployment. Banks do not provide loans to farmers without title deeds, he reminded his listeners.

The Co-Chairperson of the committee, Mr Lewis Nzimande, had to quieten the crowd several times when they tried to drown out the voices of speakers they did not agree with. “This is a parliamentary process. You will hear views you do not agree with, but you have to respect them. We are here to listen to all South African who want to speak.

The delegation will today conclude its Free State hearings. It was in the Northern Cape last week.

Rajaa Azzakani

4 July 2018