The Co-Chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, Mr Lewis Nzimande, told the people of Amathole District Municipality in East London’s Orient Theatre yesterday that their leg of public hearings on whether or not to amend section 25 of the Constitution is one of the many public hearings on the issue. The committee thus hoped that participants were positioned to make meaningful and clear presentations, based on what they might have observed in other provinces.

Mr Nzimande urged members of the public not to confuse the hearings for expropriation of land with other land programmes, such as land restitution. “We are not going to take questions on other land issues here. We are here for just one issue: good reasons to amend or not section 25 of the Constitution to make it possible to expropriate land without compensation,” Mr Nzimande explained. 

The hearings in the East London’s Orient Theatre yesterday were the third held in the Eastern Cape. The first took place in Mthatha on 23 July and the second in Queenstown on 25 July.

Delivering a submission on behalf of the Kingdom of Rharhabe, their spokesperson Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe told members of the delegation that East London falls into the area of land that was taken from King Mgolombana Sandile after the war of Ngcayichibi, one of the frontier wars of resistance against colonialism that took place in the 18th century.

“East London, which is still wet with the blood of the armies of King Sandile, was called Gompo before the area was taken by the barrel of the gun by mighty colonial forces,” said Prince Burns-Ncamashe. He told the delegation that King Sandile lost his stick of kingship during that fateful war and the stick was taken to Britain. After their defeat, he said, black people were pushed away from the fertile land, which includes East London, King William’s Town, Stutterheim and Komga, and settled on less productive land on the outskirts of the Border region.

Prince Burns-Ncamashe told the delegation that the Rharhabe Kingdom welcomed the notion of expropriation without compensation, as it follows the logic of dispossession without reparation. He also called for the return of the land to the custodianship of the traditional leaders, the kings in particular, as the land was originally taken from the kings.

The East London’ Orient Theatre was filled to capacity for the public hearings, as 1 000 people filled every seat. Individuals and organisations representing political parties, farmers, traditional leaders, civic organisations, labour unions and faith-based organisations attended, along with traditional leaders, including the 92-year-old chief of AmaBhele ase Tyhume, Chief Justice Mabandla.

Participants expressed divergent views on the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation. However, as at the Mthatha and Queenstown hearings, views in favour of the motion dominated proceedings.

Adv Dali Mpofu, the national Chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, said amending the Constitution is necessary. As the Constitution stands currently, expropriation of property goes with compensation. He assured those who fear that expropriation will be done revengefully that there are no plans for this. “Expropriation of land without compensation will be done by ubuntu. We want the equitable redistribution of land,” said Adv Mpofu. To ensure this, the land must be put under the custodianship of the state, not traditional leadership, he argued.

Some of the women participants highlighted the patriarchal nature of the arguments for redistribution of land in the Eastern Cape. Ms Phindiwe Msesiwe of the Nyandi National Land Movement was among those who said the insistence on the custodianship of land under traditional leaders is enough evidence of that.

The last leg of the Eastern Cape hearings will take place today in Jansenville, near Port Elizabeth.

Mava Lukani
27 July 2018