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Some participants in public hearings in Mokopane in Limpopo on the desirability of amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation say that they are against the changes, as they believe the amendments will lead to job loses, which will be harmful in a country that has a 25% unemployment rate.

A farmer in the area, who did not want to be identified, said that land and property rights are the bedrock of the economy and it would be impossible to amend section 25 without affecting food security and the economy. “It is not possible to rip out a cornerstone of a free market economy in South Africa and not expect an impact. The next thing there will not be food,” the famer said.

One of the first participants to speak in Mokopane said section 25 as it currently stands is sufficient for people to access land and that government’s failure to implement it properly is to blame for landlessness. “I want people to understand that section 25 is not the problem. The problem is the government, because if they had done what they promised, the people would have land by now,” the lady said.

She further argued that what the country needs now is job creation. “The people want jobs and if we are going to amend section 25 of this constitution, jobs are going to decrease because investor confidence will decrease. That means we will have fewer jobs, our economy will not grow and we will not be able to create sustainable jobs,” she argued.

Mr Joe Kelser, a cattle farmer from Lephalale, said he is against the amendment of the constitution and for property rights. “We believe that property rights are the main pillar for the stabilisation of this country. We also believe that the expansion of property rights has been hamstrung by government’s inability to give title deeds to beneficiaries of land reform. This makes it impossible to use the land as collateral to get loans, which is essential for an upcoming farmer,” he contended.

Mr Kelser also said that food security must be considered when debating the land issue. “For example, our industry contributes about 2% to gross domestic product and this will be impacted by amendment of section 25,” Mr Kelser said. He further argued that amending section 25 might have an impact on emerging black farmers in the meat industry. “42% of emerging cattle farmers in this country are black, 14% in sheep and 71% in the goat industry. They will be affected and we really hope that food security is the main focus when we talk about expropriation,” Mr Kelser said.

A white farmer, who said his African name was Makhokhoba, was against the state being the custodian of the land. “I have given my workers land because they need to own land. The state should not own land. Land should be owned by the people of South Africa,” he said. Mr Makhokhoba further said that improvements need to be made to support land beneficiaries, as many of the projects arising from land reform are disfunctional.

The hearings continue today in Tzaneen in Limpopo’s Mopani district.

Malatswa Molepo
29 June 2018