Heart-wrenching accounts of not being allowed to visit ancestral graves on white-owned farms came under the spotlight at the public hearings on amending Section 25 of the Constitution in Mafikeng, North West.

Several participants stood up to tell the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution how they are unable to visit or show their children the graves of their ancestors, as farmers would not allow them on these farms where relatives were buried.

An unidentified man told Members of Parliament: “We can’t enter the farms where our ancestors are buried. The whites are refusing us access. That is why we want our land back. They stole it now we can’t even visit family graves.” A frail-looking woman made the same claims and expressed the hurt families felt when they are not allowed to visit these graves.

Speaker after speaker made it clear that the time for land expropriation without compensation is way overdue and one gave government a deadline “it should happen by June,” said a young man.

A different view voiced by a man named Willem from Agri North West. He claimed that his organisation has over 2 000 farmers in the province and they provide food to the “most food insecure province in country”. He said he wants to see jobs and growth in the sector, but that the proposed amendments will not address that and in fact will fail to improve the quality of life.

The committee has been holding public hearings in the province since Friday to listen to South Africans on how they want the Constitution amended. Committee Chairperson and leader of the North West delegation, Dr Mathole Motshekga, said: “This time around we want the public to inform us what the format of that amended should look like, what they would like to see in the text of the amendment.”

The committee, split in two delegations, last week visited the Free State and Mpumalanga and this week they are visiting North West and KwaZulu-Natal simultaneously.

Some participants did not stick to the mandate of the committee, but rather came to ask the committee for help with current land claims or challenges they find living on farms. Mr Motsamai told the committee that although he has land, he is unable to occupy that land. “It is occupied by people we don’t know. We have been going up and down to courts, spending lots of money and we are not having any success.”

Dr Motshekga told the hearings that all concerns and challenges regarding land issues outside the mandate of the committee will be referred to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reforms and Rural Development for urgent attention. The North West hearings will conclude today in Potchefstroom.

Rajaa Azzakani
10 March 2020