The Co-Chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, Mr Vincent Smith, appealed to the people of Beaufort West to use the opportunity provided by the public hearings on whether to amend or not section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation. “This is your opportunity to ensure that the voice of the people of Beaufort West is heard. This is your opportunity to make sure your opinions are included in our report,” said Mr Smith

The delegation, headed by Mr Smith, which is conducting the Western Cape leg of public hearings on expropriation of land without compensation, yesterday held hearings at the Beaufort West Recreational Hall. The full complement of the committee will conclude the provincial hearings on Saturday, 4 August 2018, in the City of Cape Town after having visited all the nine provinces.

Speaking at the Beaufort West hearings, an old woman told the committee how she, her parents and siblings were removed from their land in Prins Albert. “We lost everything. We lost our house, our land. My parents even had geese and lost that as well. I want it back.”

A 71-year-old man told the committee how he started helping his father who was a farm worker from a very young age. According to the old man, when he was 13 years old, his father became sick, and the farmer’s son who had taken over the farm evicted them from the farm. The old man told the committee that he just wants a piece of the land that his father worked on.

Another farm worker said they are a family of 10 people living in a small house. “We have no dignity. We want our own gardens but have no space. Let us expropriate the land and thereby close the gap.” A well-known former Mayor of Beaufort West, Mr Truman Prins, told the committee that whites own the majority of farms in the Central Karoo District that were seized from the Khoi and San people.

Speakers, one after another, told the committee that some farmers owned so much land that they cannot farm in each space and leave many of it open with no farming taking place. Many speakers told the committee about the brutal nature of land dispossessions in the Central Karoo region.

But as was the case at all the other hearings, a handful of people have come out against an amendment of the Constitution. A young farmer spoke emotionally about how he and his forefathers worked for the land he farms on. “I did not steal even a hectare of land from anybody. Everything that I own today, my forebears and I got it in a correct manner. We won’t walk away without a fight,” he concluded to a crowd that was clearly unhappy with such a stance.

Another man said amending the Constitution would make it just as immoral as the previous laws. A white woman said she felt the hearings were an exercise in futility, as according to her, President Cyril Ramaphosa already indicated this week that a Constitutional amendment will happen to expropriate land.

By Rajaa Azzakani

3 August 2018