The delegation of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) led by the committee’s Co-Chairperson Mr Vincent Smith began the Western Cape leg of public hearings in Oudtshoorn, on whether or not the Constitution should be amended to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

At the onset of the hearings Mr Vincent Smith told members of the public that the role of the committee is to listen to the public on the matter to amend or not section 25 of the Constitution and the fact that the committee will later deliberate after taking all submissions into account.

Emotions ran high at times as speakers, one after another recounted how families were forcefully removed from their land. Mr Jacques Booysen told the delegation about how bulldozers destroyed his parental house when he was a young boy of around seven years old. He recounted how he and his siblings had to sleep outside with his parents in the cold and wet winter season conditions “under the stars” for three weeks until the authorities found them suitable alternative accommodation.

Mr Booysen said his parental house was declared a “slum” and up to today his 80-year-old mother still lives in a township.

Chief Theron of the Korana community told the delegation that the Khoisan and the San are the first people in South Africa and they were the first people to be dispossessed. He demanded fair redistribution of land. He said redistribution of land must begin with the land that was dispossessed from rightful owners as far back as 1652.

The delegation was told that the Western Cape Provincial Government is still removing the indigenous people by force from their land.

Farm workers, one after another spoke of the terrible conditions under which they live on the farms. Mr Witengel van Heerden said when his grandmother died at 92 recently, she still recalled how the whites forced them out of their land. “Our people live in dilapidated houses and the farmers refuse to either fix them or allow us to fix them. We want what was stolen from us. We want our land; we want our culture.” One farm worker asked how can it be right for 12 people to live in a three roomed house? “We want our land so that we canfarm” emphasised Mr Van Heerden.

Like in other provinces, the people of Eden District Municipality expressed divergent views on the issue of expropriation of land without compensation. A female farmer, who introduced herself as Mrs Le Roux, insisted that her forefathers bought the land she now farms on. She believes the current legislation and Constitution should remain as is. 

Another woman pleaded with the committee not to amend the Constitution. “Do not break something that is working. Don’t take away the things that puts food on the table. People can rather institute land claims,” she said.

The delegation will today hold hearings in Beaufort West

Rajaa Azzakani
2 August 2018