These public hearings, conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution, are not a continuation of the hearings that conducted by Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), the Chairperson of the Eastern Cape delegation of the committee, Adv Bongani Bongo told the people of OR Tambo and Chris Hani district municipalities in Tsolo yesterday. A delegation of the Ad Hoc Committee was in there to begin the Eastern Cape leg of the public hearings.

Adv Bongo told the people, most of them from the King Sabatha Dalindyebo, Nyandeni, Port St Johns, Mhlontlo and Ingquza Hills municipalities, that the current hearings are a different public participation platform providing South Africans with an opportunity to guide their parliamentary representatives and determine the writing of the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution.

This current public participation platform is a constitutional imperative and is not taking place simply at the whims of MPs. This public participation process includes written submissions and has been extended until the end of May 2020.

In differentiating the current public hearings from the previous process, Adv Bongo said: “The hearings that were conducted by the fifth Parliament’s CRC sought views from the public on the desirability of the amendment of Section 25. The view that triumphed and became the majority one, was the amendment of Section 25, to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. This committee of the sixth Parliament conducts hearings to obtain views from the public on how to draft section 25 of the Constitution.”

Individuals and people representing political parties, farmers, civic and traditional associations around the OR Tambo District Municipality expressed their views on how the section should be drafted, while others rejected the amendment. Those who support the amendment, across party political lines, emphasised that the land and all other natural inheritance such as, mines, oceans, rivers, forests and air, should be under the custodianship of the government to ensure equitable redistribution to the people. They argued that the judiciary should be involved only if there is a dispute.

One participant, Mr Lonwabo Nqatha of the Alfred Nzo District Municipality, said in the public hearings that it is a glaring contradiction that they must waste their “God-given precious time and money to share views on how to recover what we were given by God, and which was forcefully taken from our forebears by people who left their inheritance from their countries”. He continued: “We read from the history of South Africa and hear from the elders that our forebears who were led by their kings, and chiefs fought bitter wars, such as the nine recorded frontier wars and other unrecorded wars where hundreds and thousands of black people died in defence of their inheritance.”

After the majority of the people supported the amendment, Mr Nqatha said that the people hoped that the implementation of the amendment was going to be fast-tracked, given the fact that the land was violently taken from its rightful owners. The people from whom the land was taken are provoked on a daily basis by false prophesies, including those which claim that that the expropriation of land will negatively affect food production, as if South Africans were fed by food that came overseas when the whites were still in their countries of their creation.

“We produced food for ourselves. We didn’t rely on foreign assistance, and we used our own knowledge and natural resources such as our livestock to produce food,” said Mr Nqatha.

Those who opposed the amendment, based their opposition largely on the fact that the Constitution allows for land redistribution in its current form. They also argued that the government is unable to process the backlog of land claims made 25 years ago by legitimate claimants. Furthermore, they said that the people in the rural areas have enough land which they do not use.

The voice of the kings in the OR Tambo District on the issue of the drafting of Section 25 was conveyed by Chief Vulindlela Mditshwa of Amampondomise. Chief Mditshwa said: “If Section 25 of the Constitution is an impediment on the way of reconstruction and development for the improvement of the lives of the historically disadvantaged and the majority of South Africans, it must be amended.”

The hearings continue in the Eastern Cape. The delegation will be in Engcobo, a little town in the Chris Hani District Municipality today to listen to the views of ordinary South Africans.

Mava Lukani
13 March 2020