Hundreds of people packed the Multi-Purpose Centre in Schweizer Reneke, North West, to ensure that Members of Parliament hear them and to ensure that they are part of the historic events regarding land reform in the democratic South Africa. Participants, predominantly dressed in African National Congress and Economic Freedom Fighters political party regalia, made it clear to a delegation of the Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution that the want their land back.

Ms Lucia Mohlabela, from the Chief Mankurane tribe, was one of many who indicated they don’t have enough land for grazing for livestock. She claimed her younger brother was killed over a fight for land.

A descendants of the Khoisan leader Taaibosch who was killed during the wars of resistance, John Taaibosch, pleaded for land restitution to be fast-tracked. Mr Taaibosch said: “When land was taken from us, there were no public hearings and consultation. We should do the same. Please speed up the process in accordance with the claims instituted way back.”

Although many participants accused Parliament of dragging its feet and returning a second time for public input on the same matter, a youthful Mr Lebogang Lediku told them this process cannot happen overnight. “There are processes to follow. The state must expropriate land and hold it in custodianship and redistribute as the need arise. We must avoid becoming a Zimbabwe.”

Mr Chris Afrika, an emerging meat producer, said people of colour in this industry are still struggling. “I heard the call earlier for the situation to remain the same, but they are enjoying it because they have land. Land must be taken and given to its rightful owners,” said Mr Afrika, referring to an established meat producer who spoke earlier in the day.

Earlier, Mr Sakkie van Staden, a red meat producer, opposed any changes to the Constitution. He suggested that existing legislation should be strengthen as well as the property right of developing farmers by giving them title deeds.

A representative from Agri North West, said: “I decry the lack of support of government to upcoming farmers. People should have ownership of houses. Land expropriation has had negative consequences in the past.”

Committee Member Nkosi Mandla Mandela, in wrapping up the meeting, expressed concern regarding reference made by a few participants who called whites “yellow bones”. He emphasised the importance of political tolerance. “We need to respect one another, particular the minorities. It is important for all inputs to be heard. We are appealing for unity during this process.”

Committee Chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga several times during the hearings had to intervene to ask the crowd not to drown some inputs out and remind the public of respecting views that differed with that of the majority. He said the committee also noted the many other complaints that did not speak to the amendments, but rather the challenges of living on farms, will be referred to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for immediate attention.

Rajaa Azzakani
7 March 2020