Emotions run high at Northern Cape’s first hearing on land expropriation

Ernst Roets: "The question of whether there will be violence is not dependent on the State [but rather] on the people whose properties are being expropriated to defend themselves.” (Paul Botes/M&G)

Ernst Roets: "The question of whether there will be violence is not dependent on the State [but rather] on the people whose properties are being expropriated to defend themselves.” (Paul Botes/M&G)

AfriForum’s Ernst Roets has called the government’s land hearings an attempt “to take more land and not give people land”.

Roets was speaking at a hearing in Concordia in the Northern Cape on Tuesday.

The Afrikaner interest lobby group delivered a petition made up of approximately 300 000 signatures of people opposed to expropriation without compensation.

Earlier this year, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces resolved to mandate the joint constitutional review committee to review this section of the Constitution. 

More than 700 000 written submissions forms from the public were made.

The hearing forms part of nationwide discussions on a review of Section 25 of the Constitution — which speaks to property ownership — to make it possible for the state to expropriate land “in the public interest without compensation”.

Roets added that the government was “hero-worshipping the policies of some of the world’s worst economies”. He was referring to countries such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela, calling them “the disasters of the last century”.

Hinting at possible violence if such expropriation of land without compensation should go ahead, Roets remarked: “The question of whether there will be violence is not dependent on the State [but rather] on the people whose properties are being expropriated to defend themselves.”

In calling for land to be expropriated, Northern Cape resident Pieter Meyer shared Roets’s sentiments on the possibility of violence.

“We want the diamond land back,” he said and challenged the committee to give the community feedback “within three months”.

Meyer threatened that, if this land was not returned to the people, “we will take the land back, we will fight”.

Lucia Roman added: “The land was taken from us. We want our land.
Change this law. Change it.”

Ilanushca van Neel, a Northern Cape community activist questioned why government had “millions of rands” to run a public participation process on land reform, but no money to send the “Department of Rural Development here to start the process of getting our land onto our names”.

Van Neel was one of a number of people who made submissions during the Northern Cape’s first public hearing into land expropriation without compensation.

A Northern Cape resident, Alexandra van Wyk, argued that the section should not be amended.

“The challenge of land reform is not with the Constitution, but with the incapacity of the state to make it a reality, ” Van Wyk said, adding, “After more than 20 years of democracy, we still do not have a registered audit of state-owned land”.

Andy Pienaar, a resident of the neighbouring Komaggas district welcomed the hearings, but raised issues with the process.

Pienaar added that although Komaggas residents were “cautiously optimistic” about these hearings, participation in the process was challenging.

“Officials come to our area and use a different language [to ours] and allow no time for [our] questions,” Pienaar said.

The hearings will continue this week in Upington, Kuruman and Kimberley.

READ MORE: Land hearings: Beefed up security, an appeal for tolerance

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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