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Mahikeng land hearings: Women’s voices will be heard

Mahikeng — The second day of public hearings into the amendment of the Constitution kicked off in Mahikeng with much singing and dancing as residents queued to have their say in the North West province.

The chairperson of Parliament’s constitutional review committee, Vincent Smith, started off by reading Section 25 as it stands now, but a sense of impatience filled the room as locals distractedly looked around, stared at their phone screens and adjusted the blankets they brought to shield against the slight chill.

The hearings, which have already been held in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State, are part of a nationwide discussion on whether Section 25 of the Constitution — which deals with property rights — must be amended to allow government to expropriate land without compensation.

Before those giving submissions began speaking, Smith made one thing very clear: 50% of the voices that will be heard on Wednesday will come from women. This announcement was met with ululations and applause from the floor with women from the gallery chanting “one women, one hectare!”

Emotions ran high at the hearing with the majority of speakers supporting the amendment of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

Those who stood up to oppose the amendment were drowned out by the crowd shouting and booing them to a point where a few stern reminders from Smith had to be issued.

Dimakatso Malwane, who was part of the first group of people to give their submissions, said she wants the government to take the land without compensation.

“Our forefathers suffered a lot and it is a myth that a black person given the land to farm on won’t be able to produce. Just give us a chance. The white people took our land from our people which has led to the suffering we are experiencing now.

“As black people, we are claiming that we are free but we are not economically free.”

Another submission in support of land expropriation without compensation came from a Fees Must Fall activist, Katlego Mphafa. Mphafa said he supported the motion because of the historial dispossession of black people and because one of the biggest struggles for students is accommodation.

“Students are struggling out here. They don’t have residences, they don’t have anywhere to stay. Our struggles as students are directly linked to the struggle for land.

“Students go to universities but they don’t have anywhere to stay.”

Mphafa says getting the land back will allow for “conducive accommodation” for students.

Afrikaner interest group AfriForum, which opposes land expropriation without compensation, was also present. Corne Cronje, a representative of the group, said land expropriation is based on a “distorted” version of history where people are misinformed.

“Expropriation of land without compensation is an attempt by government to hide its failures.

“This kind of expropriation has the potential to ruin the economy. Look at countries like Zimbabwe and Venezuela. If government proceeds, it will be committing a crime against the people of South Africa.”

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, the party’s secretary general Godrich Gardee, Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota were also in attendance at the hearing.

Lekota was in the firing line several times as residents labelled him a “disgrace to the nation” and warned him that they will come after him if he is benefitting from the land that was taken away from black people.

Lekota has been very vocal about his opposition to land expropriation without expropriation since it was tabled in Parliament in February. 

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