The final day of the land expropriation hearings was marked by a variety of communities staking their claim to the Western Cape, with some claiming ownership through having worked the land.
Amongst the claims were vehement denials that land was stolen during the colonisation of the Cape, accompanied by threats to defend farms and private property through war.
The parliamentary committee reviewing whether the Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow land expropriation without compensation held hearings across the country over the past month.
On Saturday, thousands of people from across the Western Cape flooded the Goodwood Friends of God Church to make oral submissions.
Leading the claim for the ownership of the Cape was the San people’s Gorachouqua tribe chief Hennie van Vuuren. The chief said his people did not support the amendment because it did not include the dispossessed people whose land was taken before 1913.
Van Vuuren called for the San and Khoi people to be recognised as the rightful owners of the Cape — and South Africa in its entirety — and for their status as “first nations” people to be recognised.
“Property ownership and the property clause is a foreign concept in Africa and so we cannot support the amendment of the constitution. We call on the government to establish an interministerial committee to address these concerns of the indigenous community,” Van Vuuren said.
But the San’s claims were disputed by the Thembu people’s amaGgina clan whose spokesperson, Vusumzi Nolesi, is in support of a constitutional amendment. He said Section 25 must be amended so the 1.2-million Thembu people’s right to ownership of the land from Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape to Cape Town can be recognised.
“But we do not agree with this saying that Khoi and coloured people are not African. They are African and also form part of our nation. It is interesting that this debate about black people going back to the Eastern Cape is only happening now that there is this land debate,” Nolesi said.
The descendants of the slaves who built up the coastal towns such as Kalk Bay were also present, demanding ownership of the land promised to them in 1990, 30 years after they overcame attempts to remove them from the harbour.
Mymoena Poggenpoel of Kalk Bay’s Fishers Flats Residents Association said: “Kalk Bay’s 250-year fishing history founded by slave families gave rise to the origins of traditional and commercial fishing in the Cape… Today our rights and substantiality is actively being ignored by not granting the land in Kalk Bay that was agreed to.”
After this submission, the province’s farm workers also laid claim to the land, and said it should be expropriated to allow them ownership of farms which they helped to become profitable and thrive.
De Doorns farmworker Beckie Fortuin explained how female farm workers are kicked off the land and sent to live in informal settlements “after a lifetime of struggling.”
“I support this expropriation because farm workers who build up the farms of the whites so that their children can inherit it, also need something to leave our kids with when we die. Because all we are left with is a shack.”
For others in attendance, land theft did not happen in the history of the Cape. Organisations denying land was stolen during colonisation or by the state, argued that the entire process was orchestrated by the governing ANC to trigger a land war in South Africa.
The Cape Party, which argues for the secession of the Western Cape as its own country, said the process was a farce.
“This is the final step in the ANC’s plan to trigger a bloodbath and racial separation in this country,” Cape Party leader Jack Miller said.
He claimed the Cape Party had experienced a spike in its membership since the land hearings begun from around 10 000 to 20 000 members, mostly through social media recruitment.
Fears of a land war were shared by chief Van Vuuren as well as apartheid-era defence force member Bernard Herbet, who arrived at the hall clad in old military colours with his badges earned during the war against anti-apartheid forces.
Herbet would not respond to whether he was currently receiving military training in a platoon in anticipation of a land war. Instead he said, “All I can tell you is a war is only won through proper preparation,” before being escorted to his vehicle as the crowd around him became agitated by his views.
Outside the hall, several members of the Khoi and San community stood side by side with the Cape Party.
Cape Party supporter and leader of the Gatvol Capetonian movement Fadiel Adams also joined into the debate, saying “landlessness is not about colour.”
“The original owners of Constania and Diep River are now living in Manenberg, there’s something seriously wrong here. But if a man has honestly paid and worked for his land, I say leave him with his land.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane addressed a gathering of DA supporters outside the venue before it began but did not make an official submission. While addressing the crowd, Maimane said the “EFF is the ANC’s policy machine.”
He further accused the ANC of supporting the motion for expropriation without compensation to gain support ahead of the 2019 national elections.
“Over the past days and weeks, it has become clear that these hearings, and this debate, is not about the people and progress. It is about power and holding onto it,”Maimane said in a statement.
Inside the hall, the Democratic Alliance’s Malusi Booi argued that “people have taken loans against their properties and when we expropriate land we will be collapsing the very economy currently sustaining us.”
The ANC’s Western Cape spokesperson Nonceba Mhlauli’s submission centered on farm ownership in the province.
Mhlauli said there should be cap on which percentage of farms could be owned by previously advantaged people, or white people, but said these views did not represent those of the entire ANC.