With a Springbok kick-off, expropriation hearings begin
In a small North West town, the first steps that could lead to expropriation without compensation have been taken
Thirty-nine days, nine provinces and two teams. That’s what it will take to deal with the complex land reform matter.
And it all began in Springbok in the Northern Cape on Tuesday.
Two delegations of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee began the first public hearings into the possible review of Section 25 of the Constitution, which could make expropriation of land without compensation possible.
The committee was instructed by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ascertain whether a review of Section 25 of the Constitution, and other clauses, was necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation. It was also asked to propose the necessary constitutional amendments as deemed necessary.
The first public hearings took place on Tuesday, June 26, in the Namakwa District in the Northern Cape. The last public hearings will be on August 4, in the Western Cape.
Committee chairperson Lewis Nzimande said that, while there were no emotional breakdowns at the first hearings, there was a wide range of emotions from those who attended. The Khoi people, especially, were described as “highly emotive”.The session was held at the Springbok Concordia Hall, with over 400 people attending. Nzimande described the crowd’s mood as angry, with some not willing to engage. He added that the group seemed to be “split in the middle”, with some for land expropriation with compensation and others against it.
Nzimande said chairing the hearings also reminded him of his own childhood, growing up in a rural railway town near Pietermaritzburg. His father owned a little village shop next to the railway and he spent a lot of his spare time there.“White people used to buy from the shop and, to be honest, I never experienced racism from them,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande said the committee’s expectation going forward was that everyone would be genuine in their commitment to meet each other halfway.
“Some people are asking the question: ‘What’s the point of this process?’ Others are saying that in 1600 there was no compensation, so why should there be compensation now?”
The only critique was the timing of the hearings, but Nzimande wanted South Africa to know that the process was “genuine” and that the committee was determined to seeing the process yield the intended results.
“This thing came at the wrong time because we are approaching elections. In the hearing I picked up some electioneering … but we would bank on political parties keeping it orderly,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande said the “widespread landlessness” means that people are desperate to have their voices heard, which is why the committee was commissioned to go to small towns.
The next stop for Nzimande and his team is Upington, while the other team will be in Limpopo.