'I pay my taxes - now I need land to grow my business'
Entrepreneur arrives at land hearing with a clear message: without a plot his business won't go anywhere
For one budding entrepreneur, a small plot of land to develop his products is all he needs to grow his business.
Kenneth Mokonopi, 33, left his township home in Kagiso early on Thursday morning to catch the first bus to Johannesburg. Once there, Mokoponi got on the first taxi to Westonaria where parliament’s constitutional review committee held the first leg of public land hearings for Gauteng.
Although he arrived at the local civic centre an hour before the hearing began, the winding queues already at the entrance prevented him from getting a chair inside. Determined, Mokonopi sat on the floor directly in front of the panel of parliamentarians on stage, eagerly waving his hand each time committee chairperson Vincent Smith stoop up to pick the next batch of speakers.
He hadn’t been given a turn to speak by 4pm when the hearing came to a close.As a small business owner, Mokonopi supports an amendment of section 25 of the constitution – which deals with property rights – to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
He believes that acquiring his own piece of land will afford an opportunity to produce the materials he needs to grow his company. Mokonopi runs his company, Ramokonopi Trading Enterprises, from the township where he lives. He produces shop fronts and office partitioning.
“I am struggling with my company now. It is hard to grow. I attend these business forums in Johannesburg but they are not for black business owners. They are not for small business owners. I cannot get big clients because nobody takes you seriously if you work in the township,” he said.“That land is going to help me because I want to build a workshop, a very big one. I’m going to hire black people and train them. I’m going to develop a lot of things. I need help from government. I’m paying tax. That 15%, I’m paying it. I think I must get support for that 15% I’m paying.”
Mokonopi was not the only one at the hearing who supported a constitutional amendment.
South African Communist Party member Paseka Mafereka told the committee that the majority of land in the West Rand is owned by mining companies that do not develop the communities around them.
“There are no developments taking place. Even the families of the employees are not being taken care of. Their profits are shared among shareholders and do not go to developing communities ... We need the land to develop the communities.”
Resident Solly Mkhize said the government should not “shy away” from land expropriation without compensation.
“We cannot shy away from all the wars that have been fought. Everyone can benefit. When you look at Gauteng, we call them townships, but the fact is they are labour camps,” he said.