Home / Africa / News24.com | Land: The people speak – Conditions on farms described as a ‘horror movie‘

Conditions on farms were described as a “horror movie” at the Joint Constitutional Review Committee‘s public hearing on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in Oudtshoorn on Wednesday.

The committee has been holding hearings countrywide to establish South Africans‘ views on the amendment of the section to allow expropriation of land without compensation.

Several farmworkers spoke at the hearing and called for the amendment, asking for measures to be put in place to improve living conditions and prevent evictions.

“People have to go and fetch water in the farmers‘ ostrich coops,” the very first speaker at the town‘s Navada Hall said. 

“We are the lawful owners of this land,” she said. “It is a horror movie, what is going on these farms.”

Another speaker, a coloured woman, said: “It is not every day that you as a farmworker get an opportunity to say something.”

 

There were also several speakers who identified themselves as Khoi-San and who called for their recognition as the first people.

One man in the group said he supported an amendment as long as it didn‘t come at a cost to the Khoi-San people. Several speakers also lamented that the Khoi-San were not consulted about the drafting of the Constitution.

Another said the date 1652, when Europeans settled in the land, should be written into the Constitution and a moratorium should be placed on new developments.

Every speaker is allotted three minutes to have their say. A man who said he was a chief said the chiefs should be given five minutes to speak.

‘An exercise in futility‘

When committee co-chairperson Vincent Smith told him his three minutes had passed, he continued speaking. 

In the first round of speakers, only one person – a white woman from Oudtshoorn – mentioned President Cyril Ramaphosa‘s announcement on Tuesday evening that the ANC would support an amendment to “explicitly” expropriate land without compensation.

“People, what are we still doing here?” she asked.

“This is an exercise in futility.”

She was against an amendment and said South Africa‘s Constitution was widely regarded as the best Constitution in the world. New legislation should be passed to accelerate land reform, she suggested.

Later, a coloured man said he viewed Ramaphosa‘s announcement as an insult because it implied that what they were saying didn‘t matter.

An EFF member said: “If it wasn‘t for the EFF, we wouldn‘t be here.”

“If [the government was] serious about land transformation, they would have done it.”

The first round of speakers followed a now familiar pattern – the majority of speakers supporting an amendment and mainly white speakers opposing it. 

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A farmer said he didn‘t support an amendment. He noted the failures of the government‘s land reform programme since 1994 and said it was a lost opportunity for reconciliation. He added that state-owned enterprises like Eskom have been looted for self-enrichment at the cost of the poor. 

“I‘m really sorry about apartheid. It is done. We need to fix it,” he said. 

The general argument for the amendment of Section 25 related to historic, violent dispossession which led to racial inequality in land ownership and the destruction of the local cultures. 

“Whites have committed genocide to our people,” a man said.

“We are not calling for war. We are friendly with them. They must be willing to share.”

At the start of the meeting, Smith impressed on the public not to interrupt speakers and to allow everybody to have their say. He said if this didn‘t happen, the process would be challenged in court. The public generally complied, and Smith was quick to shut down any dissenting groans while people were speaking.

“We‘ll be taking what you say [to] heart,” Smith said before the public started speaking.

The hearing in Oudtshoorn wasn‘t as well attended as most of the other hearings. There was no queue snaking out of the door long after 11:00 and there were many empty seats in the hall.