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Anger, emotions at Limpopo land reform public hearings

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A delegation of the joint Constitutional Review Committee concluded the Limpopo leg of public hearings considering the possible amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution on Saturday.
The public hearings commenced in Marble Hall last Wednesday where it was reported that there were quarrels between Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema and Congress of the People (Cope) Leader Mosioua Lekota on stage. It was learnt that the duo was on the edge of exchanging blows and had to be separated with majority of attendees rooting for Malema.
When the session moved to Mokopane the following day for Waterberg and Capricorn districts, residents could not fit in Aboo A Tayob community hall and caused a commotion outside the hall threatening to disrupt the proceedings. Disgruntled residents calmed down after the address by the Co-Chairperson of the committee, Vincent Smith who assured them that all will get an opportunity to give their suggestions. When Lekota attempted to clarify what Section 25 entails, he was booed and insulted by the crowd.

EFF Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema acknowledges praises from the crowd in Mokopane.

Residents had different views on Section 25 as some called for the amendment of the section while others pleaded that the section be left as it is to save jobs and sustain food security. Those who support the amendment have largely based their argument on the need for redress for colonial and apartheid era dispossession. Secondly, a strong belief that land holds the key to economic emancipation of a majority of poor black South Africans was also advanced. They further emphasised that landless people have the skills to make productive use of land if they are to get it.
Those who are against the amendment have generally raised concerns on the impact the possible amendment will have on the economic survival of the country. This is because they believe expropriation will drive away potential investors from the country. They argued that the current Constitution provided for the expropriation of land and that it was the lack of political willpower that has led to the failure of the land reform process. The group believes that the amendment of Section 25 will threaten food security in the country.
Heated arguments continued in Tzaneen on Friday and concluded in Thohoyandou on Saturday. Smith stated that despite the fact that the issue of land is a highly emotive issue the hearings went on with minimal interruptions. “The overall analysis of the four areas visited is that generally the hearings have been successful. In instances that there were interruptions members of the delegation where collectively able to quell those interruptions to enable the hearings to continue,” Smith said.
The delegation apologised for the small venues that have been utilised in Limpopo because the attendance of the hearings has far exceeded expectations leading to full halls requiring overflow areas in all the four areas, he explained.
The Democratic Alliance Provincial Leader, Jacques Smalle who was spotted in Mokopane is not happy with the way the hearings were conducted and said they will write to Smith to express their concerns on the chaotic and deliberate exclusion of some members of the public from participating. Acting EFF Provincial Chairperson Rendani Munyai who also attended the hearing in Mokopane emphasised that the hearings were emotional as Limpopo residents take the land issue serious and reiterated that Section 25 should be amended and government be the custodian of the land.
Renewed SA Party interim national leader Cornelis Roelofse said there are things that were done wrong in the past but not everyone acquired land illegally hence compensation should be given where it is due, adding that the Constitution should be left the way it is.
Cope Provincial Secretary Erick Mohlapamaswi stated that the party agrees that land should be expropriated but with compensation so that those who occupy the land will use it effectively. He stressed that the public hearings in the province were just a waste of time and resources as the majority of residents were denied a chance to give their input.

Story & photos: ENDY SENYATSI
>>endy@observer.co.za

Elders wait for Section 25 public hearings to start in Mokopane.

Raised hands indicate persons hoping for a chance to give input.

People representing various political parties during the land reform public hearing in Mokopane.

Cope Leader Mosioua Lekota is booed by part of the crowd.

Young people in attendance.

Residents are forced to sit on the floor to give their input on Section 25 of the Constitution.

A view of the filled to capacity Aboo A Tayob community hall in Mokopane.

Co-Chairperson of the committee, Vincent Smith highlights the context of Section 25.