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Northern Cape backs land expropriation


The CRC made its way to the Frances Baard District, where a queue of residents snaked out of the door of the Kimberley City Hall, waiting to give their input

Picture: Supplied

NORTHERN Cape residents expressed their support for a constitutional amendment as the provincial public hearings into expropriation of land without compensation concluded in Kimberley on Saturday.

While points of view on the process that should be followed differed significantly, calls for an amicable resolution to the redistribution of land were nearly unanimous as hundreds of residents of the Province, representing various groups, took the opportunity to give their input on the matter.

Last week saw the Northern Cape and Limpopo become the first provinces visited by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) after the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces voted earlier this year to ascertain whether a review of section 25 of the constitution and other clauses was necessary, and if that will make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation.

Following hearings in Springbok, Upington and Kuruman last week, the CRC made its way to the Frances Baard District, where a queue of residents snaked out of the door of the Kimberley City Hall, waiting to give their input.

Josias Katz, a disabled 76-year-old father of two, said that his family was still looking for a place of their own, more than half a century after the farm Rooipoort was taken from them by De Beers in 1962.

“De Beers took our land,” he said on Saturday morning. “My father was chased away by the foreman and we have been struggling without land ever since.

“Today, they are still taking away my diamonds while we are sitting on the street.

“I agree that you can’t just take the land from someone else and give it to the others. We must share.

“All I ask is for my family’s land back.”

Prominent farmer and owner of Wildeklawer, Louis de Kock, pointed out that it had been the British governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Henry Barkly, who had forced the Griquas off their land in the 1870s, citing this as one of many examples where it had been government rather than individuals who needed to account for past transgressions.

“We should ask the British government to help with the funding of giving the land back,” he said, describing land expropriation as the second biggest problem, after apartheid, that the country has faced in recent history.

While many expressed concerns that this contentious issue would divide the nation, De Kock said it could as easily be taken as an opportunity to unite the country, if handled in a responsible manner.

“We got global recognition for overcoming the first problem (apartheid) and should strive for the same in the second (land expropriation),” said De Kock.

“Most of the land was removed by governments and not by individuals and I would like to plead to everyone to work towards a positive resolution.

“We need to use this opportunity to unite the people. To just take land from someone is not a solution. It would simply be the cause of a new problem.

However, others were not optimistic.

“This situation is untenable,” stated the provincial chairperson of the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo), Gaopalelwe Motebe. “In this Province, only 5% of land is in state hands. If we don’t return the land, what was the Struggle for? Without justice there will be no peace.”

The EFF was also vocal in its calls for the constitutional amendment, with several party members demanding that the land be returned to black people.

“The land must come back to the right people,” said one member of the party later in the day. “Therefore we are happy to see that the majority in the hall today are our black people while the white people are nowhere to be found.

“We want our land and this is our time to take it. This is the time to restore what they stole from our ancestors.”

These sentiments were reflected by several other party members when they were given the floor.

“Section 25 of the constitution must be amended,” added another EFF supporter. “We want our land back and are unapologetic about it.”

This week, the CRC will continue public hearings in the Free State and Mpumalanga.