The EFF's influence changed the tone of the first public hearing into amending section 25 of the Constitution on Tuesday.
While during the first part of the hearing in Concordia, about 30km outside Springbok in the Northern Cape, no members of the public spoke in favour of amending the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, in the latter part most speakers did, often raising points right out of the EFF playbook, greeting the party's deputy president Floyd Shivambu or pledging their allegiance to the red berets. Shivambu serves on the Constitutional Review Committee.
The EFF had some of its members in the Northern Cape speak to communities last week. EFF MPs Fana Mokoena and Nazier Paulsen often took photos or videos of speakers sharing their party's views, while Shivambu smiled or nodded in approval. Aubrey Baartman, the EFF's leader in the Northern Cape and member of the provincial legislature in the Northern Cape, was also among the speakers.Initially, the committee heard from several speakers that large parts of Namakwaland are classified as communal land and belong to the state, while several communities live on this land. Their forbears were dispossessed of this land during colonialism and apartheid.
Their general feeling was that not only would amending the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation not help them get the land, but it would also make it easier to further alienate them from their land.
After a short break, the tone of the hearing changed, as several speakers insisted that the Constitution should be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation.
Multi-national companies criticised
Their general argument was that as the land was taken without compensation, it should now be taken back without compensation.
"We can't buy back stolen land," Tienie Roman from Goedap said.
Charlie Beukes, who said he "supports the red ones" - the EFF - told of how his great-grandfather's farm was taken away without compensation.
"Land must be taken back without compensation because that is how it was done years ago," said Donnie Steemkamp, who said he was sent to speak on behalf of the community of Soebatsfontein.
There was also much criticism of multi-national companies owning large tracts of ancestral land, with communities not having access to it and not benefitting from its mineral riches. The name of mining company De Beers cropped up several times.
"We want the diamond lands back!" said Concordia resident Pieter Meyer. "If it doesn't happen, we'll fight!"
That wasn't the only fighting talk of the day.
Earlier AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets said the question of whether there would be violence did not depend on what the state would do, but on what people defending their land would do.
After he spoke, Shivambu said the committee came to the Northern Cape to listen to its people, not someone from Pretoria who belonged to an organisation which could present to Parliament.
The farming community, through Agri Northern Cape and Agri Namakwa, also raised its opposition, with their argument being that it is not necessary to amend section 25 to improve land reform. These organisations support land reform. They also pointed to the report of former president Kgalema Mothlanthe's high-level panel, which made several damning findings against the state's implementation of land reform.The Constitutional Review Committee has been split in two, with one subcommittee covering the coastal provinces and the other the inland provinces. The coastal committee will move from Concordia to Upington, where its next hearing will be on Thursday. The inland committee will have its first hearing on Wednesday in Marble Hall, Limpopo.
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 is necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation and to propose the necessary constitutional amendments where necessary after the National Assembly adopted a motion to this effect in February.
Co-chairperson of the committee Lewis Nzimande said after Tuesday's hearing he was pleased with the progress on the first day and the public turnout. He reminded the public that the committee would not accept written submissions during the hearings as South Africans had been given sufficient time to make such submissions to the committee.
"We have heard the fears and concerns of those members of the public that are against an amendment of section 25 as they feel there is existing legislation to deal with land reform. We also heard those fierce supporters of an amendment to the Constitution to make expropriation without compensation possible, especially to those who have suffered economically because of [our] past.
"The committee will take all oral submissions made into account when it deliberates on the matter. We want to thank all South Africans who came out to make submissions. It shows they want to be part of the positive development of our country and people."