South Africa: Land - the People Speak - Hearings to Resume in the North West

(file photo).

After a breather of about a week, the Joint Constitutional Review Committee is to resume its hearings on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in Taung, North West on Tuesday.

The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces instructed the committee to establish whether a review of Section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses was necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation, and to propose constitutional amendments where necessary.

This after the National Assembly adopted a motion to this effect in February. It has since received more than 700 000 written submissions on the matter.

The deadline for written submissions is long gone, but members of the public still have the opportunity to make their voices heard by attending the hearings.

The committee is expected to visit every province. It has already visited the Northern Cape, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Not a referendum

Most speakers thus far support an amendment. However, committee co-chairperson Vincent Smith earlier said in a statement that the process was not a referendum, where it considered how many people were for or against the amendment. Instead, the quality of the arguments would determine the outcome.

The general thrust of the argument in favour of amending the Constitution was the assertion that indigenous people were dispossessed of their land without compensation, impoverishing the people and destroying their culture and pride. Expropriation without compensation is viewed as a remedy to this. This follows the pattern at previous hearings in the Free State and the Northern Cape.

The argument against an amendment has generally been that it would create economic chaos and threaten food security. It has also been suggested that it is not necessary to amend the Constitution to implement effective land reform.

As the previous hearings, the support for or against the amendment of the Constitution mostly followed racial lines. Most black speakers have expressed their support for an amendment, and most white speakers have been opposed to it.

Party lines

The support also follows party lines. Speakers belonging to the EFF and ANC supported an amendment, while speakers from the DA, Cope and the FF Plus were against an amendment.

Several of the speakers who said they were affiliated to the EFF also made a point of greeting the EFF members of the committee and thanked the party for driving the issue. This was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Tuesday's meeting is expected to be in the Taung Community Hall and proceedings are to start at 11:00.

On Wednesday, it is expected to be at the Mafikeng Civic Centre, while the committee's other delegation is to have its first hearing in KwaZulu-Natal at the Cecil Emmett Hall in Vryheid.

Source: News24

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