The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure has concluded the Eastern Cape leg of the Expropriation Bill public hearings in Gqeberha. Residents were concerned about the impact of the bill on South Africa's investment drive to secure more foreign direct investment, which will boost economic growth and create jobs.
In Gqeberha, equal numbers of residents supported and opposed the bill. However, everyone agreed that the use of productive land must be maximised to ensure food security.
Dissenting views on the bill were mainly anchored to the perceived risk of policy uncertainty due to ambiguity created by an unclear definition of the property that might be expropriated using the bill. In addition, those opposing the bill emphasised that South Africa is in dire need of investment to create job opportunities and the bill will not assist in that respect. Others opposing the bill believe that the process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution must be concluded to ensure that enabling legislation speaks directly to amendments made.
Meanwhile, the bill's supporters highlighted that it is a necessary step to redress past injustices and will enable the government to fight poverty, inequality and unemployment. Many supporters said that their entrepreneurial spirit is smothered by a lack of access to land.
During the hearings, the committee heard first-hand of forced removals conducted by the previous administration and sympathised with those who are still waiting for their land claims to be settled. The committee committed to engaging with its sister portfolio committees in Parliament to ensure that they strengthen oversight of the departments identified. "We are a listening Parliament and all concerns raised by the people will be followed up on, because ours is to strive to improve the lives of the people of South Africa," said Ms Nolitha Ntobongwana, the Chairperson of the committee.
Meanwhile, following engagements with health officials and the announcement of adjusted restrictions on alert level 2, the committee resolved to postpone hearings in the Northern Cape, due to an exponential increase in Covid-19 infections in the province.
"We have decided to continue with the Western Cape hearings as scheduled, as the province is experiencing lower numbers of Covid-19 infections. Following the completion of the Western Cape leg of the hearings, the committee will pause its programme until the rate of infections is kept under control in both Northern Cape and Free State," said Ms Ntobongwana.
The committee will start the Western Cape hearings on Thursday, 10 June 2021.