'Assess who needs land most': Eastern Cape residents weigh in on Expropriation Bill
Eastern Cape residents in Mount Ayliff on Thursday braved icy weather to make their voices heard at public hearings on the controversial Expropriation Bill.
The hearings — conducted by parliament's portfolio committee on public works — heard a wide range of views on whether the constitution should be amended to allow for land to be expropriated with nil compensation, in the public interest.
The bill seeks to repeal the existing Expropriation Act of 1975 to provide a common framework, in line with the constitution, to guide the processes and procedures for the expropriation of property by organs of state.
The ANC and EFF have been at the forefront of the land reform agenda, but with opposing views on what form this should take. The red berets are pushing for the government to be the sole custodian of the land, while the ruling party wants a mixed model balancing state custodianship and private ownership.
It's like we are here focused on the farmers and business people and forget the main people, those who are not interested in politics and businesses; people who have simple talents and want to develop their skills but need infrastructure.Mahlogonolo Lekantsi
Mahlogonolo Lekantsi was among those who attended the hearings, and seconded the bill. He, however, urged the government to consider the views of ordinary citizens.
“I would like the committee to look at who exactly needs land the most. In saying that, I mean it's like we are here focused on the farmers and business people and forget the main people, those who are not interested in politics and businesses; people who have simple talents and want to develop their skills but need infrastructure.
“I am just requesting that when you expropriate the land, you should also consider those people because they vote for the government,” he told the committee.
Wonga Potwana, the DA's deputy chairperson in Matatiele, expressed an entirely opposing view.
“We are requesting the government to conduct a land audit and verify which land belongs to the government and which to private owners. It must not just assume land does not have owners.
“Some of us have already purchased the land that we have. We might not be using it now, we may use it later, but that does not mean the government should take it away from us without compensation,” he said.
Potwana expressed concern at certain clauses of the bill, largely because the practicalities of how they would work were not explained. He said that should the bill be effected, it needed to start with state-owned land and then privately owned land — and that owners should be compensated.
Meanwhile, Tshidiso Muchupi, a local ANC councillor, rallied behind the bill, which he said was a step towards ensuring the dignity of black people.
“This is about addressing historical injustices, and dispossession of black majority. It is also an opportunity to unlock growth, redistribute assets and promote social economy and transformation. These hearings have paved way to address the land question,” he said.
Sandiso Maquthu said he represented the youth in the area — a community which had concerns with certain clauses in the bill. He said the bill needed to be structured “in a way that will benefit the majority rather than the minority”.
Maquthu said the bill needed to go beyond expropriating land. “There should be skills capacitation so that previously disadvantaged people can be skilled and be able to use land after acquiring it,” he said.
Linda Mthethwa said he was surprised there were people opposed to the bill given SA's colonial history.
“I don't think anyone would be against this bill because it is assisting previously disadvantaged people. Their land was dispossessed by the previous government. We are glad things are returning to normal,” he said.
He further pleaded with the ANC-led government to assist people in ensuring that the bill was passed and effected.
Several entities and organisations have expressed fears that SA’s land reform process could transcend into catastrophic land grabs, which have already gained prominence in some parts of the country.
Public works minister Patricia de Lille has often come under attack by the EFF for failing to give the land question the urgency it deserves.
In her budget vote a week ago, De Lille said her department would continue playing an active role in fast tracking land reform.
She announced that her department would release 32,263ha of land in the 2021/22 financial year. Of this land, 21,132ha were expected to be released for land restitution, 10,951ha for human settlements and 180ha for socio-economic purposes.
This was a drop in the ocean, however, according to the EFF, which is pushing for “productive land” to be expropriated without compensation.