File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
As the public hearings on the land debate drew to a close, views reflected much anxiety around what land expropriation without compensation will really mean for South Africans.

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee concluded its provincial public hearings into section 25 of the Constitution in the Cape Metropolitan Area with one of the biggest gatherings to date, which saw the Friend of God Church in Goodwood packed to its capacity of 1500 at the weekend.

The Committee held a total 34 hearings in all nine provinces.

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 was necessary, to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation, and propose constitutional amendments where necessary.

Co-chairperson of the committee Vincent Smith said he was confident that the committee had succeeded in its task of listening to the people.

“I am confident that this was a democratic process. Everyone who wanted an opportunity to speak was allowed to speak.”

Co-chairperson Lewis Nzi-mande added that emotions were high during the process.

“From farm dwellers bringing up issues of security of tenure, people are saying they have been living on farms, working and making farmers profitable, but once they grow old and are no longer able to work, you are just thrown out without any housing on land.

“In other areas there were interesting voices claiming the harbour, saying they have historically been on the harbour and have a vested fishing interest.

“Backyard dwellers, renting in shacks or backyard, were saying the land must be expropriated as it would give them hope that they will access land for them to settle on.”

Nzimande said it was a “good debate” and that people had “genuine issues against government”.

“Many brought up food security, the economy, foreign investment. Some said government bought them farms but offered no support.

“They also brought up infrastructure development issues in urban areas. People say they are landlocked, formal dwellings need to be expanded to create more access to housing.”

He said even public servants came out, voicing their issue of being in the “missing middle”, unable to qualify for an RDP house and not fitting the bracket to afford a bond.

The ANC in the province lauded the committee for conducting the public hearing successfully.

Provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said: “The people of the Western Cape have spoken. From Oudtshoorn to Beaufort West, Citrusdal to Swellendam, and finally, the Cape metro, our people have unequivocally and overwhelmingly said Section 25 of the Constitution must be amended in order to fulfil broad and fair land ownership across the province.”

The committee will now assess the hundreds of thousands of written submissions it has received.