Nothing else but the land. This was the call of the majority of speakers at the public land hearing in Rustenburg, North West. File picture: ANA

Rustenburg  - Nothing else but the land. This was the call of the majority of speakers at the public hearing on the review of Section 25 of the constitution in Rustenburg in the North West province.

Judging by the comments from speakers and the response from hundreds of people at the hearing and others across the province in recent days,  parliament may well be forced to change Section 25 of the Constitution to enable the expropriation of the land without compensation.

Young and old, traditional leaders, farmers, and traditional healers packed the Rustenburg Civic Centre to made their voices heard.

Those in favour of the expropriation of land without compensation painted a painful picture of forced removals under colonialism and apartheid, as well as the shame of finding their parents' graves ploughed upon.

One man said he was driving a truck during the forced removal and witnessed the injustice and brutality meted out to those resisting their removal from land as their houses were bulldozed.

"I know what happened to those who resist...I was driving trucks relocating people to barren lands," he said.

Community activist Napoleon Webster said people were prepared to die for the land.

"We are willing to fight with our bodies for the land, we send people to exile to fight for this land and they did not come to kill those who stole our land, those who terrorised us. Now is the time for the parliament to do the right things, they should correct the past mistakes, otherwise we will take the law into our hands. 

"The pain of our ancestors will manifest now in our body, the anger that will come out will never be manageable. We are willing to fight and die if that is the price for our land.," he said on the sidelines of the hearing.

Black First Land First North West provincial chairperson Jerry Mngxitama arrived at the hearing, dressed in the party's signature black T-shirt  with " Land or death" inscribed in red at the back.

Mngxitama said the land in the hands of white people should be taken and government should not pay for it.

However, Frans Rootman, a white man who speaks Setswana fluently. made submissions to the parliamentary committee, stating clearly that he was against the changing of Section 25.

 "Expropriation of property without compensation is unacceptable to me and my family and I vehemently oppose it. Everything in our constitution is based on a just and equitable process in the public interest.

"Taking property without compensation even goes against Section 17 of the universal declaration of human rights, which are echoed in our Bill of Rights. The current section 25 of the Constitution specifically states that property is not limited to land. When we want to change section 25, we want to change the rights affecting my tie, your car, or another’s TV. That is all defined as property." 

He said as white South African, he and his children were reminded every day that they were white and not welcome in the country of their birth.

"My grandfather fought against English colonialism and my grandmother was subjected to the horrors of the English concentration camps in the second Anglo Boer war. I am extremely offended when told that, because of having a white skin, I have stolen my property and should go back to Europe."

He said because of the policy of apartheid, South Africa, and especially white South Africans, had become the skunk of the world.

"Despite me being a child at the height of apartheid, I and my children, who are also white, are judged, discredited and condemned because of it. Likewise, expropriation without compensation will again make us all, and not only whites, the skunk of the world, as it goes against the unilaterally accepted principle of protection of property rights."

Cheryl Phillips was also one of the few who argued against the change in the Constitution, as she asked what would happen in future after the land was expropriated from white people.

"We want ownership of land. We don't want to be tenants on anybody's land. How far back do you want to go to draw the line? We can go as far back as the cradle of humankind which showed that we are all Africans."

She said the constitution should not be blamed for the problems in the country, but rather that the ruling ANC should shoulder the blame.

African News Agency (ANA)