Public hearings on expropriation of land without compensation were met with concerns and scepticism during public engagements held at Mthatha in the Eastern Cape on Monday.
Hundreds of community members, farm representatives and other organisations attended the meeting, with some people coming from other towns.
Some community members warned of consequences if the constitution was amended to allow government to expropriate land without compensation. While others differed and said the process would be done through consultation and should have positive outcomes.
The hearings were conducted by the Constitutional Review Committee which has been mandated by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to review section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary.
Nombana Zibode said she did not support the process because the government “has a record of corruption and failure.”
“You touch the land, you touch the deadly snake! If the government fails to render services how do we trust that they will succeed in this one? A lot of land which government has bought is currently in the hands of the comrades,” Zibode said.
Phumelele Magazi said the consultative process was a election gimmick and warned against racial mobilisation on this matter by certain political parties.
Others called for clarity on the expropriation without compensation and how it was going to be redistributed.
Thembinkosi Butshingi said the public hearings should be stopped until government can explain which land is going to be expropriated and where is it going.
Farmer representatives expressed concerns about the land value and land related taxes.
Kenneth Riggs, a farmer from Matatiele, said only 10% of the land there was used for farming.
“We have about 1500 people working in our farms and are feeding thousands of families,” said Riggs.
He said expropriation of land without compensation would create uncertainty about the value of the land.
He said there were five taxes in the country’s tax system that would be affected by the expropriation of land.
Joe Nyengo, from the African Farmers Association Of South Africa (Afasa) said government should expropriate unused or underutilised land.
“The land whose owners are abroad and the land that is currently not productive.”