More than 20 years after the ANC took power and after hundreds of thousands of written submissions, hundreds of verbal submissions across the country as diverse as the people who made them, and verbal representations made in parliament to the joint committee on constitutional review in an oft hostile atmosphere, the land hearings draw to a close today.
AfriForum’s Ernst Roets yesterday responded to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise that, “in recognising the original sin of land dispossession … government would continue the land reform programme that entails expropriation of land without compensation”.
Roets claimed the narrative that whites stole the land was “the single biggest historical fallacy of our time” and the ANC was leading the country into a “communist utopia”.
Settlement, treaties and cooperation – and “most controversial, but least significant” by conquest – were reasons for white ownership of land, Roets asserted.
His claims were the verbal equivalent of poking a stick into a large wasps’ nest.
“This process is a waste of time,” the United Democratic Movement’s Mncedisi Filtane yelled at Roets, while the Economic Freedom Fighter’s Floyd Shivambu said he was determined now to amend the constitution.
The African Christian Democratic Party’s Steven Swart said he was disappointed by Roets’ submission, noting the process was about restorative justice.
“People are hardening their hearts on what you have said today,” Swart said.
Today, the Banking Association South Africa, Business Unity South Africa, Nedbank, John Langalibalele Dube Institute and Legal Resource Centre are expected to finish the submissions stage.
Yesterday, heavyweights Indigenous First Nation Advocacy South Africa (Ifnasa), South African Human Rights Commission, Helen Suzman Foundation, National House of Traditional Leaders and AfriForum, among others, weighed in with submissions.
Ifnasa’s Anthony Williams, representing the Khoe-San people, said his organisation was not entering the debate because it was “inconsequential”.
“Without our identity restored, engaging is futile,” he said.
He called for a removal of the 1913 constitutional deadline for land claims “because it aggressively and violently obstructs our historical claims to our ancestral land”.
On Tuesday, Professor Ruth Hall from the Poverty, Land, Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape said the debate had divided the country across racial lines.
Political analyst Ralph Mathegka said he thought Hall had a valid point.
“Political parties have been very partisan in their handling of land issue,” Mathekga said.
“They have divided the nation instead of seeking a consensus, this worsens already tense race relations and worsens trust levels within society.”
Mathekga said consultations should have been handled in good faith to listen to all instead of prescribing a policy position.
“Political parties should realise the issue is quite sensitive and there needed to be some form of restraint on political parties’ position to allow ordinary people to speak.”
According to the committee’s program, the committee will deliberate for the next few weeks while it prepares its draft report for presentation to parliament at the end of the month.