NEWS
30/06/2018 11:26 SAST | Updated 01/07/2018 09:22 SAST

Land: The People Speak – 'Not Every Black Person Who Wants Land Wants To Be A Farmer'

'We need land to build our homes, develop sports grounds and local industrial sites to uplift the township's economy through business,' Constitutional Review Committee hears.

Farm workers harvest cabbages at a farm in Eikenhof, near Johannesburg.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Farm workers harvest cabbages at a farm in Eikenhof, near Johannesburg.

Although the Limpopo public hearings into amending section 25 of the Constitution have focused on farmland, the reality is that not everyone wants land to farm.

Participating in the Constitutional Review Committee's public hearing in Tzaneen on Friday, a young man who did not identify himself said: "What is land to us as young people? Land to us is not only farming — land is business, land is homes, land is infrastructure."

"When you think about expropriation without compensation, all we think about is farming — but land is not subject to farming only."

He added that while land for farming had dominated the public hearings in Limpopo, land itself was a broad concept, and that the committee must know there are many people who want land, but not farmland.

READ: Land Hearings: Majority Want Expropriation Without Compensation, Whatever It Takes

Another man, wearing a black jacket, told the committee that land was not only for agricultural purposes.

"We need land to build our homes, develop sports grounds and local industrial sites to uplift the township's economy through business," he said.

Black people disconnected from farmland

One participant claimed that while white people might ask what it is that black people want to do with the land, the question didn't matter, as the land rightfully belonged to black people.

He told the committee that whether the land was farmed or not was irrelevant; the land just needed to be "returned".

READ: Spatial Planning Is A Critical Part Of Land Reform

News24 spoke to several people at public hearings in Limpopo this week, who had various opinions on what the term "land" encompasses.

Most people alluded to the fact that many black people had left rural areas for the cities, and that farmland would now mean very little to them.

Up-and-coming black farmer Solly Letsoalo told News24 that being a farmer was a profession, and that not every person who wants land wants to farm that land.

'Where is the money going to come from?'

Earlier on Friday, he told the committee that land expropriation without compensation would not help black farmers if the government did not give them adequate financial assistance to farm the land.

"Getting land [without the money to make it productive] is like being poor and getting a Ferrari; you will struggle to buy fuel," Letsoalo said.

"The resources, the mechanisms to make that land workable are not there — that has always been the problem.

"If the plan is that let us amend section 25 so that we can get land, it's good, but where is the money going to come from?"

Letsoalo, who obtained his farm through a land claim, was disrupted and heckled throughout his contribution to the review committee.

READ: The Chief Problem With Land Rights...

Those who agreed with Letsoalo's view of not amending the Constitution but instead dealing with the challenges that have arisen through land reform policies currently in place were in the minority in Tzaneen.

Much like in Marble Hall and Mokopane, the popular opinion in Tzaneen was that the land should be expropriated without compensation and then returned to its "rightful" owners.

-News24. Edited for HuffPost.