Land: The people speak - Oudtshoorn hearing opens old wounds of forced evictions

Old wounds caused by forced removals were opened up at the Joint Constitutional Review Committee's hearing on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape's Klein Karoo region.

"It was bitter when you got home in the evening and a bulldozer is sitting there next to your fence," a man told the committee on Wednesday.

"You know, it is bitter. The farmers are now saying they want to be paid. But what about us? We were set off without compensation. We didn't get anything."

Several other speakers also recalled how their homes were bulldozed or their families evicted from farms in the middle of the night.

A black woman said the issue of land was a painful one. 

"It opens old wounds that never healed," she said. "If we don't have land, our dignity is taken away."

"The Constitution must be amended, otherwise I see no future."

"I am so angry inside because still, we have no land."

A coloured man added: "I call on all white people to put them[selves] in the shoes of the historically disadvantaged people."

He told how his mother, the daughter of a white man in whose kitchen his grandmother worked as a maid, were evicted.

"We do not hate the white people, but we can no longer sit and observe and smile at the injustices," a black man said.

Another black man added that the white community's understanding of land was different from that of the black community.

"We believe everybody should have access to land," he said. "They believe a white family should have 200 hectares of land and we should share 10 hectares."

"They exploit the resources of the country. They don't care about the people of the country."

A white man said he had empathy with what he had heard at the hearing.

"But I am also a very practical person," he added.

"This whole thing has become very emotive."

He does not support the amendment of the Constitution.

"I've got the same aspirations as everybody else."

"The poor will become poorer," he said.

"Rich, poor, we're all in the same boat."

"I don’t think it is about people not wanting to share. The whole thing is not thought through."

Another white man told attendees that he believed the hearing was a good thing and that he saw a lot of anger "with a lot of issues in the air".

"It's going to be a hard choice for you to make," he told the committee.

"It comes down to identity. Our blood is in the land, so our identity is in the land."

"I apologise for the sins of my forefathers," he said. "I think everybody is gatvol."

On Thursday, a delegation of the committee is expected to head to Beaufort West, while another delegation is off to Citrusdal.