The Land: South Africa Speaks - SA's first people want their land back

A hunger for dispossessed land was first and foremost on the minds of the initial members of the Northern Cape public who participated in the Constitutional Review Committee's first public hearing in Concordia, outside Springbok.

However, they didn't appear to have much of an appetite for the amendment of Section 25 – the property clause – of the Constitution.

The committee heard from several speakers that large parts of Namakwaland were classified as communal land, which had been alienated during colonialism and apartheid from communities who lived there for centuries. They still don't own this land, it is in the state's hands.

The general feeling is that amending the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation would not only not help them get the land, but also make it easier to further alienate their land from them.

Proceedings got under way at about 11:30 - half an hour later than scheduled. Up until then, people stood in a long queue and waited to access the hall in Concordia, a small town about 30 kilometres away from Springbok.

The first speaker, Daniel Dawid Cloete from the nearby settlement Steinkopf, had the few hundred people in the hall in stitches when he asked if he should address the members of the committee as "honourable members". 

He said the pre-1994 and the post-1994 government held his community's land in trust. After 1994, they were told to establish an entity to manage it themselves. 

He said up until now they struggled to get this entity off the ground and they were not receiving any support from the government. 

He asked for the government's help in this regard. 

Andy Pienaar, representing the Kommagas community, said there was a concern that the government will nationalise the land, further alienating them from the land. 

"This land rightfully belongs to the indigenous first people!" he said. 

He said his community was alienated from their land in 1817. 

"Ons is moeg vir mooi woordjies en wit tandjies (We are tired of pretty words and white teeth)," he said.

After him, AfriForum's deputy CEO Ernst Roets spoke. He said he had meetings in the area.

"The sentiment here is that people are angry. They don't own land," he said. 

He said countries which lifted itself out of poverty respected property rights, while countries which didn't descend into authoritarianism and poverty. He accused the ANC and some opposition parties of "hero-worshipping" policies that would lead to the latter.

After he spoke, EFF MP Floyd Shivambu got up.

"Thank you very much, chairperson. Baie dankie, voorsitter," he said. He said they came to listen to the people of the Northern Cape, not people from Pretoria. 

"AfriForum can speak in Parliament," he said. "Yes!" some people in the hall hissed.

"We must not be misled by AfriForum."

Roets seemed to travel with bodyguards. After he spoke, he stood around at the back of the hall, shadowed by a man who wore an earpiece, and another stern-looking man.

A member of the community, Delia Hosken, said colonialism happened, and for them, it wasn't water underneath the bridge. 

"Our land was taken," she said. "I'm not talking about the white man, because the Guptas also came," she said to cheers.

Co-chairperson Lewis Nzimande asked her if she supported amending Section 25 of the Constitution.

"No," she said. "Because at the end of the day, who will still benefit from this?"

Linda van Wyk said South Africa's was the "most beautiful Constitution", which protected everyone.

She also elicited cheers when she said land reform didn't fail because of the Constitution, but that it failed because of the government.

"It is not important for us to change the Constitution, it is important for us that the Constitution's principles are implemented," she said. 

She also called on fostering national unity.

Later, when another member of the public said she supported expropriation without compensation, she was booed. Nzimande asked the people to refrain from booing and allow everyone to speak.