Farmworkers and housing organisations support amendment of Constitution

Community members queueing outside the venue in Goodwood where the last hearing of the Constitutional Review Committee meeting was held. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The final hearing on the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution was held in Cape Town this past weekend.

Farmworkers and housing organisations made submissions in support of the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution in the last round of the Constitutional Review Committee hearings in Cape Town. The committee has returned to Parliament to process the hearings after six weeks and 32 public hearings and meetings across the country. In Cape Town, most people who made submissions were in favour of amending Section 25 that will allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

“We support the amendment of the Constitution because there has been no transformation in the agricultural sector and even after 1994 the government has continued with production of apartheid spatial planning. Over 2-million farmworkers have been evicted from farms since 1994. We call for a moratorium on farm evictions,” said Mercia Andrews from the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), a rural NGO which focuses on working with small-scale producers and farmers throughout South Africa.

Betty Fortuin from Women on Farms told Elitsha that she started working as a seasonal worker on farms when she was 13 years old. Fortuin is now 57 years old and she supports the changing of the Constitution for expropriation of land without compensation. “Most of us have worked on farms for many years but we don’t have anything to show. As a women if you live on a farm and your husband dies, the farmer will only provide you with a shack to go put in the township. On that basis we support the amendment,” said the farmworker from De Doorns. Meanwhile, Marlene Andrews, a farm tenant in Stellenbosch said she is on the verge of being evicted from the farm where she has stayed for more than 16 years. “My parents used to work on that farm and that is the only home I know. Now that my parents can no longer work because of old age, the farmer wants to evict us,” she said.

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Betty Fortuin has worked on farms for 44 years. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Leswin Koopman travelled over 160 kilometres from Citrusdal to the hearings in Goodwood to make sure that the Constitution is amended “for the benefit of the poorest of the poor”. “We deal with farm evictions on an everyday basis and that is why we also call for a moratorium on farm evictions. We also want the rights of farm tenants that were lost through the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) to be restored,” he said.

“We are here today talking about the amendment of the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation but farmworkers are being evicted,” said Mark Pekeur from the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU). “The land must be given to its rightful owners and we do not understand why the government is tolerating the inhumane conditions that farmworkers live and work under even though they are the ones who are feeding us and not the farmer,” said Pekeur who is a treasurer of the union.

Land for Housing

Community members from different land occupations that are taking place in Cape Town are also in support of amendment of the Constitution.

Brenda Skelenge from the South African Homeless People’s Federation said that they support the amendment because the policies of “willing seller, willing buyer have failed the poor”. “Apartheid continues through market friendly policies that have been implemented by the democratic government,” she said.

“As Ndabeni Communal Property Trust, we were given the land in Wingfield as part of land restitution but the land has not been developed since we got it in 2001. We think we were given the land by mistake. Now it’s full of shacks. The government has failed us. We support the amendment of the Constitution,” said Hazel Siyaya. The land in question lies alongside Voortrekker Road and Jakes Gerwel Drive (N7).

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Traditional leaders and healers

Most of the Khoisan traditional leaders and political leaders, like the former Cape Town mayor Peter Marais, are in support of constitutional change for land to be restored to its rightful owners, “the First People”. They believe that Khoisan people are the first nation of South Africa and land should go to them.

Cape Town’s former Mayor Peter Marais wants the land to go to Khoisan people as they are South Africa’s “First Nation”. Photo by Mzi Velapi

However, Stanley Finck from SEDA Ge Go Khai, an organisation representing “all the five blood lines” told Elitsha that they are not as divisive as other Khoisan leaders. “We want land to go to all the ethnic groups as we are one people. We should not allow ourselves to be divided by whites who are a minority. There is enough evidence that the tribes interacted and married each other. No one is pure anything,” said Finck who is also a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

The Traditional Healers Organisation also supports the change of the Constitution because, according to their representative Mangubane Ntombemhlophe, traditional healers want to have land where they “will plant the herbs”. “Having full access to rivers, mountains, caves and forests is key to traditional healers and we support land expropriation on those bases,” she said.

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