Land hearings concluded. Farm dwellers’ plight listened to?

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“They say the land belongs to those who work it. That’s not true. If your husband dies, they (farmers) shift you off the farm. They shift you to a shack… an RDP (house)… But there’s boere that own 13, 14 farms… That’s why I support expropriation without compensation with all my heart,” narrated Bettie Fortuin from the Doorns making her oral submission at the last of the land hearings on the constitutional amendment of Section 25.

After 36 weeks, 32 public hearings and meetings, Parliamentary Review Committee wrapped up its final hearings in Cape Town this past Saturday, 4 August, with a number of orators speaking about the plight of farm workers and dwellers threatened with farm evictions to the Committee and 2000 participants that flooded the Friends of God Church in Goodwood.

Bettie Fortuin explained how women on farms are ‘kicked off’ the land and sent to live in informal settlements “after a lifetime of struggling”. She said, “I support this expropriation because farm workers who build up the farms of the whites so that their children can inherit it, also need something to leave our kids with when we die. Because all we are left with is a shack.”

Fortuin travelled over two hours by taxi from her farm workers’ community outside the Doorns to make it in time for the hearings with a hope to make an oral submission.

Having started as a seasonal farm worker at the age of 13, Fortuin is now 57 years old. Thus far, she had numerously been a victim of farm evictions. With 44 years of hard labour, she has nothing to show but an ‘RDP house’. On Saturday, she shared her plight with the Committee. She further called for farm workers to own the land, end to evictions and corrupt equity schemes.

Fortuin’s personal experience underscored an earlier submission made by Mercia Andrews, a Director at Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE). In her submission, Andrews said: “In the last period, over two million farm dweller have been evicted from the farms. Mostly, they have been evicted illegally. We haven’t seen one white farmer getting charged for illegal eviction. Instead, we have seen DA – Democratic Alliance – municipalities, in farms, preparing for more evictions. I am part of the movement that says, ‘we want a moratorium in this city’.”

Both Andrews and Fortuin were echoing a call made earlier at a picket outside the venue before hearings commenced. About 250 farm workers and dwellers were picketing on Vasco Boulevard calling the President – Cyril Ramphosa – to honour his promise made in Paarl in 2014 following massive workers strike that there will be a moratorium as an immediate ban on all farm evictions.

This picket was spurred by an announcement that about 20 000 people are threatened with farm evictions in the Western Cape. Drakenstein Municipality, alone, has about 1,127 pending eviction matters. Participants argued that this round of evictions, happening at a large scale, is very linked to the talks about expropriation without compensation.

The committee will return to parliament, to begin with, the procession of public submissions. Once the process had been concluded, the multi-party committee will deliberate extensively on this matter before it reports to both Houses of Parliament.

***

Sobantu Mzwakali writes for Tshintsha Amakhaya

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