Land dispossession caused Hout Bay fire - MKMVA

Kebby Maphatsoe says the time has taken to tackle the issue and amend the constitution

Cape Town - The fire in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, which left almost 10 000 people homeless is a direct result of black people being dispossessed of their land, uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association (MKMVA) chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said on Tuesday as he called for the expropriation of land without compensation.

"If land was not dispossessed we would not be finding our people living in such uncomfortable conditions," said Maphatsoe, who is also the deputy minister of defence.

"Hout Bay is an example [of what happens] if we don't take heed on the issue of land. We say this is the time we must tackle the issue and amend the Constitution," said Maphatsoe.

All that is required for the amendments is a series of community meetings to get support, he said.

"I think all of you who are clapping hands think that we need to expropriate the land without compensation," he continued

"Every year we have to deal with the issue of Hout Bay and it will never be addressed [until] we address the issue of land."

Maphatsoe was speaking at a meeting of the Cape Forum. Ousted former ANC Western Cape chairperson Marius Fransman is one of its organisers.

'Willing buyer willing seller'

Held at the Athlone School for the Blind on the outskirts of Bellville, the meeting was attended by supporters of the ANC and the South African Students' Congress (Sasco).

Maphatsoe said that the death knell for any hope of prosperity for black people was the Native Land Act of 1913 which consolidated previous land ownership restrictions and effectively killed sharecropping.

This divided farming in South Africa into barely surviving subsistence farmers, and massive subsidised and monied white-owned commercial farming enterprises where the workers were black.

"As MKMVA, don't quote me as a deputy minister, we think we have tried many things as government."

He said the principle of "willing buyer willing seller" and various laws on land restitution had not worked.

"So the only thing we can do is support the call to government to say, let's expropriate land without compensation."

Two-thirds majority wasted

Farmworkers' rights activist Nosey Pieterse said that President Jacob Zuma's suggestion that land be expropriated without compensation was just "sloganeering".

He said Zuma in his first term and former president Thabo Mbeki had failed to address the land question.

He wanted to know why 22 years and the "loaded gun" of the two-thirds majority the ANC once had were wasted.

He said the South African Communist Party had done nothing to change the distribution of land either.

He urged a review of certain clauses in the Constitution and said all that was needed was one voting session.

“But that is the easy part. The challenge is, how do we redistribute the land after we have taken the land back?"

Siyabonga Ntombela, chairperson of Sasco at the University of Cape Town, said he supported taking land without compensation, but warned that the poor will bear the brunt of any civil unrest that might accompany it.