Tshwane residents unhappy as land hearings hit Gauteng

Last venue accommodating 300 people was too small, says Lucky Thekiso

Land: The people speak - Tshwane residents unhappy as hearings hit Gauteng

26 July 2018

Gauteng residents will have a chance to air their views on the critical land question when Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee makes three stops in the province this week.

Two delegations of the committee have been conducting public hearings across the country to hear South Africans' views on whether or not Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation.

Earlier this year, most political parties in the National Assembly supported a motion the EFF had brought forward for the expropriation of land without compensation. The committee was instructed to investigate if there was a need to amend the Constitution to make this possible.

The joint committee hearings are expected to be held at Westonaria Civic Centre in the West Rand on Thursday, the Sedibeng Town Hall in Vereeniging on Friday and at the Lucas van den Berg Community Hall in Pretoria West on Saturday.

The last venue in Tshwane raised the ire of residents. Some contacted News24 to complain that they would not get a chance to make submissions because the venue was too small.

"This is history in the making. People have to go and participate at these hearings. You cannot deny the people a right to do so, [allowing] only 100 or 300 inside. This is going to cause serious problems," lawyer and community activist Lucky Thekiso said.

Community members met some of the committee officials at the Ou Raadshaal at Church Square on Wednesday to register their complaints. But, they said they were told that it was too late to change the venue.

"We fought. We said to them you cannot want to continue in a small venue knowing in terms of the Constitution and motion agreed upon in Parliament, [that] there must be public hearings and then deny people the right to participate in that by booking them a small venue," argued Thekiso.

He said some wanted Saturday's hearing postponed until a bigger venue was found. Thekiso added that residents would also help the joint committee to market the sitting.

However, committee co-chair Vincent Smith said the issue of a small venue was not unique to Tshwane.

"In all our venues, we have been oversubscribed and we have been saying this all along. We booked for around 300 people and it's just too late now to go and look for a venue that's bigger," said Smith, who pointed out that changing venues at such a late stage would lead to complaints about a last-minute change.

Smith added that, if there was a need for an overflow area to be created at the hearings, it would be. He also said the joint committee had to apologise at numerous hearings over the size of selected venues.

"I understand. If you go back to any of our hearings, at all of them we have apologised for the fact that we just underestimated the interests that South Africans had in this question, and when we embarked on this process three months ago, we booked venues that catered for 300 people, and I can believe that it's going to be too small because every other venue we have gone to has been too small," said Smith.

The committee, which is also holding hearings in the Eastern Cape, is expected to head to the Western Cape for its final stop next week.