Discussion on cancelled public hearing in Polokwane

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Meeting Summary

The Ad Hoc Committee resolved to return to Polokwane in Limpopo in the upcoming weekend to hold the public hearing it had to cancel recently due to disruptions caused by certain groupings.

The public hearing will take place on Saturday, 7 November 2020 in Polokwane at the Jack Botes hall in order for the public to make submissions on the constitutional amendment of section 25 to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

Political parties gave undertakings confirming that their supporters will conduct themselves in a respectful manner and in compliance with Covid-19 Level 1 regulations.

In addition, the Committee also received a request to hold a hearing in the Waterberg District of Limpopo. The Committee further resolved that it will not include another district for hearings in Limpopo, as it would open up the way for more requests on hearings in other provinces.

Meeting report

The Chairperson thanked Members’ for availing themselves at such short notice. He said that he was happy to see that Members were all well and healthy.

Chairperson’s remarks

Drawing Members’ attention to the meeting agenda, the Chairperson gave a brief background of the incident that unfolded in the Limpopo in the previous week. The Committee was hoping that the final version of public hearings would be finalised in the upcoming week.

The Chairperson said the purpose of the meeting was to seek Members’ approval on whether or not group A should go back to Limpopo and finish its constituency work. A Committee delegation visited Limpopo from 22 to 25 October 2020, planning to hold four public hearings. On the last day of the hearings, the delegation had to call it off as Members of Parliament, local politicians and security personnel tried for hours to calm the crowd in order to proceed with the hearing. A scuffle ensued between groupings of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), after the EFF allegedly forced its way into a hall that was already full in terms of Covid-19 regulations. The group in red t-shirts did not want to wait its turn outside the hall for an opportunity to make inputs. After many attempts, the leader of the delegation called off the hearing due to health and safety concerns. The Chairperson believed that the challenges that the hearing in Limpopo had faced were due to political management, however, he believed that the Committee was equal to the task and should be able to manage those challenges so that the problem that happened the previous week would not repeat itself.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had received complaints from farmers in Waterberg expressing their feelings of having been left out. He remarked that the Committee felt that the completion of this process is very important and no one should have felt left out in the public hearing process. The Chairperson suggested that the Committee not only include Polokwane but also Waterberg as an additional venue to complete the public hearing process. He said that the Committee felt encouraged by working with Agri-SA as the organisation was very cooperative in assisting the Committee in its fieldwork. Its members also had very good interactions with Committee Members. The Chairperson thus felt that the Committee should heed Agri-SA’s call to not leave Waterberg out.

The Chairperson emphasised the importance of everyone to work together in South Africa. He used a recent event at the western and southern coast where AfriForum had participated and made inputs. He said that it is his hope that South Africans will understand that it was only through dialogue that the country could find solutions to its problems. He stressed that people do not necessarily have to agree on everything, but everyone must be accorded the opportunity to express their views. Hence, the Chairperson appealed to the Committee to give due consideration to all views from both black and white South Africans. He said he was optimistic of a successful meeting that will take place in Polokwane.

The second issue which the Chairperson brought to the Committee’s attention was the matter raised by AfriForum at the United Nations about the s25 proceedings and the position of government on Israel. AfriForum suggested that South Africa be declared a terrorist state because of its positions on those two issues. In response to that, the Chairperson commented that South Africa is known for finding its own solutions to its own problems. However, South Africa cannot stop South Africans who want to approach any foreign organisation from doing that. The Chairperson appealed to South Africans to try talk first amongst themselves before engaging with any foreign influence to address South Africa’s domestic affairs. The Chairperson also remarked that the people at AfriForum are reasonable people, so there is room for both sides to engage in conversations.

The Chairperson proposed that Group A return to Polokwane to finish its uncompleted public hearing and also to visit the farming community in Waterberg to listen to its concerns.

Members’ inputs

Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) objected to adding an additional venue to what had been agreed on. She said the hearing which was about to take place in Polokwane was a re-run public hearing. The Committee had agreed that the public hearing should be re-run there because of the unfortunate incident that had disturbed the process. Hence, the community in Polokwane should be given an opportunity to voice its opinions.

Ms Mahlatsi said that the second reason that she objected to adding Waterberg to the list was because the farming community had already been given an opportunity to make a submission to the Committee. She reminded the Committee that the Ad Hoc Committee was working for all South Africans and not just a particular constituency. Therefore, she asked the Committee to subject itself to the programmes that had been adopted. Further, she said the process will eventually go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). When the NCOP does its consultative process with stakeholders, it will again also consider all the municipalities that the Committee had not consulted. So she did not think that a particular constituency would be left out.

Ms Mahlatsi asked the Committee to allow the same team to run the public hearing in Polokwane. The disturbance in the unsuccessful meeting was not caused by the failure of the team. It was for this reason that the Committee should allow the same team with the same people to do the public hearing again.

Finally, she said that she did not think the issue of AfriForum was an issue to be discussed at the meeting as there will be other opportunities for the Committee to address the issue.

Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC) commented on the addition of venues. She said that adding more venues other than Polokwane was not what had been discussed in the previous Committee meeting. The issue of Waterberg and other districts in the Western Cape had been brought up in the last meeting and the meeting resolved to only take one addition which was Polokwane. She fully supported her colleague’s view that no addition be added.

Prof A Lotriet (DA) raised a serious concern around political parties’ inability to control their supporters which resulted in the waste of taxpayers’ money. She had noted the Chairperson’s guarantee as a representative for the ANC that such incidents would not happen again, but she still wanted assurance from the leadership of the EFF to ensure the incident will not repeat itself again.

Mr E Buthelezi (IFP) supported the Chairperson’s proposal that the Committee should go back to Limpopo and add Waterberg onto its list. Although the programme was adopted, he believed that the Committee should also understand different matters for South Africans of different constituents. He did not see the harm of going to Waterberg. He emphasised the need to make sure that the Committee accommodates every constituency.

Mr F Shivambu (EFF) agreed that the public hearing in Polokwane should reconvene. He apologised to the Committee on behalf of the President of the EFF and said that his party had also issued a statement that its members should not have engaged in the scuffles at the public hearing in Polokwane. He said that all Committee Members should be able to, and if available, preside over the public hearing.

Mr Shivambu did not have a problem with the Chairperson’s proposal of going to Waterberg. But he  was very concerned with what he described as the Chairperson’s obsession to give preferential treatment to South Africa’s white minority population. He remarked that there was nothing wrong with going to Waterberg as the Committee was just broadening its consultation scope.

Speaking to the second issue about AfriForum approaching the United Nations, he said that it was irrelevant to the meeting.

The Chairperson accepted all the criticism expressed by Members. He also understood why some Members objected to going to Waterberg. He said that he had proposed going to Waterberg because he wanted to ensure all due process had been followed without having the Committee being taken to court. He agreed with Mr Shivambu and Mr Buthelezi that the Committee should go to Waterberg as it is on the way to Polokwane.

He also agreed that the issue which had been raised in the beginning of the meeting about AfriForum was irrelevant to the process and will be handled at another forum.

Mr V Xaba (ANC) reminded the Committee that the meeting was convened to address what happened in Polokwane and to review the public hearing that took place. The meeting was not convened to review and amend the programme. He asked Committee Members to be consistent. Should reviewing of the programme be allowed, Mr Xaba was of the view that it would only be fair if the adding of other venues was also discussed. The reason that the Committee allowed the re-run of the public hearing in Polokwane was because the people in Polokwane needed to speak and the Committee was giving them the opportunity. He emphasised the importance of ensuring consistency of standards. It was for this reason that he opposed the Committee adding Waterberg to its programme.

Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) appreciated the Chairperson’s proactive approach to the situation that ensued in the Capricorn region. He wanted to clarify that the public hearing in Limpopo collapsed because a particular group was deployed there. He supported the proposal that the public hearing be re-run.

Mr Moroatshehla also requested the Committee to allow group B, which had been deployed there the last time, to complete its unfinished work. He explained that sending the same team has a political meaning. Should a different group take over the job, it would send the wrong message that group B had failed which is not the case.

On adding another venue, he said that the challenge was that the programme had already been adopted. The sudden change of the programme would have legal implications. He shared the view with his colleague that this consultation process will be done again by the NCOP, so there is no need for the Committee to add Waterberg for now.

He further clarified that Mr Shivambu did not say that he was in support of going to Waterberg. He merely said there was nothing wrong with going to the region.

The Chairperson responded to those Members’ inputs and remarks, saying that he was a democrat which was why he was chairing the meeting. Noting that the majority of Committee Members were not in favour of going to Waterberg, he accepted the decision of Members. The Committee made a resolution to not go to Waterberg region.

Agreeing with Mr Moroatshehla that group B should not be replaced by group A. He further informed the Committee that since those groups were established under his chairpersonship, he will personally lead Group B to preside over the public hearing in Limpopo.

Mr Buthelezi commented that it seems like the majority of Committee Members objected to going to Waterberg. However he reminded the Committee that the decision to not go to Waterberg should be driven by Members’ decisions and not determined by processes.

The Chairperson said that Mr Xaba’s point of view on ensuring consistency is persuasive. He also said that he understood Mr Buthelezi’s view.

The Chairperson accepted and appreciated the undertaking by the leadership of the EFF made by Mr Shivambu. He agreed that both the ANC and the EFF have to make undertakings. He also appealed to all political parties to make sure that its members conduct themselves in an orderly manner. The Chairperson welcomed any available Members to the public hearing in Polokwane.

Mr Shivambu said that the ANC must handle its own party issues in its own study groups. He asked the Chairperson and the ANC not to bring those issues to the Committee as he noted that there seems to be some contradiction in the Chairperson’s statements.

The Chairperson emphasised the function of the Ad Hoc Committee, reiterating that the majority of the Committee agreed that the public hearing would be re-run in Polokwane.  The EFF and ANC have given undertakings to control their supporters and that he is going to chair the meeting.

The Committee Secretary asked the Committee to clarify which Members, other than those included in group B, would be at the public hearing in Polokwane.

Mr Shivambu also asked for the exact day and time of the public hearing.

The Chairperson responded that the public hearing would preferably be convened at the weekend.

Mr Moroatshehla suggested that the Committee schedule the date and time administratively.

The Chairperson said that he agreed with Mr Moroatshehla that the scheduling of the date and time should be dealt with administratively. However, the timing should be around the weekend, to avoid a prolonged process in conflict with other parliamentary processes.

The meeting was adjourned.

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