Difference of opinion: EFF leader Julius Malema and Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota (pictured) got into a heated argument over land reform. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Difference of opinion: EFF leader Julius Malema and Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota (pictured) got into a heated argument over land reform. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Emotions ran high at the public hearings into land expropriation held in Marble Hall, Limpopo, on Wednesday, with opposition political party leaders almost exchanging blows.

EFF leader Julius Malema and Congress of the People president Mosiuoa Lekota got into a confrontation after the latter allegedly claimed the public submissions were "staged".

Tempers flared among members of the public as community members raised views on how the law governing land reform affects their lives.

The constitutional review committee started its hearings in the Northern Cape on Tuesday, following Parliament’s decision that it should consult members of the public to ascertain "whether a review of section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses are necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation". The committee was empowered to propose the necessary amendments "where necessary".

Speaking to reporters after the hearings, Malema said Lekota claimed the process was staged because he was "losing the debate".

"He has become emotional, the people on the ground are saying something different," he said.

"It’s not our problem if Lekota’s views do not find expression. He must not create his own imagination, there is no one who has staged this process, everyone speaks," Malema said.

Lekota could not be reached for comment.

His party is against the proposed constitutional amendments, which he once said could lead to war.

The opposition leaders were part of the parliamentary delegation led by review committee chairman Vincent Smith. The committee was set up in April and has received over 700,000 written submissions.

Residents living in the Ephraim Mogale Local Municipality and the Sekhukhune District Municipality areas said they had waited a long time for their views to be heard.

Tensions flared and at points tears flowed as people addressed the hearings on their experiences in relation to the land question in SA.

Smith had to calm the crowd a number of times, as they booed and shouted down views they did not agree with.

He said he understood that the expropriation process was "very emotional".

The main economic sectors in the Marble Hall area are mining and farming.

Elderly women and men shared tales of how their forefathers had been removed from the land where both economic activities are thriving in the communities. "I am crying for the young people … our forefathers died a painful death. Now it’s time for the government and Parliament to act, we are grateful you came to us the people," said Sarah Maphothoma.

A number of farmers in attendance raised concerns about potential negative economic implications of expropriating land without compensation. "If we don’t have an asset we cannot borrow money for fertilisers and seeds because the house becomes your security. If it does not belong to you, it belongs to the government and you cannot give it as security to borrow from the bank and it will collapse our security system," said one farmer.

The hearings will continue on Thursday in Mokopane.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za