Vincent Smith. Picture: VATHISWA RUSELO
Vincent Smith. Picture: VATHISWA RUSELO

Farmers in Limpopo on Thursday warned of job losses, food shortages and an economic crash should the Constitution be changed to allow for expropriation without compensation.

A large number of concerned farmers attended the land expropriation public hearings in Mokopane, Limpopo. The Joint Constitutional Review Committee was in the province this week, consulting members of the public about expropriation without compensation.

A farmer who did not identify himself said he had told his employees before attending the hearings that they would lose their jobs if the government changed the law.

The farmers rejected President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assurances that the economy would not be harmed if expropriation without compensation was included in the Constitution.

"When I heard Ramaphosa say we have to make these changes without affecting food security and the economy, I was laughing because it is not possible to rip out a cornerstone of a free market economy in SA. The next thing there will not be food," said the farmer.

Like many areas in Limpopo, Mokopane has a thriving agricultural sector which, along with mining, is the cornerstone of the province’s economy.

Morné Mostert, the local government head of Afrikaner rights group AfriForum, told the hearings that section 25 of the Constitution gave the government power to provide underprivileged South Africans with the land.

"The state should be truthful when it explains what the amendment is [about]. There are less restricted means to get what they want," he said.

Meanwhile, locals affected or displaced by mining activity in the area have decried the state of affairs, saying the government had sidelined their views.

Mokopane is home to the Mapela community, which has been in a tussle for more than five years with Anglo Platinum and the government over the Mogalakwena operations.

Elderly women shared traumatic experiences about how the government and mining companies refused them access to the remains of their ancestors. Some community members still live in Mapela, alongside heaps of mine dumps, refusing to be relocated to other areas, a common tale for many in Limpopo’s mining towns.

The land expropriation hearings are set to continue across the country for the next six weeks.