JULIUS MALEMA: We will take the land by force if necessary
'After all these consultations, one thing is clear: to retreat and betray our people on the demand for land expropriation will be to risk a direct revolution'
In the villages and the small and big towns of our country, ordinary people in their numbers have been queuing in long lines, coming to tell parliament's Constitutional Review Committee about land expropriation.
They stand all day in meetings where there are no food parcels on offer or free T-shirts, no celebrities or entertainment.
Our people, from the old women and men who live on pensions to the young men and women who are unemployed and undereducated, all line up to share with MPs their experiences.
The halls are often too small for the numbers that show up and in these winter days, with their chilly winds, they sometimes wait their turn outside the venues, braving the cold for hours to participate in the conversation about land.
The overwhelming majority of these people, in both urban and rural South Africa, are unequivocal that land must be expropriated without compensation, for equal redistribution. Many of those who support this view are African farmworkers, the landless and small-scale farmers.
Some express great distrust in the government, while some express great distrust in traditional leadership - for they have witnessed both, in recent memory, depriving black people of land and choosing to sell it to rich whites who at times are not even South African.
They lament forced removals at the hand of the government of the day and at the hands of traditional leaders. Once money is involved, they say, the rich benefit more. They get more land.
This conversation about land, which has seen parliament - for the first time since 1994 - descend into people's community halls to listen to them, one by one, all day, found its origins in another winter, five years ago, in a community hall in Soweto: Uncle Tom Hall, on July 26, the year of 2013.
That the joint houses of parliament are hard at work consulting our people on whether the land must be expropriated without compensation or not, is a conversation made possible by the decision taken by more than 1,100 delegates from all nine provinces in a gathering called the National People's Assembly on "What Is To Be Done?"
There, in the winter of 2013, these activists resolved to form the EFF as a political party, to contest elections and fight for seven non-negotiable cardinal pillars, the first of which is land expropriation without compensation for equal redistribution.
Five years later, the EFF's presence - with just 25 of parliament's 400 seats - has led parliament into communities to engage and hear them directly on this question.
Only denialists would refuse this as an important step in the complete decolonisation of black lives. One only has to sit in these meetings to hear our people, side by side, race by race, articulate their struggles and ultimately support or reject expropriation.
Many Africans have asked their white fellow residents a simple question: 'When your white ancestors dispossessed black people of their lands, did they offer consolation? Was there a dialogue and democratic chance to hear everyone's views?'
They then tell horrific tales of dehumanisation - that white people came with the gun, unleashing a violence so total and complete, it left people not only stripped of a place to call home, but also of the ability to produce for themselves. Above all, it left them without human dignity.
As the EFF marks five years of existence on July 28, at the Sisa Dukashe stadium in East London, it will do so concurrently with this very consultative process by parliament. Nothing should make those 1,100 activists who in 2013 resolved to form the EFF and contest the 2014 general elections more proud than the achievement of forcing parliament to open itself up on the question of land, a question intertwined with human dignity and belonging.
Of all the achievements of the EFF - fighting corruption, restoring the effectiveness of parliament to hold the executive accountable, fighting for the insourcing of workers, removing corrupt governments in metros, exposing big-business tax avoidance and corruption, and removing Zuma from power - the land is the greatest of all.
We therefore mark our fifth anniversary with more determination to build this movement into a colossus ready to govern South Africa into economic freedom and prosperity. We embark on our sixth year with humble hearts at the extent to which all our people have embraced the land expropriation mission as their own.
We celebrate nothing else, because all other achievements are meaningless without the land being restored to our people. There is no more fear or doubt in their hearts; they know that it must be done, and say it openly.
There is simply no way parliament can retreat on this question any longer. After all these consultations, one thing is clear: to retreat and betray our people on the demand for land expropriation will be to risk a direct revolution, which they will conduct on their own, wherever they are.
On that day, when our people take the land by force, the EFF will join in because the powers of the day would have refused to co-ordinate a peaceful, democratic and inclusive process that empowers the previously oppressed to have access to the land.
• Malema is EFF president