North­ern Cape Nama farm­ers fear

Where else would we go? ask Nama de­scen­dants who fret that com­mu­nal land will be taken. Some still fol­low tra­di­tional ways, writes Carl Col­li­son

Mail & Guardian - - News -

To knock on doors of our ances­tors We died in mil­i­tant si­lence

We are true bat­tal­ions

And we … have been one with this land Napo Masheane, his face lacks in youth, his eyes more than make up for it. Deep-set, dark and al­ways smil­ing, they glint warmly as he speaks at break­neck speed about the land he has lived on all his life.

As we bob along on the rough gravel road from his bright-green home to a com­mu­nal farm a few kilo­me­tres away, he laughs as he com­plains about the state of roads in the area. “Ons het met die regering gepraat en gepraat, maar hulle luis­ter nie [We’ve spo­ken to the au­thor­i­ties again and again, but they don’t lis­ten],” he says.

To keep the com­mu­nal farm in his fam­ily, he is pre­pared to do even more speak­ing to the gov­ern­ment — and hopes that this time it will lis­ten.

With an equal mea­sure of pride and fear, Jakobus says: “My agter-agterkleinkind is elfde ges­lag wat nou op hi­erdie land is [My great-great­grand­child is the eleventh gen­er­a­tion on this land].

On ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion, he says sim­ply: “Dis nie reg nie. Wat joune is, is joune [It’s not right. What’s yours is yours].”

Point­ing to the pen and notepad in my hand, he adds: “As ek die boek en die pen van jou af neem — son­der om vir jou iets daar­voor te gee nie — dis mos nie reg nie [If I take that book and that pen away from you — with­out giv­ing you any­thing in re­turn — that’s just not right].”

The close on four years of on­go­ing drought the re­gion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing might be tough (“ons kry swaar [we are suf­fer­ing]”), but it has done noth­ing to dampen his pas­sion. “Dis ons land hi­erdie. Ons is gelukkig hier [This is our land. We are happy here].”

At the same hall where, a day be­fore, he had made an im­pas­sioned plea to the com­mit­tee not to al­low his land to be taken away, Arthur Cloete ar­rives to col­lect the gov­ern­mentspon­sored drought re­lief vouch­ers he has been wait­ing months for.

“Ev­ery time they would tell us to come here, but noth­ing,” he laughs wryly, as he and a smat­ter­ing of other early-bird farm­ers fight off the bit­ter early-morn­ing cold in the hopes of be­ing the first to catch the prover­bial long-waited-for worm.

Arthur and his fel­low farm­ers are in luck. That day, they leave the hall with their vouch­ers in hand.

But the re­lief is soured by the prospect of per­haps hav­ing to give it all up one day.

A young farmer (“I think I’m 43,” he laughs), Arthur has been farm­ing on the com­mu­nal land that has been in his fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions for “about five years”.

The tract of land on which they live has small live­stock and “some geese and poul­try”, he says.

“[It] has a lot of mean­ing for us in the fam­ily. The fact that we have Nama her­itage, be­fore ’94 we could not ac­knowl­edge it. It was not some­thing to be proud of. We can now say we are proud Nama peo­ple, even though we are mixed in our lin­eage. That is what the new dis­pen­sa­tion brought us.”

But what the new dis­pen­sa­tion could be tak­ing is what Arthur is now fight­ing against. A mem­ber of the Con­cor­dia Farm­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which sub­mit­ted a writ­ten rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mit­tee, op­pos­ing changes to the Con­sti­tu­tion, he says: “As soon as we give the gov­ern­ment ex­plicit power to take land with­out com­pen­sa­tion, you open ev­ery­body up to that risk of los­ing their land, their own­er­ship.”

He also sees the is­sue as po­ten­tially di­vi­sive. “Peo­ple will use this is­sue in pol­i­tics to di­vide peo­ple. And it shouldn’t be that [way].”

As part of her oral sub­mis­sion dur­ing the pub­lic hear­ing, Ilanushca van Neel, an ac­tivist from Con­cor­dia, also takes to chal­leng­ing the gov­ern­ment.

Van Neel asks: “Why is it that there are mil­lions of rands to run this process [of hold­ing pub­lic hear­ings], but no money to send the depart­ment of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment here to start the process of get­ting our land into our names?”

Speak­ing to the Mail & Guardian over “’n kop­pie tee” in her Con­cor­dia home, she con­curs with Arthur Cloete.

“Politi­cians have a ten­dency of keep­ing our peo­ple locked in a his­tory that did not ben­e­fit them. Keep­ing peo­ple in that loop … they can play a card that will keep the di­vide for­ever.”

At the prov­ince’s first pub­lic hear­ing into land ex­pro­pri­a­tion, the di­vide is al­ready felt.

AfriFo­rum’s Ernst Roets calls the process an at­tempt by the gov­ern­ment “to take more land and not give peo­ple land”.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has de­liv­ered a pe­ti­tion to the gov­ern­ment, con­tain­ing about 300000 sig­na­tures of peo­ple op­posed to land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

Roets adds that the gov­ern­ment is “hero-wor­ship­ping the poli­cies of some of the world’s worst economies”. He’s re­fer­ring to coun­tries such as

Un­likely al­lies: Ja­cob and Ma­gri­eta Cloete (above), who ad­here to the pas­toral ways of their Nama fore­bears, and Ernst Roets (left) of mi­nor­ity rights group AfriFo­rum are dead set against al­low­ing the gov­ern­ment to ex­pro­pri­ate land with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

Ran­dall April: ‘I don’t know what will hap­pen if they do this. We are al­ready suf­fer­ing’

Ilanushca van Neel: ‘Land is the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing for the peo­ple of this re­gion’

Pho­tos: Paul Botes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.