A grey­beard lost in his fam­ily’s land

His father was robbed of free­dom and of his land, now he hopes jus­tice will be won for those to come

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lec­tively rise from plas­tic chairs in protest. But a se­cond rift in the hall was ex­posed by the floor’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with lo­cal po­lit­i­cal squab­bles.

The di­vi­sive char­ac­ter of Matjhabeng mu­nic­i­pal­ity mayor Nkos­in­jani Speel­man, decked out in an ANC blazer, quickly be­came a tar­get of the re­gion’s wan­ing con­fi­dence in the rul­ing party.

Brav­ing the ire, he de­clared to the com­mit­tee: “The dig­nity of the black peo­ple will not be re­stored un­til the land is given back.”

But over his sub­mis­sion hung the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ re­cent mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Speel­man and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s R2-bil­lion debt to Eskom and Sed­ibeng Wa­ter.

Igor Scheurko­gel, the founder of com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion the Power of One, lam­basted the mayor’s “fail­ures”, to a cho­rus of in­cred­u­lous heck­ling and laugh­ter.

Un­moved by the waves of agree­ment and dis­sent sweep­ing through the crowd, Moshouyane sat lis­ten­ing, his grey­ing beard slightly tilted to­wards the sky.

De­spite oc­cu­py­ing a small room in his cousin’s house on the edge of Thabong town­ship, Moshouyane, a mu­si­cian, reg­u­larly refers to him­self as home­less — as the mem­ory of lost fa­mil­ial land has frus­trated his sense of be­long­ing. “They say a rolling stone gath­ers no moss,” he jokes af­ter the hear­ing.

A mem­ber of the Baro­long clan, Lefa’s grand­fa­ther Pet­ros Moshouyane came to own a piece of land be­tween Ex­cel­sior and Thaba ’Nchu — a small town east of Free State’s cap­i­tal, Bloem­fontein.

His fam­ily, Moshouyane says, were driven off their land by white farm­ers. “If you go there now, the farm is still named af­ter us. All the peo­ple there, they will tell you, they still call it af­ter the name of our an­ces­tors,” he says. “When the grand­chil­dren pass by the land, they point and say to their friends, ‘This used to be our an­ces­tors’ land.’ ”

He re­calls sto­ries of how his father, Mere Piet Moshouyane, be­came politi­cised through his friend­ship with Dr James Sebe Moroka, a de­scen­dant of the Moroka chief­tains in Thaba ’Nchu.

Of­fi­cially es­tab­lished in 1873, the pop­u­la­tion of Thaba ’Nchu grew fol­low­ing the 1913 Na­tives’ Land Act, which con­fined chief­doms to small re­serves.

Moroka was in­volved in the re­sis­tance against the 1936 Na­tives Trust and Land Bill, which sought to limit black own­er­ship of land out­side the re­serves.

Mere Piet Moshouyane’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in lo­cal re­sis­tance to the laws, his son says, saw him forced by the author­i­ties to Paarl in the Western Cape, where Lefa and his sib­lings were born.

Moshouyane senior joined the Aza­nian Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, then known as Poqo, the mil­i­tary wing of the Pan African­ist Congress. In 1962 Poqo was im­pli­cated in an armed up­ris­ing in Paarl, though Lefa Moshouyane doesn’t men­tion this. The fam­ily, he says, moved to Ku­ru­man in the North­ern Cape in 1964.

A favourite of his father and his last liv­ing son, Lefa Moshouyane in­sists Mere Piet was poi­soned and killed two years later for fight­ing to re­gain his land.

“He fought for free­dom, but that free­dom was never found … I’m not free, be­cause I don’t have any­thing; I don’t have land, I don’t have a house,” Moshouyane says, mo­tion­ing to the cramped room he sleeps in. “What free­dom can I claim if my sit­u­a­tion is like this?”

Of the new guard ad­vanc­ing the call for land, Moshouyane is scep­ti­cal. “You can­not say the EFF can do this be­cause they have never been in power. But I will give credit to them for fight­ing for what is right.”

Many who ad­dressed the com­mit­tee dur­ing the land hear­ings in Welkom started by salut­ing the EFF — rep­re­sented in the city by the party’s chief whip Floyd Shivambu — for call­ing for the amend­ment to sec­tion 25 in Par­lia­ment.

Though this re­newed ac­tion has given Moshouyane hope, he seems re­signed to an un­der­stand­ing that he will never live on his fam­ily’s land.

“It’s not all about me, be­cause I can die to­mor­row,” Moshouyane says. “I just want things to hap­pen for the com­ing ones.”

Burn­ing is­sue: Dur­ing the hear­ings in Welkom on land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion, Lefa Moshouyane (left) said he wants his land back, not for him­self but for the gen­er­a­tions to come. Photo: Oupa Nkosi

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