NEWS & ANALYSIS

EWC: Public participation won’t be extended – Committee

Section 25 Ad Hoc Committee says it has received Draft Bill to amend Constitution

Ad Hoc Committee on amending Section 25 received Draft Bill to amend Constitution

3 December 2019

The Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution today received a briefing on the draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill which aims to amend the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, so as to provide that where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, the amount of compensation payable may be nil.

The Bill proposes that the amount of the compensation as contemplated and the time and manner of any payment, must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances. National legislation must set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.

The Parliamentary Legal Services told the committee that the Bill further aims to clarify that such limitation is a legitimate option for land reform, so as to address the historic wrongs caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land, and in so doing ensure equitable access to land and further empower the majority of South Africans to be productive participants in ownership, food security and agricultural reform programs.

On questions by some members as to why not include the specific circumstances in the Bill, the committee heard that it is advisable to rather include the specific circumstances in national legislation rather than in the Constitution, so that any amendment in future should not then have to be in the Constitution. The committee resolved that members will be allowed to provide a list of “specific circumstances”.

The committee further resolved that at this stage it does not intend to extend the deadline for public participation as the committee is compliant in terms of the law and the National Assembly (NA) rules.

The committee was approached by Agri SA for a three-month time frame for public hearings, excluding the festive season. The committee heard that NA rules make provision for the publication of a Bill at least 30 days before a Bill is introduced. The committee previously adopted its programme in which it agreed that the Bill will be published in the Government Gazette this month, something which opens it for public participation.

“Due to the festive season, the committee agreed that the Bill will be published a second time early in January 2020 for public comment after which the public will have about a further three weeks for input,” said Dr MatholeMotshekga, Committee Chairperson.

Dr Motshekgaemphasised that this process is not starting afresh and its work flows from that of the Constitutional Review Committee in the previous Parliament as per the mandate of the National Assembly. “We would like to encourage South Africans to participate in the public participation process.”

The committee will meet on Thursday to engage further on the draft Bill.

Issued by Rajaa Azzakani, Media Officer, Parliamentary Communication Services, 3 December 2019