Par­lia­ment un­der pres­sure over land bill

• Call for pub­lic to get more time to com­ment on no-com­pen­sa­tion move

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Bekezela Phakathi Par­lia­men­tary Writer [email protected]­

The par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee tasked with for­mu­lat­ing leg­is­la­tion to amend the con­sti­tu­tion to al­low for ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion is un­der pres­sure to ex­tend the dead­line for pub­lic com­ment amid loom­ing le­gal challenges.

The par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee for­mu­lat­ing leg­is­la­tion to amend the con­sti­tu­tion for ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion is un­der pres­sure to ex­tend the dead­line for pub­lic com­ment as le­gal challenges loom.

It is feared that ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion to ad­dress skewed land own­er­ship since the colo­nial and apartheid eras could rat­tle in­vestors and hit the strug­gling econ­omy.

The Bank­ing Associatio­n SA (Basa), rep­re­sent­ing reg­is­tered banks, said pre­vi­ously that while the coun­try had to deal with land re­form it had to be done with­out dis­cour­ag­ing in­vest­ment.

In De­cem­ber, par­lia­ment pub­lished an in­vi­ta­tion in the Gov­ern­ment Gazette for the pub­lic to make writ­ten sub­mis­sions on the draft leg­is­la­tion by Jan­uary 31. But var­i­ous groups say the pe­riod should be ex­tended as the fes­tive pe­riod made it dif­fi­cult for most in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions to ta­ble de­tailed sub­mis­sions.

On Tues­day, the Cen­tre for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights (CFCR), which op­er­ates as a unit of the FW de Klerk Foun­da­tion and aims to pro­mote “the full spec­trum of rights, val­ues and prin­ci­ples in the con­sti­tu­tion”, said it had writ­ten to the chair of the ad hoc com­mit­tee, Mathole Mot­shekga, ur­gently re­quest­ing an ex­ten­sion of the dead­line for pub­lic com­ment.

“[We are] con­cerned that such a crit­i­cally im­por­tant amendment bill was pub­lished for pub­lic com­ment at the start of the fes­tive sea­son. Most busi­nesses and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions close for the year and only re­opened early in Jan­uary 2020,” the cen­tre said.

It said that this would be the first time the SA pub­lic was faced with an al­ter­ation of a right in the bill of rights. The bill of rights forms a “cor­ner­stone of democ­racy in SA, and it is there­fore vi­tal to en­sure mean­ing­ful pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion”, the or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

Mot­shekga was yet to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on Tues­day.

The land ex­pro­pri­a­tion is­sue has po­larised the coun­try and spooked in­vestors.

In De­cem­ber, the In­sti­tute for Race Re­la­tions (IRR), a lead­ing think-tank in SA, said it would launch a le­gal bid to chal­lenge ma­jor pro­ce­dural short­com­ings in the par­lia­men­tary process of re­draft­ing sec­tion 25 of the con­sti­tu­tion. The in­sti­tute raised a num­ber of is­sues of con­cern, and said that con­trary to all the as­sur­ances pro­vided by the ANC and the man­date given to the ad hoc com­mit­tee the draft bill did far more than merely “make ex­plicit that which is im­plicit” in the ex­ist­ing word­ing of sec­tion 25 of the con­sti­tu­tion.

First, the draft bill made it clear that both land and “any im­prove­ments thereon” were to be sub­ject to ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

“How­ever, the ad hoc com­mit­tee’s man­date is to deal with land alone. Build­ings are, of course, im­mov­ably at­tached to land that may be ex­pro­pri­ated, but the ad­di­tional value of these struc­tures can al­ways be cal­cu­lated,” the IRR said.

The IRR also pointed out that the draft bill em­pow­ered par­lia­ment to adopt any num­ber of sub­se­quent statutes, all of which could be passed by a sim­ple 51% ma­jor­ity, which would set out


“spe­cific cir­cum­stances where a court may de­ter­mine that the amount of com­pen­sa­tion is nil”.

This sub­sec­tion vastly ex­tended the cir­cum­stances in which “nil” com­pen­sa­tion could be paid.

“In fact, it opens up an end­less vista of po­ten­tial ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion tak­ings. For this rea­son too, the sub­sec­tion does far more than make ‘ex­plicit that which is im­plicit’ in the ex­ist­ing sec­tion 25.”

The pro­posed changes in the draft bill were any­thing but min­i­mal, the IRR said. They were not con­sis­tent with the ad hoc com­mit­tee’s man­date, it said.

“In ad­di­tion, the way in which sec­tion 25 is be­ing amended is con­trary to sec­tion 74 of the con­sti­tu­tion, with its im­por­tant pro­ce­dural rules for amend­ing the bill of rights.”

“This un­con­sti­tu­tional con­duct and abuse of the par­lia­men­tary process can­not go un­chal­lenged and es­pe­cially not when the re­sult­ing dam­age to con­fi­dence, in­vest­ment, em­ploy­ment, growth and pros­per­ity is likely to be so great,” the in­sti­tute said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.