Land constitutional amendment recommendation gets greenlight from NCOP

Now that the report has been adopted, a member of the executive or a member of the National Assembly can introduce a Bill to amend the section. (David Harrison/M&G)

Now that the report has been adopted, a member of the executive or a member of the National Assembly can introduce a Bill to amend the section. (David Harrison/M&G)

The National Council of Provinces has adopted the report compiled by the joint constitutional review committee and approved the process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution.

The constitutional review committee report recommends that the sections — which deals with property rights — are amended to provide for the expropriation of land without compensation. Eight provinces voted in favour, and one province voted against the process.

This vote follows the report’s adoption by the National Assembly on Tuesday, with 209 MPs in support of the adoption of the report and 91 against.

Fana Vincent Mlombo, representing the provincial legislature of Mpumalanga at the NCOP, said the party “supports the expropriation of land without compensation because we want future generations of South Africans to have ownership of the means of production”.

Now that the report has been adopted, a member of the executive or a member of the National Assembly can introduce a Bill to amend the section.  ANC MP Vincent Smith, the former co-chair of the constitutional review committee, told SAFM on Wednesday morning the debate on land “cannot wait any longer”.

When asked whether the joint committee had followed the correct protocol on accepting the report, Smith said, “When you went out into the field, the people’s arguments were far more potent.”

“Land has been central to the struggle for many years.”

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Asked whether South Africa’s land debate would be different to the situations faced in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, Smith said South Africa has learnt from the past and has always been very different from the two countries.

The process to amend the constitution is expected to take some time, but ANC Lewis Nzimande, the co-chair of the joint constitutional committee, has urged that the process is concluded before the elections in May.  “The house must urgently establish a committee to take further this matter. Further, we resolve that this matter is concluded before the rise of this fifth parliament,” Nzimande said.

The process of amending the Constitution

The process to amend Section 25 began in February this year with a motion from the Economic Freedom Fighters, which was led by Julius Malema, calling for the establishment of a parliamentary ad hoc committee to review and amend the Constitution after hearing public submissions from policymakers, academics, civil society and the public.

The ANC, Inkatha Freedom Party, and the National Freedom Party voiced their support for the motion.

The joint committee engaged the public over the issue and adopted a report that recommended the expropriation of land without compensation on November 15.

According to a statement released by Parliament on Tuesday, a member of the joint constitutional review committee cannot introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in the National Assembly.
Only a member of the executive or the National Assembly who is not a part of the committee may.

Once introduced, the statement noted, the individual who introduced the Bill will submit any written comments from the public on the Bill to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.

The Bill will also be subject to a Parliamentary committee of the National Assembly where the Bill will be considered “according to the rules of Bills in general. Public Participation (public hearings and calls for submissions) is a key feature of these rules.”

Explainer: What’s involved in changing the Constitution

After this process has been followed, the Bill will be debated in the National Assembly again. If it accepted by two-thirds of the house, the Bill will then be sent to the National Council of Provinces where the Bill be debated by the relevant council committee and in the provincial legislatures.

The Bill, the statement reads, “must be dealt with in a way which ensures provinces have enough time to consider it.” The Bill is only passed if at least six provinces, out of the nine, support it.

Upcoming legal action

The Democratic Alliance (DA) announced on Tuesday that they would approach the courts following the adoption of the constitutional review committee report.

However, they would take a different approach to Afrikaner nationalist group AfriForum.

AfriForum’s application to interdict the report from being debated in both houses of Parliament was dismissed by the high court in Cape Town.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, the DA said there were procedural flaws with the report.

“The written submissions report has not been finalised, yet the ANC and EFF approved the final report,” said DA MP Thandeka Mbabama.

DA MP Annaleigh Lotriet told SAFM on Wednesday morning: “There was no real debate on this” referring to the report compiled by the joint constitutional review committee.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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