An extension of the deadline by which South Africans can respond in writing to the proposed amendments to the Constitution for land expropriation without compensation is unlikely.
Dr. Mathole Motshekga, chair of the parliamentary ad hoc committee concerned with the amendment of art. 25 of the Constitution, on inquiry was clear on Friday.
This was after the Center for Constitutional Rights attached to the FW de Klerk Foundation requested Motshekga by letter to extend the deadline of 31 January.
In terms of the proposed amendments contained in the Eighteenth Constitution Bill, certain provisions of sec. 25 be amended to state, inter alia, that a court, where land or any improvements thereon is expropriated for the purposes of land reform, may provide that the amount of compensation is zero.
Another proposed amendment is that national legislation sets out, among other things, the specific circumstances in which a court may determine that the amount of compensation is zero.
In a statement, the center expressed concern that such a “critically important” Amendment Bill was published for public comment in December – at the start of the festive season. Most businesses and civil rights organizations close over this period and only reopened in early January.
Agri SA and certain opposition parties also expressed concern earlier about this timing.
The Center pointed out that although there have been seventeen amendments to the Constitution, it is the first time that an amendment to a Bill of Rights has been proposed. “The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa and it is therefore crucial to secure meaningful public participation.”
The committee intends to finalize its activities and the approval of the amendment bill in the National Assembly (NV) by 31 March.
According to the center, the public participation process on the proposed amendments cannot be rushed. “This is the first opportunity for the public to have access to the wording of the proposed amendment to Art. 25 of the Constitution.
“The public meetings held by the parliamentary constitutional review committee in 2018 are different from the current process in that they focused on public opinion on the need for expropriation without compensation, and were not related to the nature of the proposed amendment.
The center urged the committee – if it is unable to meet its March 31 deadline – to request the NPA to extend the deadline to prevent the “opportunity for meaningful public participation” being jeopardized.
Motshekga said on Friday that all the role players had agreed on the timeframes.
“We did not enforce the deadline. The process started in the fifth parliamentary term and the people have been waiting for the process for hundreds of years, they are happy and respond to it, so we are not going to extend the deadline. The effects of an extension will be disastrous for South Africans who face the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment. We can’t wait any longer because all South Africans have been taken on board, ”Motshekga said.
He pointed out that the deadline is not the end of the road as public meetings are planned for February during which people who still want to make submissions can do so.