Feeling run down after a long year? We get it, but before you take a break, it’s really important to make your voice heard about a proposed Constitutional amendment to enable expropriation without the payment of compensation.
Yes, government has opened this hugely important bill for public comment over the December holiday. Lobby group DearSA warns whether you are in favour or opposed to the amendment, it is essential you have your say about the Constitution Amendment Bill which they describe as “quite possibly the most important bill yet opened for public comment”. The proposed amendment will also give the green light to make amendments to property rights.
Head of Land Affairs for Agri SA, Annelize Crosby, says the agricultural organisation asked government to postpone the publication of the amendment bill until after the festive period to allow for proper public participation. Agri SA’s request has, however, been rejected.
She now believes this decision by parliament’s ad hoc committee could be a blow to an already unstable South African economy. “This will be the first time ever that a fundamental human right in our Constitution gets amended. AgriSA is very concerned about the impact that the amendment of the property clause may have on our economy. And for that reason we think that it is critical that (changes to) the Constitution on this amendment be done in-depth and that sufficient time is allowed for that.”
However, the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) has welcomed the public deliberation period. AFASA president Dr Vuyo Mahlati acknowledged that there is still some uncertainty about the practical implications, but believes that the proposed bill is much-needed.
Urging people to participate in the process, Mahlati says, “It (the bill) has actually pointed to the view of the majority of South Africans, it is now up to parliament to actually ensure that the amendments bring clarity on this important issue.”
Meanwhile, the draft bill has been criticised for lacking clarity on whether it favours land owners or the dispossessed. North-West University law professor Elmien du Plessis says the ad hoc committee should clarify amendments it made to the property clause.
She says, “What is lacking is an explanation from the National Assembly on why the amendment is necessary and how it will resolve the land reform question and the deeper systemic issues associated with it.”
Du Plessis further explains that the clause has no clear indication on who it favours. “The property clause aims to balance the interests of those who have land. It favours a balance. Where that balance falls depends on the circumstances of the case. Thus far it has always fallen in favour of land owners.”
She added that greater energy should be focused on the land expropriation bill. “The current suggestion seems to make explicit what is implicit, and as such does not alter the law. The bigger focus should be on the expropriation bill. The bill will set our procedures. It will give clarity and it will show how owners can question administrative decisions, such as what is ‘just and equitable’ compensation during the process.”
DearSA says they often hear from people who believe that their comment will not make any difference because government has already made up its mind. In an e-mail to call for public support, the lobby group says, “Well, by law, the government must individually acknowledge and consider each public comment sent through our system. Most importantly, the law enables participants (or organisations acting on behalf of participants) to question the outcome or final decision — the higher the public participation, the stronger the mandate. Your participation is essential to create meaningful impact.”
- Written submissions by the public are invited until Friday, 31 January 2020. Submissions and enquiries must be directed to Mr V. Ramaano, 3rd Floor, 90 Plein Street, Cape Town, 8000, or alternatively e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.