The parliamentary ad hoc committee on amending the constitution plots the course.
The parliamentary ad hoc committee on changing section 25 of the Constitution to simplify expropriation without compensation met yesterday and mapped out the legislative road ahead for the controversial and important constitutional amendment.
It was the first time the committee met since being reconstituted after the election, a delay the new chairman, Dr Mathole Motshekga of the ANC, took responsibility for and apologised for.
Although each new parliament is not bound by the decisions of its predecessors, the newly constituted committee will build on the work of its equivalent in the previous parliament. This includes the mandate of the committee, the public hearings which were held in 45 towns and cities across the country, the report of the high level panel chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe and the presidential advisory panel on agriculture.
Land issue in South Africa cuts to the heart of the Constitution
Motshekga warned MPs to be circumspect because the land issue cuts to the heart of the Constitution and the current parliamentary process is sure to be weighed by the courts, who will override any improper process.
The chairman then proceeded to map the way forward.
Firstly, the committee will hold a workshop of experts to advise it, and Motshekga wants to invite what he calls the best brains in the country to participate. These would include, but not be limited to, Prof. Ruth Hall (UWC), Prof. Ben Cousins (UWC), Prof. Quinton Johnson (NMMU), former judges Albie Sachs, Dikgang Moseneke, Sandile Ngcobo and Johan van der Westhuizen, Adv. Tembeko Ngcukaitobi, the lawyers’ organisations Nadel and the BLA, AgriSA, Khoisan leaders and church groupings.
After the workshop, Parlaiment’s legal services will brief the committee, after which draft legislation will be produced. Although the deadline for the committee finishing its work is 31 March, Motshekga said is should not allow deadlines to paint it into a corner, and that the end of June next year is probably a better target date to finish the process.
Draft legislation to be completed by June 2020
DA MP Dr Annelie Lotriet expressed surprise at the way Motshekga simply followed his own preferences without consultation, and said the DA would, for a start, definitely add more names to the workshop input to strengthen it and make it more representative.
Her fellow DA MP Adv. Glynnis Breytenbach immediately added the names of former President Kgalema Motlanthe and Adv. Wim Trengove, adding that there were more to come.
The Freedom Front Plus’ Dr Corne Mulder said he disagreed with Motshekga’s summation of the current situation, but agreed that a slower and more thoughtful, thorough approach was preferable. In this he was supported by IFP MP Inkosi Elphas Buthelezi.
EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu, however, did not agree with this approach at all. He said too much time was being wasted intellectualising on issues and holding workshops when all that had to be done was decide on the exact wording of the constitutional amendment which the ad hoc committee was bound to implement.
On behalf of the ANC, its MP Mandla Mandela agreed with the slower approach, saying that it was key to the essence of South African democracy that all voices be heard and that the process followed be above reproach.
The committee then adjourned and will now propose names for those experts to be invited to brief it in the workshop planned for the near future.