However, some organisations have called for an extension of the deadline for public comment, because it was published at the start of the festive season.
South Africans have just over two weeks left to submit their comments on the draft Constitution 18th Amendment Bill, which aims to amend the constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
However, some organisations have called for an extension of the deadline for public comment, saying that the Amendment Bill was published for public comment at the start of the festive season, when most businesses had closed.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) has written to the chair of the parliamentary ad hoc committee, requesting an extension of the deadline.
“The CFCR is concerned that such a critically important Amendment Bill was published at the start of the festive season. Most businesses and civil society organisations closed and only reopened early in January.
“Concerns about the timing of the publication were discussed at a meeting of the committee on December 3, following a letter received from AgriSA, but parliament’s legal services apparently informed the committee a similar process had been followed with Bills in the past,” said the organisation, which operates as a unit of the FW de Klerk Foundation.
The CFCR said the committee was pushing to finalise public deliberation and adoption of the Amendment Bill before its deadline of March 31.
“However, public engagement cannot be rushed. This is the first opportunity for the public to engage with the formulation of the proposed amendment,” it said.
But the chairperson of the committee, Dr Mathole Motshekga, disagreed and said the request for an extension was unreasonable.
“This process started in the fifth parliament. Before we agreed on the deadline, we had a meeting with all the political parties and stakeholders and it was agreed that this would be the deadline.”
Motshekga said after the January 31 deadline, parliament would review all submissions and make the necessary amendments to the constitution as per public recommendations.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also expressed unhappiness over the closing date for public comments, saying parliament had published the Bill without “adequate publicity” and just before Christmas.
“We call on all progressive peoples, movements, organisations and formations to make submissions in support of the expropriation of land without compensation because land inequality is not a mere matter of political posturing – it affects millions of South Africans,” the party said.
Aims of the new law
The proposed amendments include:
- Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application – subject to compensation, the amount of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court or another independent and impartial tribunal or forum established by an Act of parliament. A court or such tribunal or forum may determine that no compensation is payable to the owner of land in the event of expropriation.
- Where compensation is payable, the amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected.
- The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis, with due regard to the economic and social circumstances of the intended beneficiaries.
– [email protected]