By Gaye Davis & Babalo Ndenze for EWN
South Africa’s taken the first step towards legislating for the expropriation of land without compensation, but there is a long road ahead before it becomes law.
Parliament’s constitutional review committee has adopted its final report, which recommends that Section 25 of the Constitution, the property clause, be amended to make expropriation without compensation explicit.
The report is expected to come before the National Assembly for debate and adoption in two weeks’ time.
Parliament is expected to debate and adopt the committee’s report at the end of November, but that’s just the start of a lengthy process to amend the Constitution, which could also face legal challenges along the way.
A parliamentary committee will then have to draft and process what will be the 18th Constitution Amendment Bill.
That’ll involve a fresh round of public participation and comment.
Given some parties’ and civil society organisations’ opposition to amending the Constitution, legal challenges could delay the process.
Parliament’s schedule also makes it unlikely the bill will be voted on before next year’s elections.
A final hurdle is that any constitutional amendment that affects the Bill of Rights requires a much bigger than a normal majority to pass.
Constitutional review committee co-chairperson Stan Maila said: “If you want to change anything in Chapter 2 (which deals with the Bill of Rights, and is where Section 25 appears), then you need a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly and six (of the nine) provinces (backing it) in the National Council of Provinces.”
At the same time, the ANC has made it absolutely clear that there’s no chance of a constitutional amendment before next year’s elections, as stated in the committee’s adopted report.
The EFF, which voted with the ANC, has also called on the amendment to be finalised before the end of the current term.
Committee member Vincent Smith said: “What is very clear is that there will be no voting on the actual constitutional amendment before elections, I hope that clarifies it. There will be no voting on it, it’s just not practically possible.”
The ANC has also dismissed opposition accusations that the party and EFF are using land expropriation as an electioneering ploy.
“Is this a sham for electioneering purposes? It’s not, because people who understand know that the process of actually amending the Constitution is not going to happen until after the elections,” Smith added.
The party added that the adoption of this final report will bring about an end to policy uncertainty while also addressing historic wrongs.