When the ANC wants to push something through, like an amendment or a bill, without a lot of pushback, they tend to release it for public comment over the festive season.
Everyone is busy and on holiday, and probably taking a break from the rollercoaster ride that is South African politics.
The most controversial bill to hit the headlines last year was without a doubt the land expropriation bill, which would amend section 25 of the Constitution, dubbed the property clause.
In November, the draft bill hit a bit of a legal snafu when Department of Trade & Industry officials pointed out that expropriating land owned by foreign nationals could contravene existing bilateral investment treaties, which could result in South Africa being denied access to key overseas markets.
Regardless, the draft bill was forged, and as is customary when something doesn’t have the full support of the nation, was released for public comment on December 6, when everyone was preparing to go on leave.
It has now come to light, per BusinessTech, that the ANC does not support one of the key clauses in the land expropriation bill, which would give the courts the power to determine which land should be taken without compensation.
This particular clause is important because the bill does not specify under what circumstances land can be expropriated.
This is section 25 as it currently stands:
(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application-
(b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court.
And this is the proposed amendment:
3A) a court may, where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, determine that the amount of compensation is nil.
Here’s Chairperson of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the constitutional amendment, Mathole Motshekga:
“We had to select a formulation that would be acceptable to all the political parties so that we don’t derail the process. But that formulation is subject to engagement by political parties and the people of South Africa as a whole.
“The ANC has taken the lead to say ‘no, we do not support that formulation’ – that power should be given to the executive,” he said.
In other words, the ANC only agreed to that particular formulation to effectively make everyone happy. They don’t actually want the courts involved.
When asked if the ANC government was being “sneaky” in gazetting a proposed amendment that fully intended on changing in the future, Motshekga did not respond, only saying that the courts would take too long to make a decision…
“We are not excluding the role of courts, but we are not giving the courts the first opportunity to decide, because that will last another 25-years and the people of South Africa cannot wait for another 25-years to get a resolution to this matter,” he said.
There’s a reason that the courts take a long time to make decisions. They have to ensure that the judgement passed complies fully with the laws and Constitution of South Africa.
You can watch eNCA’s interview with Motshekga, where he talks about the bill, here:
If you want to comment on the bill, it’s not too late.
Head here to read the draft bill and to have your say before the end of January.
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