The Ad Hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation Amending Section 25 of the Constitution yesterday started deliberations on the draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, which aims to amend the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 so as to provide that where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purpose of land reform, the amount of compensation payable may be nil.

Members of Parliament (MPs) have also been tasked by the committee to consider which specific circumstances under which land can be expropriated without compensation in the amendment to section 25 of the Constitution they would want to include.

Parliament's Legal Services presented the draft Bill which includes a preamble that may be included in the Constitution, should the Bill be adopted. This preamble provides the context for the Bill, explaining that expropriation without compensation is a legitimate option for land reform to address the historic wrongs and ensure equitable access to land, and further empower the majority of South Africans.

The Bill states that: "Property may be expropriated only in terms of a law of general application; for a public purpose or in the public interest; and 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 of law."

The draft Bill also includes the following: a sub-section that spells out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.

MPs Dr Corné Mulder, Adv Glynnis Breytenbach and Mr Werner Horn suggested the specific circumstances should be included in the Constitution instead. Mr Horn said if the circumstances were not included, it could add to uncertainty by the public.

Another committee member, Ms Regina Lesoma, was however of the view that the Constitution could not be over-prescriptive.

Committee Chairperson, Dr Mathole Motshekga, said the Bill will be gazetted later this month, something which opens the public participation process.

The committee heard that National Assembly rules made provision for the publication of a Bill at least 30 days before it was introduced. The committee previously adopted its programme in which it agreed that the Bill will be published in the Government Gazette this month, which opens it up for public participation.

"Due to the festive season, the committee agreed the Bill will be published a second time early in January 2020 for public comment, after which the public will have about a further three weeks for its input," Dr Motshekga said.

Dr Motshekga emphasised that this process was not starting afresh, as its work flows from that of the Fifth Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee. "We would like to encourage South Africans to participate in the public participation process," he said.

By Rajaa Azzakani
4 December 2019