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Parliament, 4 December 2018 – The National Assembly has agreed that section 25 of the Constitution be amended to make expropriation of land without compensation more explicit.

In February, the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces instructed the joint Constitutional Review Committee to review section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses, where necessary, to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

The committee engaged in extensive public consultation, including public hearings in all provinces and at Parliament. On 15 November, it adopted the report and recommendations, which the National Assembly approved today.

If the National Council of Provinces does the same at its scheduled sitting tomorrow, a Bill may be introduced. Introduction of such a Bill would follow procedures in Section 74 of the Constitution and the Rules of Parliament.

Only the Executive, a committee of the National Assembly or an individual member of the National Assembly can introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in the National Assembly. A joint committee, even the Constitutional Review Committee, cannot.

Details of the Bill would have to be published in the Government Gazette at least 30 days before it is introduced. This is to allow for public comment. The Bill must also be submitted to the nine provincial legislatures.

When the Bill is introduced, the member of the Executive, member of the National Assembly or National Assembly committee introducing the Bill must submit any written comments on it to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. These written comments are tabled in parliamentary papers, which are published and accessible to the public.

Once introduced, the Bill must be referred to a particular parliamentary committee of the National Assembly. That committee must then consider the Bill according to the rules for Bills in general. Public participation (public hearings and calls for submissions, for example) is a key feature of these rules.

The National Assembly may consider and vote on the Bill only after 30 days at least have passed since its introduction. For the National Assembly to pass a Bill seeking to amend a section of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, at least two thirds of National Assembly members must support it.

If this happens, the Bill would go to the National Council of Provinces. The National Council of Provinces Chairperson must then refer it to a relevant Council committee and to the provincial legislatures. According to the Council’s Rules, such a Bill must be dealt with in a way which ensures provinces have enough time to consider it. The National Council of Provinces can only pass such a Bill if at least six provinces support it.

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