Parties to discuss land, gay rights

2012-05-03 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Parliament’s constitutional review committee has referred proposals from the public for amendments to the Constitution’s provisions on property rights and freedom of sexual orientation to political party caucuses for consideration.

This is an interesting departure from the way the committee, which has to consider proposals from the general public regarding possible changes to the Constitution once a year, normally operates.

In response to an inquiry yesterday, senior ANC MP and review committee chairperson Chief Patekile Holomisa confirmed that the committee had rejected all proposals in the past, and that none of the 17 constitutional amendments since 1996 had been handled by the committee.

At last week’s committee meeting, too, most of the proposals were rejected, but not those relating to property rights and freedom of sexual preference (which largely lays down gay rights).

With the exception of two cases (first to allow floor-crossing between political parties and then to scrap the provision) the Constitution has never yet been drastically amended.

Holomisa agreed yesterday that the amendments of section 25 of the Constitution (property rights) and chapter 2 of the Constitution (the bill of rights) could mean far more comprehensive changes in people’s lives and that the committee wanted to play a greater part in the amendment of the Constitution than it had done in the past.

However, he also emphasised that the mere fact that the amendments were being discussed in no way implied that they would be accepted.

Other well-placed ANC sources have confirmed that the two matters have never been discussed by the ANC caucus.

At the same time, several leading ANC figures, including President Jacob Zuma, have suddenly started moving the focus to the constitutional review committee as a way of amending the Constitution, which has increased political observers’ vigilance regarding the committee.

Concerning property rights, two proposals were received and referred to caucuses.

A certain Bathlakoane Ba Manzimnyama has proposed that section 25 be amended to create a new window period for submission of land claims.

PAC activist Dr Costa Gazi has proposed that section 25 be scrapped and replaced, which will have supporters of property rights keeping a close eye on developments.

Similarly, the national House of Traditional Leaders’ proposal regarding chapter 2 of the Constitution has great implications for the rights of gay people in particular, including those who have adopted children and are in civil unions.

The proposal involves scrapping the sexual orientation section from the bill of rights.

Holomisa said the matters would be discussed further by the committee after feedback had been received from party caucuses, but that there was no rush.

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