Editorial: Land hearings are not about the numbers

2018-07-01 06:26

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The Constitutional Review Committee started hearings this week across the country on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.

This is a necessary public consultation process after the National Assembly passed a motion allowing for an investigation into the feasibility of this constitutional change.

The public hearings got off to an emotional and dramatic start. Emotions have run high on all sides of the debate, and this often threatens to overwhelm the point of the exercise – to get solid arguments to inform the final decision.

Unsurprisingly, leaders of political parties have tried to hog the spotlight for themselves, which is a real pity given how much time they are already allowed in Parliament to be theatrical.

However, much like the written submission process before, the public inputs have degenerated to a game of numbers, with those who shout the most believing theirs should be the only voices heard.

This means the hearings run the risk of making the next few weeks more about a display of superior numbers, rather than about any insightful contributions that would sway the debate.

The committee must find a way to keep control by ensuring that all voices are heard, but also that the hearings do not become political party rallies.

At some point, some will ask whether this whole exercise is about the ticking of the boxes of public participation or whether the contributions will actually inform the final decision.

Political parties have a responsibility not to bus their supporters to the hearings to drown out other voices and perform for TV. It is clear that the land debate is a dealbreaker for black and white South Africans, and it must be handled with all the sensitivity we can muster.

Read more on:    land

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