Land, gay rights up for discussion

Cape Town - Proposals to change the Constitution's provisions on sexual orientation and property rights have been referred to party caucuses for consideration, according to a report.

Die Burger reported on Thursday that Parliament's constitutional review committee has made the unusual move of referring these proposals to political parties.

Once a year, the committee considers proposals from the public on possible changes to the Constitution. Normally it rejects most of the proposals, but at a recent committee meeting, these proposals were the only ones not to be thrown out.

There was a proposal that section 25 of the Constitution (enshrining the right to property and the rights of property owners and of society as a whole) be amended in order to create a new window period for the submission of land claims, while the PAC proposed that section 25 be scrapped and replaced.

Sexual orientation

Meanwhile, the House of Traditional Leaders made a proposal regarding scrapping the sexual orientation section from the bill of rights contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. The Constitution reads: "The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth."

ANC MP and review committee chairperson Chief Patekile Holomisa told Die Burger that none of the 17 constitutional amendments since 1996 have been handled by the committee, and that with the exception of two cases (allowing and then scrapping floor-crossing between political parties), the Constitution has never been drastically amended.

Holomisa said the proposed amendments could mean comprehensive changes in people's lives, and the committee wanted to play a greater part in constitutional amendments than it had done in the past.

However, he said the mere fact that the amendments were being discussed in no way implicated that they would be accepted. They will be discussed by the committee once feedback had been received from party caucuses.

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