Public gets more time to comment as land committee swamped with submissions

(iStock)
(iStock)

Cape Town – Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee, which is  investigating the need to amend section 25 of the Constitution to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation, has had to push its deadlines back for written submissions and reporting of its findings.

The committee also accepted a request from non-governmental organisations including the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, Accountability Now and the Free Market Foundation to extend the time for written submissions.

The committee is already swamped with submissions in excess of 100 000 on the land expropriation discussion. During his appearance in the National Assembly on Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said land expropriation is so critical that fears around it are being addressed by his envoys.

Written submissions will now be accepted until the middle of June as opposed to late May. Members of the committee have until next Wednesday to propose adjustments to the committee's work programme over the next four months.

Co-chair of the committee Vincent Smith told reporters after a brief meeting to adopt a programme for the process that the new deadlines for public submissions will be advertised on Wednesday, allowing more time for the public to submit on the matter.

“The deadline date of August 30 will be pushed back to September 11. The second decision is that instead of doing roadshows at the end of May, we will start in June.

"The NCOP (National Council of Provinces) are busy with their budget approval and we want to accommodate that,” said Smith.

Smith said that the committee will spend four days conducting its work in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and Limpopo Province and three days in the remaining three provinces.

Co-chair of the committee Musawenkosi Nzimande said the room for proposed amendments to the committee’s programme is limited and that the chairs would only be taking MPs' proposals relating to minor details such as the locations for provincial visits.

“Only one MP raised concerns that those concerns were related to the venue. The programme stands as is. The co-chairs will have the final say on the programme now and members can merely suggest. There are some proposals we cannot respond positively to,” said Nzimande.

'Conspiracy by the West'

Before the programme was adopted, MPs went back and forth on the need to extend the deadline for written submissions, with some arguing that requests for an extension were part of a conspiracy by Western forces to frustrate the land reform process.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu said AfriForum is travelling internationally and lobbying foreign organisations “against the sovereignty of Parliament in its efforts to restore land to its rightful owners”.

“It’s right-wing opportunism to take advantage of the public consultation process. They are trying to frustrate this process by making room for submissions that do not speak to what we are trying to achieve,” said Shivambu.

African National Congress MP Loyiso Mpumlwana was also opposed to the idea of extending deadlines, saying any organisation that had something worth saying on the matter would have been fully prepared by now.

“I respectfully request that we don’t extend. We have a lot of work that we cannot process. People who cannot submit by the end of May can always attend the public hearings. We have over a thousand submissions and we have to be fair to each one,” Mpulwana said.

Congress of The People MP Deidre Carter said: “Any layman on the street can give comment and it would be as valid as any comment can get. Let us get the legal opinion before getting into further deliberations on this matter.”

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