Land: AfriForum considers legal action against Parliament's process to amend Constitution

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Ernst Roets.
Ernst Roets.

Lobby group AfriForum is considering taking legal action regarding the expropriation of land without compensation, the organisation said in a statement on Sunday.

AfriForum's deputy CEO Ernst Roets said the organisation had notified Parliament in writing that it would be consulting its legal team regarding declaring Parliament's process to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to empower the state to expropriate property without compensation, as illegal.

Roets said this was after attempts by the Constitututional Review Committee to consult with the public regarding the amendment of Section 25 already had to "bid defiance to various procedural crises".

The committee will embark on its provincial tour to gain public input into the issue from June 26.

READ: Here's when Parliament's public hearings on land will be coming to your province

Roets claimed that it seemed to AfriForum that the process related to gaining the public's input had been manipulated from the beginning to reach an outcome that would support the ruling party's stance.

He said, "AfriForum has identified ten potential procedural irregularities that may have a substantial impact on the outcome of the process regarding the public hearings that have been organised for this objective and that already need to kick off in two weeks."

The ten issues include that many of the venues and times at which these public hearings will take place were still not known to the public.

The organisation said the agenda that would be followed was also not known.

"Contradicting lists with different dates and venues for these public hearings were published by the committee. It is clear that the venues that were chosen in which these public hearings will take place are mostly located within wards in which the ruling party has more support.

"Too few public hearings are being arranged, which would exclude a significant section of the South African population. The public hearings are organised within the vicinity of only a small section of the South African population," said Roets.

He said no security arrangements had been made public regarding the hearings.

"Major metropolitans are excluded from the process in which no public hearings would take place.

"It appears that none to very little marketing has been done to inform the public of these public hearings, even though very little time is left between the drafting of this letter and the first public hearing, which is scheduled to take place on June 26, 2018."

Roets said AfriForum had pleaded to the parliamentary committee to urgently tackle these issues.

"The organisation has also communicated that even though it reserves its rights in this regard, it will still participate in the public participation processes with the aim to lay out important facts regarding expropriation without compensation," he said.

Parliament published its final, updated version of dates regarding the tour on May 30.

Most provinces have specific venues attached to their dates, with some awaiting confirmation. Times, however, have not been published.

Read Parliament's schedule here.

The committee was empowered to look into the issue after Parliament passed a motion in that regard on February 27.

Co-chair not concerned about challenge, welcomes input

Committee co-chairperson Vincent Smith told News24 on Sunday that he was not concerned about the potential legal challenge, as Parliament has followed procedure for some time.

He welcomed input into the schedule from any quarter. 

The committee's final schedule had been available for over two weeks, and extensive planning had gone into how to attract input in the different provinces.

Venues were chosen based on a 100km-radius rule, to allow citizens from all around to attend.

Having a venue such as Pretoria alone for instance would not make sense in the context of Gauteng, as it would exclude people from the south of the province, he said. Thus mid-points were chosen for all to attend, for example.

Times and specific addresses have not been broadly advertised due specific security arrangements and concerns, he said, and has been applied across the board.

The security meetings nonetheless have been going on with the MANCO committee.

He also rubbised the allegations that the venues were chosen in favour of certain wards "as nonsense", saying they are holding four meetings in the Western Cape, which is "90% DA", while Gauteng's major metros were also held by the DA.

"I want to emphasise the point that we welcome input into the process. They have been developed over time and if anyone wants to give input into how we can best faciliate [the meetings], we welcome that."

He added it was up to AfriForum if the group wanted to take the matter to court.

*UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect Smith's comments, which were added after publication.

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