Land hearings: CRC still coming to grips with hundreds of thousands of written submissions

MPs behind boxes containing submissions to the CRC. (Jan Gerber, News24)
MPs behind boxes containing submissions to the CRC. (Jan Gerber, News24)

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) is still looking for a way to deal with the sheer number of written submissions it has received concerning whether the Constitution should be amended to allow expropriation without compensation.

It has been almost three months since the deadline closed for public submissions on whether Section 25 of the Constitution, the "property clause", should be amended.

The committee met on Thursday, and much of the meeting was spent discussing how it will deal with the more than half a million documents.

At this stage, it seemed unlikely that the committee would meet its deadline of September 28 to report back to the National Assembly. 

A service provider was appointed to deal with the submissions, but they were not ready to make a presentation to the committee, chairperson Lewis Nzimande said.

READ: CRC report on land wasn't leaked to ANC NEC - Smith

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said she wanted to "read every single one of them", as she didn't trust a report by a service provider that wasn't appointed by the MPs on the committee.

Cope MP Deidre Carter said it was the committee's responsibility to deal with the written submissions.

ANC MP Stanford Maila suggested they set aside three weeks for MPs to read through the documents.

'We must apply our minds'

ANC MP Tsapane Mampuru asked how the issue would affect the deadline of September 28.

"Procedurally, we will have to go back to the House and ask for an extension."

Before agreeing on a timeline, the committee decided to first have a look at some of the documents.

From Room M46 in the Marks Building, they undertook a tour to a room in the adjacent 90 Plein Street building, where submissions from Cope, the Institute for Race Relations and AfriForum were stacked.

Upon their return, Maila again suggested that they set aside three weeks for MPs to read through the documents.

Other MPs said they first want a report from the service provider and Parliament about the submissions before they made a decision.

"We must apply our minds to the written submissions," said ACDP MP Steve Swart. "That is required by law."

EFF MP Makosini Chabangu said: "These documents are very important and pertain to the lives of 57 million people."

'No status'

DA MP Annelie Lotriet suggested that the committee call the authors of the High Level Panel on Key Legislation, chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe. The panel made damning findings about the government's implementation of land reform policy since 1996 and made several recommendations.

Its work was often quoted by those who made submissions to the committee last week.

Swart said the panel had held extensive public hearings and that the CRC could learn from them.

ANC MP Madipoane Mothapo said the panel's recommendations had "no status".

UDM MP Mncedisi Filtane suggested that they invite the valuer-general, as the committee was often told that the state did not use Section 25 to its fullest extent and the valuer-general played a central role in this.

Nzimande said they had agreed that they would not invite anybody else at this stage of their process. The committee will meet again next Thursday, where it will listen to presentations from the service provider who dealt with the written submissions, as well as Parliament, before deciding on the rest of their programme.

Last week, from Tuesday to Friday, the committee listened to oral submissions. From the end of June to early August, the committee travelled to every province where they held public hearings on the matter.

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