Tempers flare as land expropriation debate gets under way
Deliberations on the desirability of amending the constitution to make it clear how land should be expropriated without compensation got off to a heated start in Parliament on Thursday with some MPs raising doubts about the credibility of the process.
Parliament’s joint constitutional review committee is working on its report and recommendations on the possibility of amending section 25 of the constitution to make it clear how land could be expropriated without compensation.
MPs bickered over a draft report which captured the summary of all the submissions with some saying it was discredited.
According to the draft report, there was overwhelming support in the public/oral hearings for a constitutional amendment on expropriation of land without compensation.
However, in terms of the written submissions, the report indicates that 65% of valid submissions were opposed to changing the constitution whilst 34% were in favour of amendment of the constitution.
The report by a little-known recruitment company Silumko Consulting considered about 449,000 written submissions received.
In September, MPs rejected the findings and questioned how parliament selected the company to collate the data and whether its staff was capable of doing a proper job. The summary and analysis of the submissions received will be crucial in the drafting of the final report and recommendations by the committee, as it pushes to conclude the process before the end of November.
However, the joint chairman of the committee Stanford Maila, pointed out during Thursday’s meeting that what was rejected by MPs was the presentation on the day by Silumko and not necessarily the entire draft report on submissions received. MPs were also encouraged to go through all the submissions received which had been tabled in Parliament.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, whose party is opposed to amending the constitution, said she doubted the veracity of the report which MPs were working from as it did not capture some of the submissions including those from her party.
Various ANC MPs highlighted that it would be impossible to capture all submissions in the report.
“We should not leave here thinking that we did not apply our minds…we had more than 400 000 written submissions and we will not be able to process all submissions,” said ANC MP Vincent Smith.
“We took a decision to do a sample and we did a sample [of about 400] and I am happy that from the sample we have an idea of what South African’s are saying,” he said.
EFF MP Tebogo Mokwele pointed out that numbers would not be a factor when MPs draft the final recommendations
“This is not a referendum … it’s about the quality of the submission and how the committee is agreeing on the methodology,” said Mokwele.
The DA, meanwhile, also insisted that former president Kgalema Motlanthe’s high level panel report be included in joint constitutional review committee process. In November, Motlanthe tabled a review of key legislation in parliament. His high-level panel proposed that, instead of amending the constitution, the government should use its expropriation powers more boldly, in ways that test the provisions in section 25(3), particularly in relation to unutilised or underutilised land. The panel also found that a lack of leadership and policy direction, corruption and inadequate budget — budget for land reform is less than 0.4% of the national budget, with less than 0.1% set aside for land redistribution — were to blame for SA’s failed land reform.
The constitutional review committee will continue with its deliberations next week.