Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA/Daily Dispatch
Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA/Daily Dispatch

Parliament is on track to finalise the redrafting of section 25 of the constitution, or the property clause, amid growing concern by investors about the government’s proposals to expropriate land without compensation.

Various commentators have warned that wholesale expropriation without compensation will discourage investment, threaten food security and negatively affect economic activity and job creation. This at a time when the country is battling to tackle low growth and high unemployment.

The Banking Association SA, the industry body representing all registered banks in the country, has previously said that while it is essential for the country to deal with land reform‚ this has to be done without discouraging investment. During public hearings in 2018, the association warned that an expropriation-without-compensation policy would result in high levels of debt impairments and the value of property as security would be reduced‚ with many investors looking to divest from property to avoid future losses.

On Friday, parliament’s ad hoc committee tasked with looking into the matter said the process would be concluded by the end of March 2020. The committee also said it will involve local and international experts in its work. The amendment of the constitution is meant to ease expropriation of land without compensation to tackle skewed land ownership patterns dating back to the apartheid and colonial eras.

The previous democratic parliament, whose five-year term ended in May, agreed to establish a multiparty ad hoc committee to initiate and introduce legislation amending section 25 of the constitution. However, the committee could not complete its task by the time the fifth democratic parliament was dissolved and it was recommended that the sixth parliament conclude the matter.

The decision to establish the ad hoc committee followed parliament’s December 2018 adoption of the report of the constitutional review committee on the review of section 25.

The report recommended that parliament amend section 25 of the constitution to make explicit that which is implicit in the constitution, regarding expropriation of land without compensation, as a legitimate option for land reform.

Committee chair Mathole Motshekga said on Friday that to observe the principle that SA’s constitutional democracy is representative and participatory, the committee will ensure the public is afforded the right to comment on the draft bill.

“We affirm that in line with this, the committee reaffirms that it does not have a monopoly on wisdom and will involve local and international experts in its work,” he said.

He said a preparatory workshop will take place in November. Furthermore, the committee will endeavour to meet until the middle of December, when parliament will be in recess, to ensure it meets the March 2020 deadline.

“We shall also aim to ensure the full participation of political parties, however small, to ensure that as many members of parliament as possible participate in the process,” Motshekga said.

Recently parliament’s legal advisers said the committee will also have to refer the bill to the National House of Traditional Leaders as the matter concerns land, as well as provincial legislatures.