Picture: JOHNNY ONVERWACHT
Picture: JOHNNY ONVERWACHT

The parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution to pave the way for expropriation of land without compensation will begin holding public hearings on the issue later in February.

The committee agreed this week that the first round of oral public hearings will take place from February 20-24 in Limpopo and Northern Cape.

Last week, the committee agreed to extend the deadline for written public comment to the end of February.

This was after organisations and various lobby groups put pressure on the committee for the comment period to be extended because the festive period made it difficult for most individuals and organisations to table detailed submissions on the contentious proposed legislation.

In December, parliament published an invitation in the Government Gazette calling on the public to provide written submissions on the draft legislation.

The initial deadline was January 31.

On Tuesday, the chair of the committee, Mathole Motshekga, appealed to committee members, saying that when the public participation process commences they should listen to all the people of SA, both black and white.

“It should not turn into a battle of ideas between public representatives, because the draft bill that ensues from the public hearings must be informed by what the people are saying,” he said.

The committee agreed to divide into two groups for the public hearings, so that they can run concurrently.

The land reform issue has polarised SA. There are fears that land expropriation without compensation, which is meant to address skewed land ownership dating back to the colonial and apartheid eras, could rattle investors and hurt SA’s already struggling economy.

The Banking Association SA, which represents all registered banks in the country, previously said that while it is necessary for the country to deal with land reform, it has to be done without discouraging investment.

The ANC is now also proposing shifting arbitration powers from the courts to the executive in terms of possible compensation to be paid. This has been challenged by all the major opposition parties.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za