Law could settle land issue as IRR heads to court

The Institute of Race Relations has described changing the constitution to allow expropriation of land 'nationalisation by another name'.

A judicial review of the work done by the Joint Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) on proposed land expropriation legislation could stop the process dead in its tracks before the elections in May next year.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR), which has fiercely lobbied against the Economic Freedom Fighters’ and ANC’s expropriation without compensation resolution in parliament, was briefing lawyers yesterday in preparation for a court bid to have the entire process put under judicial review.

Political parties debated this week whether it was constitutionally sound to take into consideration only about 400 out of 720 000 public submissions made to parliament this year.

Today, the committee is likely to recommend that the constitution be amended to allow expropriation, the IRR said – a move the group has described as “nationalisation by another name”.

The IRR claimed about 80% of submissions made to the committee were opposed to land expropriation without compensation. It said the committee failed to consider these comments and was likely to make its recommendation without ever having looked at 99.9% of them.

But the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) said it would have been down to the competence of the service provider the committee assigned to process the submissions and compile a report based on the collected data.

This was the first time so many submissions had been made to a parliamentary committee since the drawing up of the constitution nearly two decades ago, when more than a million submissions were made to parliament.

Casac’s executive secretary, Lawson Naidoo, said it was not a case of how many submissions were considered, as long as the sample used was representative of the totality of the submissions.

“The issue here seems to be whether the service provider did an adequate job of summarising the submissions according to the different categories – and that, I think, is the issue facing the committee at the moment,” said Naidoo.

“The responsibility of parliament is to consider submissions and not necessarily to agree with them. But they must apply their minds and come to a considered decision on the basis of the submissions. It is not necessarily to follow, even if the majority is saying one thing.”

Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement, which supported the changing of section 21 of the constitution to allow for expropriation, said even if the matter went under judicial review, lawmakers would be able to explain why not all of the submissions were to be included in the draft report.

“I have no doubt in my mind the lawmakers of that committee have applied their minds in coming up with a rationale to justify their decision to not consider every submission.

“So, they must go to court if they want, but as long as that court process is not intended to jeopardise the bigger picture: that black South Africans are landless; they own nothing; they control nothing.”

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