Ad Hoc Committee on land expropriation has mammoth task

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Ad Hoc Committee appointed to amend Section 25 of the Constitution has a huge task ahead, Former Environment and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa has told the Members of Parliament appointed to oversee this process.

He said with the Bill of Rights section of the Constitution being changed for the first time in 25 years, Members of Parliament need to carefully consider the process they will undertake.

He said they will be setting a precedence for how future generations will amend the Constitution.  

Moosa said this in his capacity as one of the experts that briefed the Ad Hoc Committee in the National Assembly on Friday.

He spent nine years of his career doing work related to the Constitution – firstly, in the drafting stages and later in the implementation phase.

“I think you need to think about [the fact that] you have to invent a process to amend the Bill of Rights…” he said, adding that they need to balance between the legitimacy of the amendment to address past imbalances against nation building.

He said the committee has the enormous and most weighty responsibility with the role they are playing in the amendment of the Constitution.

The Members of Parliament, led by National Assembly house chair Thoko Didiza, needed to carefully consider the process carefully.

Ahead of the presentations from experts, Parliamentary legal advisor Nathi Njenxane told members of the committee that a recent court interdict by Afriforum had no bearing on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

This comes after Afriforum mounted a two-part court challenge. The first was an urgent interdict to prevent Members of Parliament from adopting a report of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee’s first report into the expropriation of land without compensation in the National Assembly.

The second challenge, Njenxane said, was Afriforum asking the Western Cape High Court to review the report and to set it aside on the grounds that the proposed amendment was, according to the organisation, not constitutional.

In November last year, the court dismissed Afriforum’s urgent interdict application and paved the way for the Joint-Constitutional Review Committee to adopt its report before sending it to the National Assembly, which in turn adopted the report after a debate in the House.

Njenxane said ever since the dismissal of the urgent interdict, there is a view that the court challenge had no bearing on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

“There is a view from our senior counsel in court that the Afriforum matter is actually moot,” he said, adding that the court challenge has since been overtaken by other events. –