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Listen to the people

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The National Freedom Party and United Democratic Movement are also in support of an amendment of the Constitution

File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Today the Joint Constitutional Review Committee is expected to recommend that the Constitution be amended to allow expropriation without compensation (EWC).

Many feel that this will have disastrous economic, social and political consequences for all South Africans and yet it seem like land expropriation without compensation in South Africa is pretty much a done deal.

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has received the recommendations of Members of Parliament (MPs) on whether section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation in the public interest.

The lie of the land is thus: The African National Congress (ANC) believes that although everyone has the right to dignity, for centuries this right of the majority of the people of South Africa has been trampled on. It is their argument that the original sin has to be corrected.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) state that it was clear from the comments that land was not a class division but rather one that divided the nation along racial lines, with whites regarding land as their privilege.

The National Freedom Party and United Democratic Movement are also in support of an amendment of the Constitution.

Those in opposition include the African Christian Democratic Party , which told the committee that although it is in support of justice, reconciliation and nation-building, it cannot support expropriation of land without compensation. It feels the current provisions in the Constitution adequately make provision for land redistribution.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that if this process be allowed to continue, it will not pass constitutional muster. The party felt the process was rushed.

The Inkatha Freedom Party, the Congress of the People, and Freedom Front Plus informed the committee that the Constitution in its current form is not an impediment to land distribution, but it is rather the state machinery and the executive that hamper the process.

A number of parliamentary steps must still be considered and followed – including a vote in both the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Whether all of this will happen before next year’s election remains to be seen.

But with the ANC, EFF, UDM and NFP all offering their support of the Constitutional amendment, their combined votes will probably be more than enough to obtain the required two-thirds majority.

Where has this then left the voice of the people. This is the question being asked by the Institute of Race Relations.

According to the IRR, more than 720 000 written submissions were sent in to the committee, about 80% of which were opposed to EWC. It argues that the committee has failed to consider these comments and is likely to make its EWC recommendation without ever having looked at 99.9% of them.

The hundreds of thousands of submissions which people took the trouble to send in must be fully taken into account, and should not just be dismissed to push the bill through.