The Committee adopted its draft framework programme on how it will conduct its work.
The Committee will hold a two-day workshop, on 6 and 7 November 2019 with experts on the question of land and constitutional matters. The Committee will consider the invitation of a senior Judge to chair the workshop in order to ensure fairness. The list of experts to present at the workshop will be finalised later the same day. The workshop would be regarded as a Constitutional Dialogue on Land Ownership as Parliament was a democratic institution that allowed for divergent views.
According to the draft programme, a draft bill is likely to be published in the Government Gazette on 10 December 2019, after which, a public awareness drive will start. The official call for public comments is expected to come to an end towards the end of January 2020 and will be followed by public hearings in February. The Committee intends to intends to finalise the programme at the end of March 2020.
Members were emphatic that enough time had to be allotted for public participation as the Bill affected all of South African society. The Committee also wanted to prevent legal action being taken by certain affected groups who may feel that they had not been consulted.
The Committee agreed that the programme was thus not cast in stone and it had the right to amend the programme based on realities.
Adv Charmaine van der Merwe, Parliamentary Legal Advisor (PLA), took the Committee through the programme. She informed Members that the programme covered the period from 25 October 2019 till the end of March 2020, when the Committee bill will be introduced to the National Assembly (NA) for a vote.
Today’s meeting had been called to scrutinise presentations, however these presentations would be heard after a workshop was conducted. The dates set aside for the workshop are 6 and 7 November 2019.
The meeting set for the last week of October would thus not be taking place as the experts that the Committee aimed to invite had to be given more time to prepare as some would be travelling from abroad. It is envisaged that the experts will provide the necessary background to the Committee on a range of topics that pertained to land ownership and the redistribution of land.
There was a need for the Committee to sit on so-called "non-committee" days and this required intervention from Mr Cedric Frolick, Parliament's Chair of Chairs with whom the legal office had preliminary interactions with. Mr Frolick had indicated that he was amenable to the Committee receiving permission to sit on "non-committee" days. This ensured that Chairpersons, who are part of the Ad hoc committee, would be able to attend.
13-15 November 2019 had been set aside for Members to discuss the themes that emanated from the workshop as well as the presentations that were supposed to be presented on 25 October 2019.
From 15 November until 27 November 2019, the drafters of the bill will be allowed to consider what Members had discussed and incorporate any instructions that may broaden the policy framework and present it the afternoon of the 27th November 2019 to Members.
Deliberations on the bill had been earmarked to start on 29 November 2019 until 6 December 2019 as this would allow Members enough time to deliberate on the bill. Consultations on the wording of the bill will be ongoing.
From 12-13 December 2019, the adopted report by the Committee should be tabled in the NA. The tagging of the bill would be easy as it is an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution. During this time the bill will also be published in the Government Gazette and a call made for public inputs.
From 13 December 2019 onwards, the bill will be referred to the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) as it dealt with land issues.
From 6 January-27 January 2020, it was proposed that the bill be popularised in the media and other platforms such as social media and at the same the updated bill will be published in the Government Gazette. There would also be a concerted effort made for Members to participate in radio and television interviews and to raise awareness about the bill.
A week had been set aside for public hearings while at the same time the Content Advisor will engage the Committee on inputs from the provinces and the NHTL.
4 March-18 March 2020 had been set aside for further deliberations on the bill. The Committee had the prerogative to call in additional experts to the deliberations to counsel on legal matters.
It had been envisaged that the bill be adopted on 20 March 2020 and for the Committee Report to be adopted on 25 March 2019.
The Chairperson welcomed all Members present and announced that the Committee had reached a quorum and extended a sincere thank you to those Members that braved the weather.
The Chairperson stated that the meeting would not be long, subject to a joint decision by the Committee.
He commented that at the last meeting, the Committee mandated the management committee to consult with Parliament's Presiding officers to finalise the Committee's programme. This had been done to ensure that the Committee would be able to carry out the mandate requested by Parliament within the framework prescribed.
The Committee had repeatedly said that the finalisation of the mandate was doable and the Presiding officials agreed with this assessment. This assessment had been arrived at due to the significant political will expressed by political parties.
The Chairperson stated that Members had been provided with preliminary presentations that would have to be revised. He advised Members to allow the Committee's content and legal advisors more time to work on the presentations and that the preliminary ones not be discussed.
He proposed that the Committee only discuss the programme. This would allow the Committee to approach the Presiding Officers with a tangible programme, coupled with concrete dates. Special permission had also to be sought for a special sitting of the House and that it had to be agreed upon by the Committee.
He reiterated his appreciation that Members were present to discuss these important issues as the amendment of Section 25 should not be about "numbers". The interests of South Africa had to be placed above everything else and the only way to ensure this would be done is through an inclusive process that included divergent views.
It was important for the Committee to review the positives and negatives of what an amendment of the Constitution entailed. The Committee had to ensure that the end product was in South Africa's best interest and not just a particular section of the population.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) requested clarity on the dates set aside for written public submissions and whether this would run from 13 December 2019 right through the festive season period.
Inkosi M Mandela (ANC) welcomed the presentation as it related to the Committee's upcoming programme.
In addition, he extended his congratulations to the Springboks for having reached the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup and sent his well wishes to Siya Kolisi and the rest of the team. He also recalled that Sunday, 27 October was Oliver Tambo's birth date and that it was an auspicious day for the semi-finals to take place. He called on South Africans to rally behind the Springboks and stated that the number 12 had been a lucky number for South Africans. South Africa first won the World Cup in 1995 and 12 years later again in 2007 when the Springboks beat England.
Further, Inkosi Mandela stated that it was important for the Committee to ensure that all processes had been followed concerning the alignment of the programme with Government Gazette. He called on the Committee to consider an extension of the period proposed for at least six weeks as this would provide the Committee with enough time with preparations.
He added that the Committee had to make provisions for extensive public participation with sufficient time allotted for this purpose.
Inkosi Mandela proposed that the public hearings be conducted over 8 weeks as this would ensure that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), as well as the various provinces, be given enough time to prepare and conduct their review of the proposed legislation.
Adv G Breytenbach (DA) stated that the DA would like to propose three names that could be invited as experts to the proposed workshop. These names included Dr Vuyo Mahlati the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture, businessman Mr Nick Serfontein and the President of AgriSA, Mr Dan Kriek.
Dr C Mulder (FF+) thanked the Chairperson for the introductory remarks and associated himself with the good wishes expressed to the Springboks.
He noted the Chairperson's remarks about the amendment process not being underpinned by "numbers". In his view, it would become a "numbers game", given the topic under discussion. He requested a copy of the list of experts invited to the workshop.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) echoed the words of congratulations and well wishes extended by Inkosi Mandela to the Springboks and requested that the Chairperson draft a letter on behalf of the Committee to the Springboks.
Ms Lesoma stated that the closing date for public submissions and participation had to be fixed as an open-ended process may become very tedious.
She also requested a copy of the summary of experts the Committee intended to invite to make presentations during the workshop.
Ms Lesoma also touched on an administrative point and pointed out that if the Committee sat during the recess, Parliament had to ensure that all logistical arrangements were taken care of.
Adv van der Merwe replied that there would be two publications. This had been premised on previous lessons learned from other Committee bills. She explained that during a previous occasion, a bill had been published in the Government Gazette during mid-November for comments until January the next year. The Committee in question received numerous complaints from the public as a result of the publication during the festive season.
The Committee aimed to publish the draft bill in the Government Gazette in December as this would allow the NCOP and the NHTL enough time to focus on the bill during January 2019.
There will also be a call for public inputs during the festive season however Parliament's communication team will be sending out media statements, tweets and utilise other forms of communication to create awareness among the public that there would be another round of publications after the NCOP and NHTL reviewed the legislation.
The public would then be allowed to make representations for three weeks in addition to the Government Gazette that allowed for five to six week public inputs. This would allow the public to have a much longer period to apply their minds.
Adv van der Merwe further added that the Committee Secretaries can also guide on the question posed about an extension of the public hearings. From experience it would be better to have a structure or framework in place from which the Committee could conduct public hearings. The programme was thus not cast in stone as the Committee had the right to amend the programme based on realities.
Concluding remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson noted that public participation was enshrined in the Constitution and that the Committee had to ensure that ample time is allocated for this process. Insufficient time for public hearings might lead to a court challenge by those who felt they had not been consulted, a situation that was best to be avoided. Parliament should not be seen as being arrogant.
He agreed with Adv van der Merwe's assessment that the Committee could make amendments based on realities as time progressed.
The Chairperson stated that there was a need for an impartial voice to facilitate the workshop, thus the Committee was looking at either asking former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo or former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke to act in this role.
The workshop was thus seen as a Constitutional Dialogue on Land Ownership as Parliament was a democratic institution that allowed for divergent views.
He was happy with the programme framework and requested Members' comments on whether the letter of invitation as well as the experts' list should be sent out on 25 October 2019. This would give invited experts ample time to prepare for the Constitutional Dialogue. Preliminary indications are that judges from Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Namibia will attend as experts.
Dr Mulder requested information on the venue for the workshop.
The Chairperson proposed Cape Town as the venue.
Members agreed to this proposal unanimously.
The Chairperson then called for the amended programme to be adopted.
Inkosi Mandela motioned to adopt the amended programme and Mr S Gumede (ANC) seconded the motion.
The programme was adopted with amendments and the list of experts was still open until the close of business on 25 October 2019.
The meeting was adjourned.
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