CONSTITUTION SECTION 25 AMENDMENTS: TWO OPTIONS MOOTED

This article appeared in the 8 November edition of Legalbrief’s Law Society of SA weekly newsletter

For information on the process to be followed in amending the Constitution to provide explicitly for land expropriation without compensation, please refer to the previous article (immediately below this one)

Two possible options for amending section 25 of the Constitution (property rights) will be considered by the ad hoc parliamentary committee tasked with initiating and introducing the legislation required to make explicit what is already implicit in section 25 regarding land expropriation without compensation. This was confirmed in a recent committee media statement following its constitutional dialogue on land reform, when ‘experts and stakeholders’ shared their ‘insights’ on issues of concern. However, a Parliamentary Monitoring Group sound recording of the workshop at which these proposals were presented does tend to point to minor inaccuracies in the statement. Parliamentary legal adviser Charmaine van der Merwe has recommended that either sub-sections 25(2)(b) and 25(3) be amended – or that they remain as they are and that a new sub-section is inserted.

She envisages the amended sub-section 25(2) reading: ‘Property may be expropriated only in terms of a law of general application (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and (b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court, provided that a court may determine that no compensation is payable in the event of expropriation of land for the purpose of land reform’. The change envisaged for sub-section 25(3) would then be consequential and would replace the entire sub-section with a provision possibly reading: ‘Where compensation is payable, the amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances’.

Alternatively, a new sub-section could be inserted, possibly reading: ‘Notwithstanding the requirement for compensation contemplated in subsections (2), (3) and (4), for the purposes of instituting land reform and in order to redress the results of past racial discrimination, land may be expropriated without the payment of any compensation as a legitimate option for land reform’. Van der Merwe does not support a presidential panel recommendation that the only amendment required is the insertion of a sub-section specifying the circumstances in which land would be expropriated without compensation. In her view, this would need to be combined with one of the two options proposed.