Full bench to hear AfriForum's bid to quash parliamentary land debate
A full bench of judges will hear AfriForum's case in which the lobby group is seeking to bar parliament from debating a report calling for the amendment of the constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation. The matter will be heard in the high court in Cape Town on Thursday.
AfriForum applied for an urgent interdict to prevent the report of the joint constitutional review committee on amending section 25 of the constitution from being debated and possibly adopted by the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces this week.
It also wants the report to be set aside pending the outcome of a judicial review of the committee's process.
The National Assembly is scheduled next Tuesday to debate and possibly adopt the report, which recommends the amendment of the constitution to include an explicit clause which provides for expropriation of land without compensation. AfriForum is arguing that parliament’s public participation process was inadequate and that the process followed by the committee was flawed and failed to consider hundreds of thousands of written submissions opposing the constitutional amendment.
The urgency of the matter was not argued in court on Monday. Instead the lawyers for the two parties both said they would be filing their heads of argument later - on Monday for AfriForum and on Tuesday in parliament's case.
Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe postponed the hearing to Thursday, saying due to public interest around land expropriation, a full bench of judges led by the judge president of the Western Cape High Court, John Hlophe, would hear the matter.
In a media statement on Sunday, parliament argued that AfriForum was deliberately trying to frustrate the legislature's legislative processes and that the report, which the committee adopted and will be referring to the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces for consideration, was an interim step, similar to a bill.
"It is not final in effect. It may be accepted or it may not," it said.
"In essence, AfriForum wants to interdict parliament, at this stage, because it alleges the committee should have considered each submission, including those that it admits are duplicate submissions.
"The committee did not exclude any submissions except where those were enquiries, unrelated, blank or repeats. AfriForum does not deny that the committee has considered the substance of those duplicate submissions," read the statement from parliament.
Parliament said the constitutional review committee had embarked on an extensive public participation process - at public hearings in each of the nine provinces and meetings and workshops at parliament. This was an additional pre-legislative step before the process of introducing a bill, it said.
"Thousands of South Africans joined the national conversation about land and its role in building our democracy and redressing the wounds of our past," it added.
After a decision by parliament, a bill may be introduced and, at that stage, parliament will again invite further and full public comments, in terms of its constitutional obligations.