28/02/2018 12:37 SAST | Updated 28/02/2018 12:38 SAST

Land Expropriation: Parliament's Decision Explained... And What Will Happen Next

National Assembly agreed to look at changing the Constitution. But there's still a long way to go.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
A worker on a farm south of Johannesburg. Government's land reform and restitution programmes have failed to provide adequate access to land for those that want it.

What did Parliament decide?

The National Assembly passed a motion by 241 votes to 83 mandating an investigation into a possible constitutional amendment.

Did it not vote to agree to change section 25, the so-called "property clause"?

No, it did not. It merely agreed to a process to look at possible changes to the Constitution.

Who will investigate this?

The Constitutional Review Committee. It is a parliamentary committee that meets regularly to consider possible amendments to the country's founding document. The committee often receives, and dismisses, some crazy ideas from the public.

Is it not calamitous to even consider changing the Constitution, never mind changing it?

No, the Constitution has been changed 18 times since its adoption in 1996. It is a document subject to regular review, although changes aren't considered lightly.

How will the process work?

The committee will embark on a process of public consultation where ordinary South Africans can make submissions. It will also be an opportunity for various interest groups, like AgriSA or Abahlali baseMjondolo, to state their case.

How will the committee then decide what to do?

The committee will consider public representations and then discuss whether or not the clause needs to be changed. If they agree it must, then they will debate what the actual wording of an alternate clause should be.

Who serves on the committee?

The committee is a multiparty body with representation from all parties. There are some ANC heavyweights serving on it, including Mathole Motshekga and Vincent Smith, while the opposition has Glynnis Breytenbach (DA), James Selfe (DA) and Steve Swart (ACDP). Floyd Shivambu is the EFF's sole representative. The ANC has a majority.

How long will it take?

The National Assembly asked the committee to report back to it by August 30, 2018. It is an extremely tight deadline to consider an issue of this magnitude. There will be a series of public hearings followed by committee meetings to agree on a recommendation to the National Assembly.

Will the National Assembly then decide to vote on the constitutional amendment?

It depends on whether the committee agrees that an amendment is needed, and if so, what that amendment should entail.

What is needed to change section 25?

A two-thirds majority, or 266 votes out of 400 in the National Assembly, plus one. The ANC has 249 seats and the EFF has 25.

Will the Constitution be amended?

It could. If the constitutional review committee decides it should and agrees on a proposed amendment and if the National Assembly agrees, it will. If the committee rejects any amendment there will be no vote by MPs, but merely a report tabled.