POLITICAL NEWS - With 95 days in total – or 67 working days – left to read through more than 700 000 written submissions, and attend 34 public hearings from tomorrow until 4 August, the pressure is on for the Joint Constitutional Review Committee to review section 25 of the Constitution and deliver its report to Parliament by 28 September.
And despite the clock counting down, it wasn’t a numbers game when it came to yes or no submissions, but rather the strength of your argument over whether the Constitution should be amended, committee chairperson Vincent Smit told The Citizen yesterday.
“This is not a referendum. If somebody came with a whole pile saying ‘we don’t agree’ and then nothing else, which is not inconceivable, it doesn’t help take the process forward,” Smith said.
“You should be saying you don’t agree because you’ll lose your bond or whatever the case may be. To send us a one liner ‘don’t change the Constitution’ doesn’t assist us.
“When we take our decision, it will be a decision that is fair, that is rational, and a decision that is widely consulted and considered. So yes, indeed, AfriForum have in excess of 51 000 submissions, Cope spoke about 248 000 submissions, and I think the Freedom Front Plus or somebody like that has also submitted. There was also a WhatsApp group that submitted.”
Smith noted the committee would say for the record how many yeses and nos were recorded; however, this would not determine the committee’s recommendation to Parliament.
When it came to law-based submissions, Smith said a service provider that had been appointed would do the initial analysis of each submission, and would then submit a report to the committee.
“Depending on the analysis, we may have to ask for expert advice from legal practitioners. I have been speaking to a few informally from the University of the Cape Town and others, so if the need arises, I will put it to the committee that will then suggest the best legal minds we should utilise, which I’m sure will happen at some point”
Written submissions closed on 15 June. If the author of the submission cannot be identified, it will not be accepted as a legitimate submission.
Made up of 13 ANC, three DA, three EFF and one each of ACDP, Cope, IFP and NFP members, the
committee has been split into two teams to conduct the hearings.
Smith said their job was to facilitate conversation at the public hearings.
“There will be no party politicking during our roadshows and everybody has committed; we don’t want to make a spectacle of the roadshows. Members of Parliament will go and listen, regardless of the views that come out, and then take those views into consideration when we do our final report,” Smith said.
“We must also appeal to South Africans … of course it’s an emotive subject … in these hearings there will be divergent views and I think we need to be tolerant of each other’s views.”
Once the committee returns to Parliament in Cape Town, public hearings are expected to be held until August 17, with individuals or organisations who have made written submissions and have, in addition, requested to do oral submissions.
During September, the committee will deliberate on its draft report before tabling its recommendations to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.
In the meantime, said Smith, there were other processes running concurrently such as the expropriation bill, and acknowledged there were people saying rather focus on current legislation instead of changing the Constitution, and vice versa.
“In fact, we should have tested this at the Constitutional Court 24 years ago; we would not have the need for this process now.”
The Joint Constitutional Review Committee will be made up of the following individuals:
ANC: Lewis Nzimande (Chairperson), Vincent Smith (Chairperson), Dikgang Stock, Francois Beukman, Adv Loyiso Mpumlwana, Madipoane Mothapo, Dr Mathole Motshekga, Moloko Maila, Moses Mhlanga, Nicolaas Koornhof, Tasneem Motara, Tekoetsi Motlashuping and Tsapane Mampuru.
ACDP: Steven Swart.
COPE: Deidre Carter.
DA: Dr Annelie Lotriet, Adv Glynnis Breytenbach and James Selfe.
EFF: Julius Malema, Lehlohonolo Mokoena and Nyiko Shivambu.
IFP: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
NFP: Sibusiso Mncwabe.