Fight Over South Africa Land-Seizure Plan Plays Out In Court

(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers acting for AfriForum, a South African civil-rights group, urged the High Court to invalidate a lawmakers’ report that recommends changes to the constitution to explicitly allow for land seizures without payment, saying proper procedures weren’t followed.

The ruling African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest party, argue that the amendments are necessary to address racially skewed land ownership patterns dating back to colonial and white minority rule. Opponents, including AfriForum, farmers’ lobby group AgriSA and the Democratic Alliance, the biggest opposition party, say undermining property rights will deter investments and harm the economy.

Parliament established a panel to consider whether constitutional amendments were necessary and it concluded last month that they were. AfriForum’s lawsuit argues that the panel reached its findings without taking into account hundreds of thousands of written submissions.

“We are seeking court intervention to secure the rights of public participation in the process,” Etienne Labuschagne, AfriForum’s lawyer, told the court in Cape Town Thursday.

In its court papers, Parliament said AfriForum was deliberately trying to frustrate its legislative processes and the committee’s work is an interim step in changing in the constitution that still needs to be referred to the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. The assembly is due to debate the panel’s report on Dec. 4.

The court reserved judgment in the case, and didn’t say when it will deliver its ruling.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.