Property rights just a sunset clause in SA Constitution

The ANC is contemplating dramatic changes to the country’s Constitution, including scrapping “sunset clauses”, according to media reports over the weekend.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) expressed its shock and extreme concern at the description of the property clause in the Bill of Rights as a “sunset clause” in the Constitution.

Section 25 is no such thing. It represents the full, final and exhaustively negotiated right of all South Africans not to be arbitrarily deprived of property – as so many were in the apartheid era.

The ANC is clearly spoiling for wholesale amendment of key provisions of the Constitution in the name of a second transition. It claims the Constitution was appropriate for a political transition, but is inappropriate for a social and economic transformation phase. This could threaten the very foundation of our constitutional state.

Section 25(8) of the Constitution already empowers government to embark on an extensive programme of land reform. However, there is a rider that “any departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the provisions of section 36(1)”.

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Section 36 is the limitations clause which stipulates that any limitation of a right in the Bill of Rights must be reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

It is notable that social and economic transformation is consistently cited as the justification for the proposed review of the Constitutional Court decisions and for the transformation of the judicial system as well.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the ANC is contemplating a fundamental ideological shift. South Africans must at all times act in defence of the constitutional state.