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Parliament’s oversight committee on the constitution was a hive of activity on Friday as last-minute submissions on the expropriation of land without compensation were tabled by various parties and interest groups before the deadline.

The cut-off date for the submissions came after the committee had granted an extension from mid-May to Friday for interested parties to make submissions.

Vincent Smith, the chairman of the constitutional review committee, said the fact that it had received more than 722000 submissions showed this was an important issue.

The committee has promised to leave nothing to chance and would ensure every submission made Friday would receive attention.

Smith said submissions came from parties, organisations and other stakeholders. He said it would be the first time in more than 20 years in Parliament that 722000 submissions were received over a single issue.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had predicted a large volume of submissions and said the only time South Africa had received more than 1 million submissions was during the drafting of the constitution in the 1990s.

He was chairing the Constitutional Assembly at the time it received those submissions.

Smith said they were overwhelmed by the support they had received from the public and in the manner they had made the submissions.

He said the fact that there were so many submissions showed there was huge public interest on the issue of land.

“What it says to us is that this is a very sensitive matter on both sides. It affects every South African,” he said of the land question. This augured well for the strength of democracy and how seriously South Africans took the issue.

The committee will begin with the public hearings at the end of the month.

Parliament also extended the deadline for the committee to report back on whether to amend Section 25 of the constitution on property rights.

The national legislature said instead of reporting back on its work on August 30, the committee would have to report back on September 28.

In its programme, the committee would travel to all nine provinces to conduct public hearings on expropriation of land without compensation.

The hearings and submissions would form part of its discussions on the matter.

Smith said this was an important issue for South Africans and they would take on board all the views expressed.

The Saturday Star