Fear of the EFF fuels ANC’s spectacularly stupid land move
Desperate for votes, Ramaphosa sows uncertainty among investors by taking a leaf out of Zuma’s book
You really must visit Umhlanga Rocks in KwaZulu-Natal. Not only do they have fantastic weather, restaurants, hotels and the friendliest service staff, but when I was there on Friday you could count seven massive cranes across the skyline.
Cranes are important because they have a good story to tell: new property developments are going up. Hot, residential complexes, bank offices, retail spaces, restaurants are being built. In just a few years the entire place has been totally transformed. In another 10 years it will look like another city. Crucially, men and women are working on all these building projects. They get a wage, take it home, send their children to school and have dignity.
On Thursday morning I was driving through Sandton in Gauteng. I saw the same thing. Massive buildings going up. The place has been totally transformed. The private sector has poured money into it – they want to be here, a place where deals are signed and money is made. People are working.
So the political question to ask is this: what does President Cyril Ramaphosa want?Does he want economic growth, employment and investment of R100bn, as he has often said? Does he want to continue to drive through Sandton and Umhlanga Rocks and see the new initiatives that we often see? Because if that’s what he wants then he is going about it in a spectacularly poor fashion.
On Tuesday Ramaphosa took a leaf out of the terminally incompetent and spectacularly corrupt Jacob Zuma’s book and made a startling late-night announcement. The ANC would, he told us, proceed to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation.
It was an announcement that was totally at odds with what ANC leaders had been saying for the past six months. Yes, the party – as Ramaphosa said on January 8, in parliament in February and at other gatherings after that – wanted to expropriate land without compensation.
Indeed, the ANC’s two leading speakers on the issue, Ronald Lamola and Jeremy Cronin, had announced that the party would put forward test cases to see whether they can expropriate without compensation in cases where it was necessary. Nothing about amending the Constitution.This narrative resonated with many: why fiddle with the Constitution when you can, if you passed the Expropriation Bill and the Land Restitution Bill, achieve exactly the same ends? Why introduce so much uncertainty into the system when, firstly, the culprit on the issue of land reform in SA was not the constitution but in fact the ANC’s own lack of political will, incompetence and corruption for the failures to implement what is already policy?
Ramaphosa’s announcement does exactly what the same domestic and international investors he has been talking to don’t want: uncertainty. In essence, he will be seen as a man who speaks with a forked tongue, who cannot be trusted, who cannot hold one line.
Remember that in May the ANC’s land summit announced that it would “immediately pass the Expropriation Bill and Land Redistribution Bill to bring greater clarity to the transformative intent and impact of the Constitution”. Suddenly that is no longer happening. Instead, the Constitution itself is being amended.Will Ramaphosa say a few words about possible infringement on general property rights and how exactly the ANC envisages communicating that message to its current and potential investment partners?The ANC also said at the time that the constitutional review process currently under way would be used to avoid ambiguity and bring greater clarity to Section 25(2)(B) of the constitution, if it is found that the current legal formulations impede or slow down effective land redistribution. Well, that process was rendered pretty useless because the ANC didn’t listen to it and doesn’t care what its conclusions are. The party has decided and so chairperson Vincent Smith and his fellow committee members can go jump in the lake. What a waste of money and time.
There is only one reason the ANC chose this path. It is running scared of the EFF. The parliamentary review committee’s hearings have been like EFF rallies. The ANC is well aware that it is on the back foot.Take Gauteng, for example. The party dropped from 60% in the 2011 local government elections to 54% in the 2014 provincial elections. Then it plunged to 46% in the 2016 local government elections, losing Joburg and Tshwane along the way.
So, Ramaphosa is clearly, desperately, going for the votes. Or, even more sinister, he has been outplayed and outgunned by the Jacob Zuma nationalist faction in the party.
Either way, watch as Ramaphosa’s investors, domestic and foreign, take a “wait-and-see” approach. Unemployment in SA is at 27,2%, by the way. But who cares?