Ramaphosa must come clean on the ANC’s stance on EWC

The ANC speaks from all sides of the mouth on the matter of expropriation without compensation, depending on the audience. The DA demands immediate clarity from President Ramaphosa on the ANC’s exact position on this crucial issue.

On the one hand, we have the ANC this week in the ad hoc committee agreeing with the EFF that the draft bill (to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation) should be revised to enable “state custodianship” over land.

Let’s be clear. This is nationalization by stealth. A 2013 Constitutional Court judgement on this matter confirmed that custodianship does not imply compensation. Crucially, the matter of expropriation may start with land, but there is nothing in the wording of the amendment bill to suggest it won’t soon extend to other types of property. Also, this revision diminishes the role of the courts, which at least offer some form of protection against deprivation of one’s property and against power abuse by the executive.

On the other hand, we have President Ramaphosa in soothing tones reassuring the business community and investors that this kind of expropriation will not happen, and that EWC will be undertaken in such a way that it does no harm to the economy and food security.

Somewhere in the middle, we have the ANC’s Vuzumusi Xaba trying to allay concerns by speaking of “temporary custodianship” that will apply only in the “period between acquisition and redistribution”. Yet already, land acquired for redistribution is being retained by the state and merely long-leased to land reform beneficiaries. So no one should be reassured by this notion of “temporary custodianship”.

EWC will damage South Africa’s economy much more than Covid, which is a temporary phenomenon. Indeed, even flirting with the idea of EWC has already cost our economy dearly. The value of South Africa’s financial sector has dropped by a third since Ramaphosa’s first EWC announcement in 2018. South Africa is now the only sizable emerging market country with net outflows of foreign direct investment. Foreign direct investment fell 46% in SA in 2020 compared with only 11% for Sub-Saharan Africa has a whole.

Just the talk of EWC has already turned SA into an investment desert, irrigated only by a jobs bloodbath. The ANC would have South Africa believe that its pursuit of EWC is motivated by the need for social justice. Yet nothing could be more socially unjust than taking South Africa down the path that Zimbabwe and Venezuela have already travelled, in the ANC’s pursuit of populism to keep its patronage networks flowing.

The DA will fight to protect and promote the rights enshrined in the Constitution. As it stands today, the Constitution already makes provision for real redress and the real transformation of our society. What is lacking, is political will.

If the ANC pushes through with this revised amendment, the DA will take the fight to court. We will also continue to fight it in Parliament, and by appealing to the international community.