Stop EWC! Endorse the IRR's court challenge

Parliament's Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has recommended that the Constitution be changed to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation (EWC). This is despite a majority of written and oral submissions to Parliament (from a wide variety of organisations) being opposed to EWC. Up to 99% of submissions were ignored by the CRC, which is now recommending that Parliament erode, if not erase, property rights. Property rights are the foundation of any democratic and prosperous society and any attempt to erode them imperils South Africa's future as a democracy capable of creating a brighter future for all its citizens. The recent chaos in Zimbabwe and the erosion of democracy in that country can be linked to the initial attack on property rights 20 years ago. Don't let that happen here. Join millions of South Africans who want to work together for a better future and support the IRR’s court challenge against the CRC, which is ignoring the submissions of hundreds of thousands of South Africans.


Cyril Ramaphosa

President of the Republic of South Africa

Union Buildings

Government Avenue



Dear Mr Ramaphosa,

I am a proud South African who does everything I can to make our country succeed. There are millions of people just like me who work tirelessly and invest our hard-earned money and skills in building the economy, creating new enterprises, and providing the jobs and opportunities our country needs to pull millions of people out of poverty and unemployment. But your threat to expropriate what we have worked for without compensation will make it difficult for me to continue doing that. I don’t know how the government expects us to continue taking risks and investing so much of ourselves in creating a better future when it could all be taken away.

The CRC’s decision to recommend EWC despite the damage it will cause to the economy and the future of our children, and the fact that it ignored so many submissions from concerned South Africans, means that its decision must be challenged.  

The CRC has ignored up to 99% of submissions to it, and has therefore failed to meet its constitutional mandate of ensuring meaningful public participation.

In addition, as many as three-quarters of all written submissions, and nearly 80% of oral submissions, to the committee also opposed it.

Mr President, people will say that this issue is not a referendum, and this is true, but the evidence from the rest of the world, as well as research by economists, show that a policy of EWC will result in a country that is poorer, with far fewer opportunities for its people to meet their potential.

I also find it difficult to believe that the government’s commitment to EWC is about a sincere commitment to land reform. If the government cared about supporting black commercial farmers it would finance them and give them title to their own farms. But the IRR has shown that the government is spending more on VIP protection and bailouts for state-owned companies than on land reform. Furthermore, the property the government intends to take will not be given to black people but held by the state. It has been shown that it would be perfectly possible within current budget constraints to support successful black commercial farmers by allowing them title and proper financial support for their farms – but that even the government’s own agricultural bank is not providing that support.

I think that what is happening is that the government is growing afraid of its people. The IRR shows that more than half of young people cannot find work and that the standards of literacy and numeracy in South Africa’s schools are some of the worst in the world while hundreds of thousands of children drop out of school every year. Young people are angry now and you and the government are afraid of them.

However, because you will not empower parents and communities to take over failing schools and because you want to escape culpability for failing to create a policy environment to that allows for the creation of millions of jobs, you are hoping to deflect the anger of young people by promising to take away land without compensation.

The IRR has shown that agriculture contributes less than 2% of GDP and that there is little that land reform can do to erode structural unemployment and poverty. It has also shown that people don’t want to go back to the land but want to come to cities where they will find jobs, good schools, and safe neighbourhoods. The IRR has also shown that if the government can take farms without compensation then it can take any property without compensation. Already there are political leaders talking about taking banks, mines, factories, and urban property.

Your policy of EWC is therefore doing great harm to our future. South Africans want to work together to build a better country. In the first decade after 1994 we were doing that and I am proud of what we achieved. Over that decade the number of people with jobs increased very quickly and the living standards of all South Africans were rising. The IRR shows that over those years more than 10 formal houses were being built for every shack, more than 1 000 families a day were getting access to water and electricity, and the number of previously disadvantaged people going to university was increasing rapidly.

The government claimed credit for that but it was also thanks to the hard work of ordinary people and the tax they paid that made it all possible. South Africa’s politicians tend to forget that many middle class people will work from January to mid-May before they earn a single rand for themselves. Everything they earn until that point goes to support their fellow South Africans.

The formulae behind our country’s initial success was easy to understand; a market economy and respect for property rights, which made possible much higher levels of investment and therefore economic growth, tax receipts, and job creation, which led to significant improvements in living standards.

But over the past decade our country’s leaders sabotaged the trajectory we had been on. The tax paid by so many hard-working people – rich and poor – was wasted or stolen. Investors were chased away and it became harder to start a business and to create or find jobs. On a per capita basis, the trend of the first decade after 1994 was reversed and South Africans became poorer. So serious is the damage done that the government has even increased the VAT rate, placing an even greater burden on ordinary people. And, with respect, you were in that government for all those years so I do not want to be told that the problem today is that ordinary people, black and white, do not do enough to create a better future.

I am one of the millions of people who remain strongly committed to rebuilding the country and doing everything I can to create opportunities for my fellow South Africans. Nothing would make me happier than to build a future in which all our children can live together in a prosperous and stable society. But your expropriation policy will deny us that future. I support the IRR’s decision to challenge the CRC in court. The voices of all South Africans must be heard.

The IRR will not share or reveal any of your personal information outside of the IRR.

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