ANC stalls at final EWC committee phase

15 September 2022 - The ANC yesterday stalled at the final committee phase of the Expropriation Bill – intended to introduce controversial expropriation-without-compensation (EWC) provisions – seemingly because it felt the committee needed to “take a final relook at the report”.

The ANC yesterday stalled at the final committee phase of the Expropriation Bill – intended to introduce controversial expropriation-without-compensation (EWC) provisions – seemingly because it felt the committee needed to “take a final relook at the report”.

This was conveyed to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure by one of its ANC members, MP Elphus Fani Mathebula, who said a delay was necessary “because we feel that much as it has been presented to us as the ANC…I am sure that we will need to take a final relook at the report”. Mr Mathebula said the matter should be revisited next week.

The committee must sign off on the Bill before it goes to the National Assembly for a vote.

In yesterday’s committee meeting – which is recorded online – DA MP Samantha Graham responded: “I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but I fully support that proposal.”

Why did the ANC, which has endorsed the EWC Bill clause by clause, hesitate at the last minute? The answer may never be fully known but it is worth considering a few possibilities.

Parliamentary surprises can sometimes be explained by the lack of a quorum – a lack of numbers to conduct a legitimate vote – or because the dominant party is missing too many members on the day to get its way. However, neither scenario applied in this case.

The second consideration emanates from what was said at the meeting from the start. ANC MP Nolitha Ntobongwana and chairperson of the committee, started by saying that “today we are here to deal with the last phase of our Expropriation Bill”. But she swiftly moved on to note that “we have received individually – some were sent to our private emails – correspondence saying that this is not right”.

In fact, on Tuesday 14 September, the IRR emailed to each committee member an urgent brief opposing the EWC Bill. The IRR also visited the Constitutional Court to record a short video that was widely distributed warning that it would be better to cut out EWC now and so avoid the harmful and costly process that would later be required to overturn the unconstitutional EWC provisions in court.

Although the IRR was not named, our 11th hour appeal that the EWC provisions be ditched was raised, and criticised, several times during the committee hearing. It was arguably the most discussed issue in the “final” meeting on the bill ... before it was announced that this would not in fact be the committee’s final discussion of the draft expropriation law after all.

In its letter to committee members, the IRR drew attention, among other points, to the following:

“In 2020 the IRR commissioned a statistically powered, independent poll, that asked several socio-economic questions including whether people preferred the economy to grow in productivity and jobs, or whether EWC was preferred ‘to redress past wrongs?’

“Approximately 15% of white respondents and 15% of black respondents said they would prefer EWC…By contrast 80% of respondents of all colours said they would prefer growth to EWC. That is the path to peaceful development. We implore you to represent this super-majority’s interests by deleting Section 12(3) of the Bill.”

This would have been devastating news to any member of the ANC who was concerned about that party’s decline in popular support. It is in the ANC’s best interests to block EWC now.

A second consideration is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s scheduled meeting with US President Joe Biden tomorrow (16 September), just two days after the EWC Bill was to have been voted on by the portfolio committee. Democrat and Republican administrations in Washington have both warned against trade obstruction and EWC. With such a small gap between the final committee vote and the meeting with Biden, it may have been impossible to avoid provoking the US into criticising Ramaphosa’s signature policy of EWC. Hence, postponing the EWC vote by a week may be intended to fly the destructive Bill under the radar.

The IRR is determined to keep up the pressure at every step of the way of the EWC process. Food security will be a topic of discussion between Ramaphosa and Biden. The UN estimates that 1.5 million children under the age of 6 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition in South Africa. EWC will make this worse.

The IRR is meeting with the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) today to raise the alarm on EWC’s threat to consumers and producers of food products.

In addition, the IRR has received an update from one major bank renewing its opposition to EWC and will continue requesting that other financial institutions clarify their positions in light of recent developments.

It is possible for South Africa to unlock growth potential and it is possible for the South African government to take away legitimate private property without compensation. But it is impossible to do both.

 

* Afrikaans-language media are requested to retain the acronym ‘IRR’, rather than using ‘IRV’.

Media contacts: Gabriel Crouse, IRR Head of Campaigns – 082 510 0360; gabriel@irr.org.za

Mlondi Mdluli, IRR Campaign Manager- 071 148 2971; mlondi@irr.org.za

 

Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za

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