Blinken must be frank on EWC

8 August 2022 - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is touring South Africa and should follow precedent to offer clear warnings against the erosion of private property rights and free trade.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is touring South Africa and should follow precedent to offer clear warnings against the erosion of private property rights and free trade.

In 2020, in Addis Ababa, the former US Secretary of State warned: “South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and most importantly for the South African people.”

Subsequently, the attempt to impose Expropriation without Compensation (EWC) through the 18th Constitutional Amendment failed. But EWC has been brought back with a vengeance through the Expropriation Bill, which stands before Parliament.

At the ANC Policy Conference in July, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that “despite the setback of our efforts to amend … [the] Constitution we must continue to pursue all available options, including through legislation, like the Expropriation Bill, to implement the resolution of our 54th Conference on land redistribution without compensation”.

Passing the Expropriation Bill would indeed “be disastrous” for ordinary South African people, as the precedents in Zimbabwe and Venezuela demonstrate. The latter is especially relevant since Venezuela’s erosion of property rights started by nominally limiting EWC to “latifundios”, or “idle land”, but quickly exposed the truth that property is either protected from corrupt government officials or it is not, and when it is not, everything is up for grabs while the poorest suffer the hardest.

Going further back, former US President Barack Obama threatened to remove South Africa from the “Agoa” trade agreement in 2015 “because South Africa continues to impose several longstanding barriers to US trade”.

Before the Covid pandemic, SA exported roughly R150 billion to the US and imported roughly R75 billion from the US.

The US has previously shown a willingness to clearly state its position that if South Africa wants continued special benefits under Agoa then our government must liberalise trade and protect private property rights. Ironically, in these examples, US leaders have been more in keeping with the average woman or man in the street than Ramaphosa was at the latest ANC conference.

In 2020 an independent opinion survey commissioned by the IRR asked a statistically representative sample of South Africans which they would prefer: policies that grow jobs and the economy, or EWC? 15% of white respondents said they would prefer EWC. However, over 80% of respondents of all races said they would prefer a growing market.

Said IRR Head of Campaigns Gabriel Crouse: “Blinken started his trip at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto, paying homage to the struggle against apartheid. That is good. Everybody agrees apartheid social engineering was wicked and stupid. Now Blinken must make his position equally clear on the policies threatening South Africans going forward. South Africa has the worst unemployment rate on record, globally, and EWC means making that even worse.”

 

* 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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