Letter: Nothing positive about EWC - Cape Argus

12 April 2019 - Government actions indicate an intention to undermine property rights, and to seize investments. This will undermine confidence and kill growth, entirely predictably. The mere signalling of intent has already done great damage. Calls for optimism and bonhomie do nothing to alleviate it.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told a group of farmers in Stellenbosch on Tuesday not to be fearful of land reform, to be positive about the wonderful future ahead and not to be ‘isolationist’. ‘Let us look at land reform in a positive way, rather than a negative way,’ he said.

This is misplaced. The issue that Ramaphosa has championed, which is of fatal concern to the farming community, is not land reform, but Expropriation without Compensation (EWC).

Farmers are not – as the president claimed a few weeks ago – ‘resisting’ land reform. Organised agriculture has for years tried to make constructive inputs into the debate. Government’s receptiveness appears to have been indifferent. And rather than addressing the real problems besetting land reform, it now turns to the chimera of EWC.

This does nothing to advance land reform – indeed, worthwhile land reform would enhance property rights. Rather, EWC would enhance state discretion at the expense of property owners. This is codified in the Expropriation Bill (according to the president, it is ‘quite progressive’) and in regulations introduced under the Property Valuation Act. Both limit the state’s liability to pay compensation, even while it seizes property. The Valuer-General recently told a parliamentary committee that by using his office’s formula for valuing properties targeted for expropriation ‘one could get to zero compensation’.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa’s party colleagues in the Northern Cape have compiled a list of 30 productive farms they intend to take without compensation, as a first step. In the absence of any repudiation from the president or other senior party leader, one can take this as an indication of the trajectory of policy.

Government actions indicate an intention to undermine property rights, and to seize investments. This will undermine confidence and kill growth, entirely predictably. The mere signalling of intent has already done great damage. Calls for optimism and bonhomie do nothing to alleviate it.

Terence Corrigan

Project Manager, Institute of Race Relations

© 2018 South African Institute of Race Relations
CMS Website by Juizi

Copyright | Accuracy Guarantee | Sponsors & Donors