Letter: Ramaphosa's 'Reform' Priority Nowhere In Sight - Cape Argus

16 February 2021 - Last week's State of the Nation address should leave South Africa in no doubt that the government has little sense of how to deal with the economic predicament the country finds itself in, whether in relation to the damage inflicted by the pandemic, or its longer-term retardation.

Last week's State of the Nation address should leave South Africa in no doubt that the government has little sense of how to deal with the economic predicament the country finds itself in, whether in relation to the damage inflicted by the pandemic, or its longer-term retardation.

The "reform" that observers assumed to be President Ramaphosa's priority is nowhere in sight. Above all, the move on property rights continues.

The Expropriation Bill is the immediate issue and stands to grant the state extensive powers over the assets of the country's people. This is matched by the proposed amendment of the Constitution. The potential for abuse not least given the pathologies in South Africa's governance institutions poses a major threat to its future.

The public "debate" around expropriation without compensation of which the bill is an integral part has already inflicted great damage on South Africa's investment prospects. Pushing this forward will all but ensure that it remains on its current, lamentable low-growth, low-employment track. The human cost of this will be unfathomable. It should also be noted that degrading property rights is not merely a question of land reform, even if this is the idiom within which it has been phrased.

Given the condition of the fiscus a crisis to which the government has no credible answer and the state of governance, other assets will be targeted. Think savings and pensions.

There is no turnaround coming from the government. South Africa's people will need to work for it themselves. Speaking out against the Expropriation Bill public comment on which remains open until February 28 is a good place to start.

Terence Corrigan, Project manager, Institute of Race Relations

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