No Risk To Commercial Farms, Max? We Can't Be So Sure - Farmer's Weekly

7 March 2019 - Whatever Du Preez “knows”, Ramaphosa has all the power – but zero demonstrated desire to talk down the race nationalist revolutionaries in his own ranks.

Gabriel Crouse

In his cover story, ‘Expropriation is about urban, not rural, land’ (Farmer’s Weekly, February 2019), Max du Preez asserts that it ‘must be clear to everybody that there will never be arbitrary confiscation of property” and commercial farms are totally safe.

The confidence of his assertion appears to rest on his assurance that ‘I’ve known Ramaphosa since 1983’.

A guarantee that commercial farms are safe would be very good news if only Du Preez could be relied upon. Of all the explanations for the assault on the Bill of Rights that is Expropriation without Compensation (EWC), Du Preez puts his “own view” that goes like this – since apartheid, “black lives have not changed fundamentally”, and, thus, something must happen, “radically”.

Overall black employment has more than doubled in absolute terms in the new South Africa. Black engineering graduates outnumber white ones by 2 to 1. About 17 million beneficiaries receive social grants. The number of families cooking with electricity has increased by 10 million; families with running water have doubled; families living in a formal house have gone from 64% to 80% of the total population. Many farmers know this well. By 2014, 95% of land restitution claims had been settled with 1.8 million beneficiaries.

Du Preez says this is not “fundamental”. Of the black dollar millionaires who have probably outnumbered white ones since 2016, Du Preez would presumably say they are not really “black”. Not only have there been fundamental changes, but change has gone in opposite directions. In my high school years, 2003-2007, GDP doubled, bringing living standards up across the country. Since then the economy has been bled into the longest negative cycle since the Second World War.

The closest thing to a total unidirectional change to all “black lives” is that the law of the land officially dehumanized them decades ago; now it is left to journalists like Max du Preez to imprint upon “black lives” as some uniform, inert and mindless thing.

Du Preez’s erroneous no fundamental change thesis is not just archaic, it allows him to hit his headline conclusion. By saying that nothing has changed he signals his loyalty to the next phase of the revolution, saying that something “radical” must happen. But he can also placate the FW reader by saying that this should really happen in the cities, not farms, without substantive detail. He further placates the reader by saying the government will only ever do something “symbolic”. He “knows” Ramaphosa is just pretending to support EWC and that the ANC “never really cared” much for any of the politics of land reform anyway.

The Institute of Race Relations tracked over thirty distinct policy moves by the socialist revolutionary faction of the ANC to attack property rights even while true progress was made. Recent showstoppers include unilaterally redrawing treaties so that foreign-owned property in SA falls under Section 25 of the Constitution exposing them to the next point; initiating the amendment of Section 25 of the constitution which is scheduled to soon offer less protection against arbitrary deprivation; justifying this by reference to congenital “sin”; in November, gazetting a compensation formula (making it law) under which any farm that was inherited from a white person is likely to be valued at R0 for “just and equitable” compensation. These concrete moves were all made under Ramaphosa’s signature.

Du Preez is surely right on one thing. Ramaphosa could have lost to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and then she might well have ruined the country already, which he has not. Du Preez repeats that hypothetical as the last vestige of “Ramaphoria”. But there is another fundamental change Du Preez missed. Ramaphosa actually won and is currently in charge – so why is he not doing what Du Preez says he wants to do?

MP Mosiuoa Lekota has noted that the president and vice-president are the only citizens sworn to “preserve” the constitution as it is. So here’s a hypothetical. After tea with Lekota this Saturday Ramaphosa reads back over his oath of office and palms his forehead, saying; Jisslike, that’s actually true. Knowing that GDP per capita shrank last year because he pushed EWC and wanting very much to reverse that failure, Ramaphosa orders an immediate late night address as president of the Republic to which he tells the truth. “I am constitutionally obliged to withdraw my support for EWC right now! I ask the nation’s forgiveness for violating my oath of office until this point. I will defend and preserve the constitution as it is.”

Decent South Africans, rating agencies and the market rejoice. The phrase “he finally found his voice” echoes across dinner tables around the country. On the other hand, Max du Preez cannot believe it; neither can Bathabile Dlamini. What, if we are going to play the hypothetical game, could they do about it?

IRR polls show that Ramaphosa is the most popular politician in the country, his personal approval outstrips the ANC significantly because he is seen as Mr Anti-Corrupt, which the party is not. These polls also show that a single digit portion of voters consider land reform a priority issue (jobs and safety come first) and that EWC has minority support. In addition, Ramaphosa and his brother-in-law net about R40 billion rand which is a formidable campaign war chest especially when you consider Luthuli House can hardly afford to pay a simple electricity bill.

Ramaphosa is the most powerful man in the country, officially. The ANC needs him far more than he needs the party. Going on precedent, the ANC has no way to withdraw Ramaphosa this year as it did to Mbeki and Zuma, neither of whom enjoyed his preeminence, and a parliamentary vote of no confidence would be the only sure way for the ANC to lose the next election.

This is all very abstract. Whatever Du Preez “knows”, Ramaphosa has all the power – but zero demonstrated desire to talk down the race nationalist revolutionaries in his own ranks.

Gabriel Crouse is the George F D Palmer Financial Journalist Trust Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a liberal think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by sending an SMS to 32823 (SMSes cost R1, Ts and Cs apply).

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