Will Biden quiz Ramaphosa on the risk to property rights?

5 September 2022 - Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Joe Biden will meet on September 16, two days after the Expropriation Bill is scheduled to be voted on by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure. Will that be on their agenda?

Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa and Joe Biden will meet on September 16, two days after the Expropriation Bill is scheduled to be voted on by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure. Will that be on their agenda?

The Expropriation Bill poses an existential threat to property rights and economic growth in South Africa. In Section 12(3) the Bill allows Expropriation without Compensation (EWC) under an open list of circumstances.

In 2020 the IRR commissioned an independent pollster to survey a random, demographically representative sample of people who were asked, among other things, whether they preferred the promise of jobs and economic growth, or EWC? Some 15% of white respondents said they preferred EWC, but a supermajority of 80%-plus in each race group said they preferred jobs and economic growth.

The same survey asked people to identify the two biggest unresolved challenges in South Africa. This was the first question in the survey, there was no prompting and respondents were free to list any issues that were important to them. The majority said “unemployment”. Some 44% prioritized crime, corruption and corrupt leadership. Only 4% mentioned “land reform”.

Land reform should be addressed by strengthening property rights, which includes privatising the state-owned land on which approximately 20 million South Africans reside. The IRR has crafted a comprehensive alternative approach in the “Ipulazi” proposal for rural land reform and the “Indlu” proposal for urban land reform. [https://irr.org.za/reports/atLiberty/files/liberty-issue-44-reaching-the-promised-land-18-09-2019.pdf]

Quite apart from the fact that most South Africans prefer growth and jobs to EWC, the US government has in the past given clear warnings to the South African government that the erosion property rights and trade would have dire consequences. Barack Obama issued such a warning directly on the matter of trade barriers, while Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State, issued this warning in terms of EWC.

Will Biden raise the threat of EWC with Ramaphosa, or will this item be left off the agenda?
As the examples of Venezuela and Zimbabwe show, EWC imposes intolerable costs on a population. It would be a shocking act of complacency for a leader of the United States not to warn against this happening again in South Africa.
 

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

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