If you were looking for a reason to end your Ramaphoria over South Africa’s future, that reason has arrived: Parliament has adopted a resolution to amend section 25 of the Constitution and remove the requirement that the State pay compensation for the property it expropriates.
Be under no illusion: This is the end of South Africa as we have come to know it. It’s time to shed what you thought you knew about South African politics and to wake up to reality.
Without government being required to pay compensation when it expropriates, no foreign investor will dare put a cent in this country. Local investors will start looking for ways to get their wealth out as soon and as quietly as possible. The poor will notice the changes the quickest, as prices will rise, wages will stagnate more than ever, and our trend of job losses will speed up. The narrow tax base that everyone talks about will all but disappear. The moment the first farm, or any other bank-financed property, is expropriated without compensation, will be a likely final nail in the coffin. Terence Corrigan of the Institute of Race Relations thus writes:
“South Africa’s agricultural sector depends heavily on the secure ownership of its assets to leverage the funding it requires for its operations — in excess of R160-billion rand annually, of which roughly two-thirds is raised from commercial banks.”
This all, because South Africans allowed themselves to be seduced by the false narrative that property rights “protect white privilege”.
Property rights was what distinguished the new South Africa from the old. During colonialism and Apartheid, black South Africans were denied the right to own property on their own terms, while the property rights of whites were also always precarious. There was no bill of rights protecting anyone’s property, only the weak, but brave, force of the common law.
The transition from Apartheid put an end to this and made it possible for all South Africans regardless of race to be secure in the knowledge that that which they acquire legitimately will remain theirs, and not be under the so-called ‘custodianship’ of the State when they wake up the next morning. Millions of black South Africans have entered the middle and upper classes in no small part due to now having property rights. This honeymoon is over.
Section 25 of the Constitution provided for the State’s mandate to engage in the restitution of property that was stolen during Apartheid, a mandate that this government has all but ignored in favor of more populist, but reckless, pursuits. Indeed, the Constitution has never stood in the way of land reform, but it is an easy scapegoat for a government facing dismal electoral prospects.
This is unfortunately why removing the requirement to pay compensation is likely only the first step in an anti-constitutional campaign. The next step is likely to repeal property rights entirely from the Constitution, as every other oppressive regime in the world has done.
Do not allow yourself to be lulled into optimism by Cyril Ramaphosa’s soothing voice or by analysts’ intellectually dishonest calls to trust the ‘new’ government. Now is not the time for optimism. Now is the time for South Africa to engage in some serious introspection and swallow copious amounts of reality pills.
Next year’s election, if the current trend of constitutional recklessness continues, is likely to be the last time democracy tries to assert itself in South Africa. If 2019 goes as every previous election since 1994 has gone, I will not trust electoral results thereafter in the slightest. This is because South Africa is now shedding the thin skin of constitutionalism that was developing around us.
Let me be clear: The African National Congress (ANC) and any other party that favors amending the Constitution to fiddle with individual and group rights needs to be kept away from a two-thirds majority in Parliament. This means the ANC, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the African Independent Congress, Agang, the Pan-Africanist Congress, and any other such entity, collectively, must make up less than 66% of Parliament. Not the ANC alone, but all of them, together.
This is no longer about differences in policy; it’s about the continued existence of hope in Africa. If South Africa with all its wealth, skills capital, and intellectualism can’t protect democracy, then why the hell should any other African country even try?