‘On expropriation without compensation, we’ve done all we can.’ That’s the excuse the IRR has been hearing since launching its #EWCScorecards on social media.
‘We’ve done all we can,’ say the banks, the agri-businesses, the insurance companies, the investment firms. They don’t say this publicly, of course. We hear this claim via back channels and in the murmurings of dissatisfaction at the IRR’s stirring things up yet again. ‘We’ve done all we can,’ says corporate South Africa.
What should ordinary South Africans make of this? The four questions of assessment on our #EWCScorecard provide the clearest route to an answer.
Question 1: Do you support the position of the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) and their chief economist on EWC as set out in the Final Report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture?
This question, of course, applies only to members of Agbiz, but as there are quite a few of these, the question is a vital one.
The fact is that the signature of an important Agbiz representative is on the pro-EWC report on which the government bases its position. If Agbiz is fulfilling its role as the mandated representative of many agricultural businesses, why are these businesses supporting the government’s position on EWC? Is it acceptable that corporations that profit from goods and services sold to the farmers of South Africa now support a policy that will fundamentally undermine the wealth and financial security of the entire agricultural community? Isn’t now the time for those who have positioned themselves as the friend of the farmer to be a friend in deed?
Question 2: Are you opposed to EWC? If not, why? And if you are opposed to EWC, what submissions have you made in opposition to EWC? Where can these submissions be viewed?
The question cannot be simpler. Ordinary people trust corporate South Africa with their money, their savings, their economic hopes, and their businesses. What would remain of such trust if financial and other institutions failed to acknowledge and defend the right of ordinary people to own what they have earned – their homes, farms, and businesses? Surely South Africans have a right to know whether or not banks, insurance companies, agri-businesses, and investment companies, entities in which they place their trust, consider it a fundamental right that people can be secure in owning what belongs to them. In this regard, making a submission to policymakers offers an obvious opportunity for corporate South Africa to stand with the people they count on.
Over the last decade, there have been many opportunities for public comment and submissions related to EWC. The fact that corporate South Africa has for the most part remained silent is telling. South Africans have good reason to expect better.
Question 3: If opposed to EWC, which anti-EWC lobbies are you supporting and by what means?
Much has been made of the social role that businesses can play. Too often, though, the social responsibility of corporate South Africa seems to stretch only as far as catching the eye and approval of politicians charged with dispensing state resources.
Understandably, not every business in South Africa has either the time or the resources to dedicate to political advocacy. But South Africa is fortunate in having a thriving civil society, with many NGOs and lobby groups advocating for various causes. Given the serious threat of EWC, supporting organisations lobbying against it does offer businesses the opportunity to look out for their own interests as well as the interests of their clients.
The fact that the bulk of corporate South Africa has been slow to show such support reveals the limits of its awareness of its social responsibility.
Question 4: Are you willing to meet with the IRR to discuss how property rights in South Africa can be protected and real land reform achieved?
Since its establishment in 1929, the IRR has been at the forefront of the fight for property rights for all South Africans. It is no coincidence that the IRR has been leading the way in opposing EWC since it first emerged as an ANC policy consideration almost a decade ago. Fully understanding that businesses cannot access or analyse all the data necessary to fully grasp countless policies affecting the country, the IRR has over its decades of existence reached out to any and all people and organisations interested and invested in the fight for a freer South Africa.
We have sought, in writing, to engage with all the banks, insurers, agri-businesses, and investment companies, and will continue seeking that engagement. Anyone willing to meet with the IRR can count on our dedication to the cause of liberty, founded on substantive, data-based analysis. These are tools available to corporate South Africa, tools we are again inviting them to use. Meet with us. Discuss your position with us. Use our research. Let us stand together with ordinary South Africans now that a fundamental right is under such threat. By meeting with us, by engaging with us, corporate South Africa can prove its willingness to help make sure that South Africans have a chance of achieving a fairer, more prosperous future.
These, then, are the criteria of the #EWCScorecard, and the reasons for our fighting to get corporate South Africa off the fence. Based on their record so far, it is not enough for them to say, ‘we’ve done all we can’.