IRR takes the fight against EWC to the Union Buildings

Marius Roodt | Apr 18, 2019
IRR’s nearly year-long campaign to alert the public to the grave risks of Expropriation without Compensation culminates in handover of 160 000 names to the Office of the Presidency.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) took the fight against Expropriation without Compensation (EWC) to the Union Buildings yesterday afternoon when it handed over the names of 160 000 South Africans who oppose government plans to take property without paying for it. 

The handover team was led by IRR head of strategic operations Sihle Ngobese – best known as outspoken YouTube personality, Big Daddy Liberty. 

A large media contingent was on hand to witness the culmination of a campaign which began in May last year. A month after its launch, an IRR team travelled to Cape Town in June to hand deliver the names of thousands of South Africans who had raised their objections to EWC and endorsed the IRR’s alternative argument for land reform based on securing and extending property rights. This initial phase of the campaign was a response to the call for public comment following the government’s announcement that it intended considering amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow for compensation-free expropriations.

In December, parliament approved the government’s plans, and steps towards EWC have intensified with the drafting of the Expropriation Bill. 

But opposition to EWC has not waned. 

Addressing the media at yesterday’s handover, Ngobese said: ‘We oppose EWC, and we bring the people’s voices into the [Union Buildings] behind us.’ No politician, he said, should have the right to take away anyone’s property.

Ngobese pointed out that last year’s public consultation process – beginning with public hearings – had been a sham, which had largely overlooked popular opposition to EWC. It is estimated that of the 450 000 written submissions acknowledged by Parliament, nearly two-thirds were opposed to EWC. IRR polling has also shown that land reform is low on the list of priorities South Africans think the government should be focusing on. Even the government’s commitment to land reform was questionable, the IRR has pointed out, given that it spends more on protecting high-level politicians than on land reform. 

Responding to a question on the racial make-up of the 160 000 South Africans who had endorsed the IRR’s campaign against EWC, Marius Roodt, IRR head of campaigns, said no record had been kept of the racial profile of endorsements. ‘The IRR has opposed racial classification since we were founded in 1929,’ he said, ‘and we oppose it today. It does not matter what race the people who oppose EWC are, what matters is that their voice is heard.’

Yesterday’s handover is by no means the end of campaign. The IRR will continue building pressure to prevent the government from taking anyone’s property without paying for it.


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