Motlanthe delivers strong warning on property rights

Staff Writer | Jul 12, 2019
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe warned yesterday that ‘if property is not protected you destroy value, and if there's no value then you won't have an economy’.

If property in South Africa ‘is not protected by law, society as we understand it today, will disappear because the kind of anarchy and chaos that would ensue is difficult to imagine’, the former president warned.

Motlanthe was speaking at a dialogue about a mooted agricultural development agency facilitated by former constitutional negotiator Roelf Meyer in Pretoria. Participants included established commercial farmers, emerging black commercial farmers, banks and representatives from various agriculture organisations.

News24’s Pieter du Toit reported that Motlanthe said ‘there is no need to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to enable expropriation in the public interest because the country's supreme law already provides for that’.

He quoted Motlanthe as saying: ‘If property is not protected you destroy value, and if there's no value then you won't have an economy driving forward. People won't invest effort and resources in building assets. And if you think about it properly, if property is not protected by law, society as we understand it today, will disappear because the kind of anarchy and chaos that would ensue is difficult to imagine.

Motlanthe argued that Section 25 of the constitution ‘recognises that the injustices of the past must be addressed and stipulates how it should happen within the confines of the law and the Constitution’.

His comments stand in contrast to the government’s commitment to expropriation without compensation (EWC), in part by amending the constitution.

Debate on the commitment of the African National Congress (ANC) and the government to EWC has dominated South African politics since the beginning of last year – when parliament approved an ANC motion in its favour – and, according to leading economists, this issue cost South Africa dearly in terms of investment and investor confidence because of profound market disquiet over the erosion of property rights.

The IRR has sustained a vigorous campaign against EWC, warning of the dire consequences for the economy as a whole, and for poor South Africans especially.

The IRR has also repeatedly drawn attention to the findings of the government's own high-level commission, chaired by Motlanthe, on the impact of transformative legislation. This commission found that there was little credible evidence that the obligation to pay compensation had been a significant obstacle. The commission noted that ‘other constraints, including increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform’.

It also observed: ‘It is of great concern to the Panel that recent policy shifts appear to default to some of the key repertoires that were used to justify the denial of political and property rights for black people during colonialism and apartheid.’

Tellingly, Motlanthe is alone among senior ANC stalwarts in sounding the alarm about the consequences of a policy trajectory that, if it is sustained, will do South Africa great harm.

 

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