Regarding the current land expropriation issue, there are two possible outcomes, and neither has a good ending for South Africa or her people.
Leaving aside the need or otherwise for a rewrite of Section 25 of the Constitution (which may indeed have a positive result, according to Thuli Madonsela, at least), the one view is that the ANC is using the expropriation without compensation (EWC)/constitutional amendment narrative as a populist vote-catcher ahead of the election next year. It knows full-well that even if a suitably crisp amendment to the Constitution were to be drawn up right now it will take until way after the election to be voted in and take effect. Therefore, goes this narrative, the ANC is merely playing for time, trying to negate the populism of Julius Malema’s EFF (of which it is unduly scared) and, hopefully, win back some lost EFF votes. Its hope is that, once it has won the election it can safely put the whole matter on the back burner and revert to the status quo.
Giving this argument some credence is the observation that the current ANC shenanigans around the EWC issue are as cack-handed as anything we have ever seen from the ANC, even by its own cynical, inept and corrupt standards.
For example, at the outset the government organised public comment sessions throughout the country, at which many thousands of people argued the need or otherwise for EWC and a constitutional amendment. With the process well under way, however, President Ramaphosa addressed the nation on television late one night (as ANC president, not president of the country ~ in itself an aberration showing just how deep in the ANC’s pocket the SABC really is) to tell us that the ANC had decided to forge ahead with EWC regardless, thus rendering the public comment process a farcical waste of time and money (as if we didn’t know it would be).
Next, Afriforum obtained and made public a list of farms that, Afriforum claimed, the government/aka ANC had earmarked for EWC “as test cases”. This resulted in a flurry of enraged comment and denials that the list was genuine, or that a list even existed, to the extent that agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana described Afriforum’s action as “an act of sabotage.” You can therefore bet money that the list, or some of it in some form, is genuine.
And all the while a nasty thread of racism has been emerging, and has been nurtured, especially by the EFF. All the work of unification and non-racialism preached by Madiba pissed up against a wall…
And it is this emerging racism that is the problem with this scenario. For, even if the events will unfold as outlined above and the ANC lets the EWC matter fade after the election, the EFF isn’t going to stop pushing for it, with a lot of populist song and dance, thus nurturing and fanning the destructive little fires of racism and resentment that are now smouldering throughout the country.
The other view is that the ANC, whether pushed into it by the EFF or not, is hell-bent on removing land from its current (white) owners and handing it over without paying for it to new (black) owners. Gwede Mantashe, for example, was reposted as saying that owners of more than 12 000ha should give over the excess for free.
Leaving aside the fact that the ANC (and therefore the government) is hopelessly inept and corrupt when it comes to any transaction in which there is anything remotely connected to money, confiscating (for that’s what EWC is, however you want to dress it up) land from owners who have paid for it, or more accurately are still paying for it via their bonds, brings into play a whole bunch of heavy hitters in the economy, namely the banks. For as long as you have a bond to pay, whether for your townhouse, smallholding or farm, you don’t hold the title to that land. Your bank does. Thus, when the government takes your land, it’s actually taking ownership from your bank. One estimate is that the value of bonded agricultural land in South Africa is R160 billion.
Apart from the fact that the mere TALK of EWC has caused the market for property to tank, even in prosperous, booming Cape Town, if it ever becomes a reality there will quickly be no market left at all. In short, the banks will have lost the value of their asset.
When that happens you can pretty much assume that what is left of the South African economy will disintegrate, the currency will become even more worthless than it already is, unemployment will increase, further hardship will prevail, and “service delivery” protests will become general anarchy.
It’s time for the banks to do some very rough talking to Ramaphosa, Malema and their teams, pointing out the extreme folly of their current trajectory, whichever one it is.