EWC tramples the sacrifices made by those who fought against colonialism and apartheid

#EWC tramples the sacrifices made by those who fought against colonialism and apartheid

The myriad rights which South Africans enjoy were won after decades of struggle against the state. With the recent proposal to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, the ANC and EFF trample over the sacrifices made by those who fought against colonialism and apartheid. Under those socialist systems the state decided which South Africans could be secure in their property. We will be subjected to that same violation of individual rights if the Constitution is amended along the lines proposed.

No other rights are possible without property rights. As interconnected as our world has become, it is the responsibility of each person to own his life, to use his mind and reason to live his life as he deems best. It is impossible for anyone to do this if he is not secure in his property. For all our talk of freedom, we are still very quick to place the state at the centre of people’s lives. While on the one hand we lament that people are not truly free, on the other, we advocate for one piece of control after another, from the sugar tax to expropriation without compensation. Expropriation will mean that all South Africans are in effect vassals of the state.

Published on the Rational Standard recently, was Martin van Staden’s explanation that expropriation without compensation would have a disastrous effect on foreign investment in the country. As soon as the first property is seized, foreign investors will cease their operations and local investors will look for every possible avenue to get their businesses and property out of the country before it is taken from them. The poor of South Africa – the overwhelming majority of whom are black people – will suffer the effects of capital leaving the country, prices will be higher and there will be fewer jobs.

After introducing the motion to amend the Constitution, EFF leader Julius Malema said that no one in South Africa would lose their home or their flat or factory. "Every land in South Africa … will be under the state. The state should be the custodian of the land.” Malema, the leader of a party underpinned by the philosophy of communism, a philosophy that has killed more than 100 million people in the last century, is telling South Africans that, contrary to what has happened consistently in the past, in this case, communism will not result in starvation and death. Is populist rhetoric going to trump reality, especially since there is an election looming next year?

In an interview for Huffington Post South Africa, agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo said that, “Property rights, which are title deeds, are a key ingredient for the prosperity of any society.” Sihlobo questions why the government is not doing more to extend property rights to black people in South Africa to give them a real incentive to use their property in a productive manner. We should not pursue expropriation without compensation because no one can be productive with something they do not own.

When the state is the arbiter of who may live where, there is segregation. When the state ‘leases’ land to you, there is no feeling of security because the state can just as easily revoke that lease and make you, the ‘tenant’ wait for some authority to inform you where your next ‘home’ will be (if indeed you ever receive such a privilege). Ivo Vegter draws the link between property rights and economic growth. People living in ‘black’ areas under Apartheid were denied their property rights; if your property is not secure, if it can be seized at any time, why would you invest time and money in developing your home, let alone the area? Property rights are vital to the growth of an economy.

Once South Africa jettisons the premise of property rights, as the EFF and ANC seem to have done, black South Africans will never be secure in what they earn and build. Prosperity is not possible without property rights because prosperity is not possible without individual rights and individual rights are impossible without property rights. Addressing the wrongs of the past in a manner that has brought disaster to other countries will simply result in self-inflicted suffering. A truly radical path would be to protect something which flies in the face of the state’s desire to control us: property rights.

Chris Hattingh is a researcher at the Free Market Foundation

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