From 1995 to 2015, informal settlements increased by 650% and the current housing backlog has risen to 2.6 million houses. President Cyril Ramaphosa claims that the Expropriation Bill allows the government to “expropriate land for public use, for use of our people.”
Yet land reform and rural development remained stagnant for 28 years under the African National Congress (ANC) government. While implementing quota legislation, like Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), which has resulted in a 30% decline in black business ownership since 2017. Highlighting the ANC’s disastrous policy record resulting in high unemployment, inflation, Eskom blackouts, corruption, crime, and a housing crisis.
The party has ignored warnings that the unconstitutional Expropriation Bill will reap similar catastrophic results, as witnessed in Zimbabwe. Where hyperinflation was 255.31% in 2019, 7.7 million people are food insecure and 74% of the population survive on less than $5.50 a day.
The Bill allows the government to “expropriate property in the public interest” with the provision of nil compensation in certain instances. In violation of Section 25 of the Constitution which states that “property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application - subject to compensation.” Meaning that the expropriation bill is both illegal and a danger to economic growth.
The ANC’s sudden interest in land expropriation points to their desperation to prevent election defeat in 2024. Since, in 2021, the ANC received 45.59% of the national vote during the local government election. Indicating that South Africans may oust the ANC in the 2024 election. So, the party’s election strategy has pivoted towards emphasising populist policy issues.
In particular, these policies include Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC), immigration and the National Healthcare Insurance (NHI). Attempting to reframe the conversation about poverty, crime and inequality towards external factors as opposed to 28 years of failed ANC policy.
Ramaphosa said that EWC is “one instrument in a much broader toolbox to achieve agrarian reform and spatial justice.” The irony, however, is that since 2014 the Democratic Alliance (DA) has asked the ANC government to release government-owned land for low-cost housing development.
By December 2020, the DA-led Western Cape government handed a total of 6,000 historical title deeds over to beneficiaries. Granting residents proof of ownership which is an important step in the process of economic empowerment.
In 2022, Cape Town’s Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis announced that more than 6,500 social housing units are planned across the city. Near the Central Business District, giving people access to more economic opportunities such as jobs and education institutions while allowing them to save on transportation costs.
The DA’s action in addressing ownership and affordable housing in the Western Cape reduces Ramaphosa’s statement, on land reform, to a word salad of ANC excuses. While proving that land reform can happen within the scope of current legislation, without the Expropriation Bill.
However, the Expropriation Bill disgraces the legacy of Nelson Mandela, mocks our Constitution, and reveals the ANC’s darkest ambition, total control. As the Chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly, Ramaphosa played a central role in drafting the 1996 Constitution.
Together with multiparty negotiations, Africa’s strongest Constitution emerged, in what Mandela described as our “national soul” pledging that “never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalise their oppression and repression.”
However, from entertaining calls to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), to the NHI and land, Ramaphosa pushes for full repressive government control. At the ANC’s 2022 policy conference Ramaphosa said that “the conference noted again the historical anomaly of the private ownership of the South African Reserve Bank.” Stating that “the bank should be fully owned by the people of South Africa.” Choosing the words ‘the people’, Ramaphosa attempts to drum up populist support as a pretext to get the ANC’s claws on the Reserve bank.
Despite Ramaphoa’s utterances, the SARB’s mandate is protected by Section 224 of the Constitution, to ensure sustainable economic growth. Preventing the Reserve Bank from being an ANC state puppet. Yet the ANC flirts with violating Section 224 just as Section 25 is undermined with the Expropriation Bill.
Since the ANC fears being ousted in the 2024 national election, efforts to achieve their desire for full state control have ramped up. In 2019, Ramaphosa signed the controversial Internet Censorship Bill into law. Wherein serious enforcement of the law would see an unprecedented crackdown on any online content.
The ANC’s appetite for censorship started in 2013 when the Secrecy Bill was passed. Seeking to jail journalists, whistleblowers or activists for information the government deemed as classified. After major public backlash, Jacob Zuma referred the Bill back to parliament.
In 2022, on the brink of possible election defeat the ANC is desperate to unleash the full might of their government onto South Africans. From healthcare and the internet to land, the ANC is seeking to expropriate everything.
Riaan Salie writes for the Free Market Foundation and is a policy fellow at the Foundation for Consumer Freedom Advancement. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.