Ramaphosa – the problem at hand on land

President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking with Jane Dutton on her show, Tonight with Jane Dutton, explained the ANC’s recent decisions regarding land expropriation without compensation and mine nationalisation.

According News24 the gist of it is, the ANC is in favour of land expropriation without compensation because its previous approach to correcting the imbalance in land ownership has failed, that said it doesn’t want the state to own all the land because we just don’t have the administrative capacity to pull it off.

With regards to the mines, Ramaphosa pointed out that the way mining works – no one entity wants to invest in a mine. Basically you’re sinking a big hole in the ground in the hopes of finding stuff worth digging up – and there is always the risk that you find nothing. Nationalising the mines means the state taking all that expense and risk upon itself.

My take

My view on both issues – Ramaphosa has given a flat “no” on nationalising the mines so there isn’t much else that can be said on that but on the land issue – land redistribution isn’t a one dimensional problem.

When we talk about agricultural land, I don’t see expropriation without compensation helping. Whenever I go on holiday somewhere I look at the local property dealer, and there’s always something on the market.

The major issue a lot of farmers have is access to finance – this is why the Vrede Dairy project matters. If finance was being diverted from black dairy farmers to people who were using it for other things, that means black dairy farmers had a harder time succeeding, which leads to a situation where you redistribute the land, and it goes straight back onto the market because the person you redistributed it to can’t do anything with it.

This is just one project where corruption played merry hell with redistribution in our economy.

If you look at Zuma’s record – he spoke a big game about battling white monopoly capital, but in real terms didn’t achieve much because the systemic corruption that came with him sabotaged the whole thing. Expropriation without compensation doesn’t solve this problem, it just gives corrupt politicians one more way to steal.

But the bigger issue with land redistribution isn’t agriculture – it is urban land. We’ve got a lot of informal settlements which crop up in our major metropolitan areas, and we have a mini-industry of “building hijackers” who identify buildings that have been abandoned; and rent them out to the poor and desperate who can’t afford anywhere better.

Here more of a case can be made; because there is a certain amount of land which nobody knows who owns it, there are buildings which aren’t habitable which nobody is maintaining. I am not going to shed any tears for slumlords who keep their buildings in squalid conditions, and frankly the cost of living in places like Johannesburg or Cape Town is prohibitive without some government intervention.

How things are going now in our cities clearly doesn’t work, and I’ve not seen a lot of debate around that, around the land which is not going to agricultural but is still deeply needed.

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