Land redistribution as an issue

Arun Srivastava

Like any other developing country, market forces played the decisive role in the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the president of the African National Congress (ANC). By virtue of being the party president, he would eventually become South Africa’s next president. What has been significant is while the voters did not whole heartedly support Cyril, his victory was, nevertheless, hailed as a “humbling rebuke” of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a stark rejection of his policies.
Had there been a suitable alternative candidate, the people of South Africa might not have voted for Cyril. In recent years Jacob Zuma had fallen from the grace of people for his alleged involvement in corruption and nepotism. SA has to witness anemic economic growth, widespread corruption, and rising frustration among people.
Ramaphosa’s victory over Dlamini-Zuma, wife of Zuma, was razor thin. His margin was 179 ballots, cast by 4,708 delegates. His has been the slimmest margin of victory in the ANC leadership race in the 105-year-old history of the organization. Though the markets favourably responded to Cyril’s victory and the South African rand initially surged by more than 4 percent on the news of Ramaphosa’s election, the scenario continues to be uncertain. Recent political actions and initiatives of Cyril were also mired in controversy and a major section of the people look at his moves with suspicion.
Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma was the front runner and at one stage she appeared set to win the election, but people nursed the apprehensions that she might perpetuate many of the policies of her husband. Zuma, who practiced and patronised crony capitalism and openly encouraged white dominance in the economic sector, had been facing charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
Though ANC leaders have been pledging their loyalty to late Nelson Mandela, the fact remains that he has turned out to be a forgotten past. Following his ideals has been an arduous task. Obviously, shaping the nation’s economy according to his dreams will not be easy anymore.
During these years, the ANC had lost its relation with the people of South Africa. The decision at its national conference to go ahead with the expropriation of land without compensation is an admission of failure in pursuing real land distribution. Just a week ahead of the election, it announced that its committee on economic transformation has agreed to amend the Constitution to include land expropriation without compensation. Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), observed that the Constitution already provided for expropriation of land under certain conditions but that it’s the ANC’s failure to pursue this that has led to the slow pace of land redistribution.
Part of the criticism of the ANC is that they haven’t been able to use the Constitution properly to redistribute land and has instead used it as a convenient excuse for not being able to speed up the process. "The Constitution is not an obstacle to land reform," said Enoch Godongwana, chairperson of the ANC’s committee for economic transformation. In fact, the rulers were scared to implement land reforms.
It is not certain if Cyril will accomplish the task; but just after his win he committed himself to land expropriation without compensation in a way that doesn’t undermine the economy, agricultural production and food security. The issue of land has been a matter of great concern to the people, whose land was forcibly taken away from them. It is a matter that has caused a great deal of pain and hardship and resulted in poverty.
Ramaphosa has the advantage of bringing a deep understanding and strong networks of business and organised labour to the position. The market likes him. His election saw the country’s currency strengthen and the stock market has shown above average activity. Even credit rating agencies are getting a little excited. But it is not going to be an easy walk Ramaphosa.
The biggest challenge he faces is in managing the two centres of power: he holds sway in the party as president while Zuma holds sway over the executive as president of the country until elections in 2019. Given Zuma’s reaction to Ramaphosa’s victory, it is clear that cabinet meetings are likely to be a frosty affair.
A major challenge will be economic policy. Ramaphosa has promised a “new deal” for South Africa based on an “uncompromising” rejection of waste, cronyism, and corruption. He has targeted 5 percent growth (up from the current rate of 0.7 percent), the creation of 1 million jobs within five years, and restoration of investor confidence. The difficulty of delivering on these promises was underscored on the last day of the party congress when the ANC resolved to amend the constitution to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank and expropriate land without compensation, policies that could undermine Ramaphosa’s agenda.
Indications are available that the policy paralysis that has over taken the government functioning will continue to affect the new set up also. It is also a fact that elites, who have come to control the administration, will not easily relent. The developments point to the fact that the crisis of poverty will further deepen. The latest “Poverty Trends in South Africa” report shows that more than half of South Africans were poor in 2015, with the poverty headcount increasing to 55.5 percent from a low of 53,2 percent in 2011. Over 30.4 million South Africans lived in poverty in 2015.
The South African economy in the last five years, notably between 2011 and 2015, has been driven by a combination of international and domestic factors such as low and weak economic growth, continuing high unemployment levels, lower commodity prices, higher consumer prices (especially for energy and food), lower investment levels, greater household dependency on credit, and policy uncertainty. Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy childhood development. In 2015, over 13 million children were victims of this syndrome.
Any progress made to liberate South Africa’s black majority since apartheid ended two decades ago looks to have been undone in just five short years. Black South Africans continue to be worst affected by rising poverty. Less than 1 percent of white South Africans are below this dire line. In 2012, the country launched the National Development Plan with much pomp and show. But a lack of political will left the plan adrift. There is no doubt that South Africa is going to miss the goals it set for itself in the plan, including its aim to reduce poverty from 39 percent in 2009 to 0 in 2030 and eliminate hunger. (IPA)

Saturday, 30 December, 2017